A BOMB taped to a teddy bear has been left behind by Russian mercenaries fighting for Libyan rebels, it was reported.
Photos claim to show the cuddly toy taped to a mortar shell and hidden under a table with a tripwire, in a civilian home in the capital Tripoli.
Hundreds of mercenaries from Russia's shadowy Wagner Group have operating in Libya in support of renegade general Khalifa Haftar's fight against the Tripoli-based government.
They advanced as far as the capital but now have been pushed back from their last stronghold near the city by the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).
Calibre Obscura, who describe themselves as independent weapons researchers, tweeted a picture of the booby-trapped teddy bear alleging Wagner Group mercenaries had left it.
The organisation said the deadly device was a mortar bomb that was also packed with Semtex explosives.
A GNA spokesman said: “Our heroic forces inside one of the homes of civilians in the liberated capital areas found a child doll planted with explosive devices left by Haftar's terrorist militias before their escape.”
After being defused, a picture was tweeted claiming to show the teddy apparently being paraded through the streets of Tripoli by a jubilant crowd celebrating the rebels’ defeat.
Turkish-backed forces took Haftar’s last stronghold near Tripoli on Friday and advanced further south, capping the sudden collapse of his 14-month offensive on the capital.
Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) has withdrawn to eastern and central Libya..
The GNA advance extends its control across most of northwest Libya, reversing many of Haftar's gains from last year when he raced towards Tripoli.
Haftar controls the east and oil fields in the south and is supported by Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
The Wagner Group first emerged when Russia seized parts of the Ukraine and have been used as a proxy force for Vladimir Putin since.
They fought in the civil war in Syria as Russia came to the aid of the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad.
A key part of their role is to offer what experts call “plausible deniability” for Russia when it wants to unofficially exert influence on a country or back a side in a conflict.
Another key role is avoiding the deaths of regular Russian soldiers and the ensuing political damage to Putin.
Wagner Group has also propped up regimes in Venezuela and the Central African Republic as well as operating in Mozambique.
Reports have linked the group to wealthy Russian businessman nicknamed Yevgeny Prigozhin, known as "Putin's chef" and a key part of his inner group. Prigozhin has denied any such links.
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