published in February noted that F.A.C.T. fighters were based at a major military air base in Al Jufra, in central Libya — an airfield that is also a hub for Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group, and which has received cargo flights carrying weapons from the United Arab Emirates, the report notes.

The U.N. also noted that an airplane owned by Erik Prince, the former Blackwater owner who organized an ill-fated $80 million mercenary operation for Mr. Hifter, had been photographed at the Jufra air base.

Following the collapse last year of Mr. Hifter’s assault on Tripoli, the warring factions in Libya signed a cease-fire agreement in October that has mostly held.

As the fighting in Libya ended, the Chadian fighters returned home for the uprising they launched against Mr. Déby on April 11. They may have brought some of the advanced weaponry from Libya with them, said Cameron Hudson, a former State Department official now at the Atlantic Council, a research body in Washington.

He said that the Chadians appeared to be traveling in the same kind of armored vehicles that the Emiratis had donated to Mr. Hifter.

The U.N. official said that, even at the height of the Libyan war, the rebels had always intended to go home to Chad.

“That’s their real interest,” he said. “They talked about gathering as many weapons as they could and going back to Chad.”

Mahamat Adamou contributed reporting from Ndjamena, Chad, and Elian Peltier from London.

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American Soldiers Help Mozambique Battle an Expanding ISIS Affiliate

NAIROBI, Kenya — American Special Forces soldiers began training Mozambican troops this week as part of an effort to repel a spreading insurgency in northeastern Mozambique that American officials say is linked to the Islamic State. The insurgency, near some of the world’s biggest gas reserves, has killed at least 2,000 civilians and displaced another 670,000.

The American program is modest in size and scope: a dozen Army Green Berets are to train Mozambican marines for the next two months. But it signals the entry of the United States military into a counterinsurgency effort that has been aided so far mainly by South African mercenaries, who have faced accusations of human rights abuses.

The war in Mozambique is part of an alarming expansion of insurgencies believed to have ties to the Islamic State in several parts of Africa. In the past year, militants have captured swaths of territory in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, including a port on the Indian Ocean, and beheaded hundreds of civilians, according to human rights groups.

“I don’t think anyone saw this coming,” Col. Richard Schmidt, the deputy commander of U.S. Special Operations Forces in Africa, said in a telephone interview from Maputo, Mozambique’s capital. “For this to crop up so quickly is concerning.”

accused the mercenaries of possible war crimes, including killings of civilians. More broadly, their effectiveness against the insurgents has been limited.

John T. Godfrey, the State Department’s acting coordinator for counterterrorism, told reporters last week the United States was “concerned” by the presence of private contractors who have “not demonstrably helped” to win the battle against the Islamic State.

“It’s frankly a feature of the landscape in Cabo Delgado that complicates rather than helps efforts to address the terror threat there,” Mr. Godfrey said.

A senior State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters, said the military training program, which will focus on basic soldiering skills, could lead to more ambitious American help for Mozambique’s military including combat casualty care, planning and logistics.

The United States is also looking to step up intelligence assistance for Mozambique, the official said.

Last week, the State Department also imposed sanctions on a reported ISIS arm in the Democratic Republic of Congo and its leader, Seka Musa Baluku. Islamist insurgents affiliated with the Islamic State are also active in Libya, Mali, Niger and other parts of West Africa.

Regional experts, though, say some of those groups may be using the Islamic State name to sow fear and attract funds, while prosecuting conflicts that are essentially local in nature.

“They may be cloaked in the black flag,” said Mr. Mahtani, the Crisis Group analyst. “But what is motivating them to kill? It could be global jihad, but it could also be local conflicts and grievances.”

Eric Schmitt reported from Washington.

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Grisly Killing in Syria Spawns Legal Case Against Russian Mercenaries

MOSCOW — Three human rights groups announced on Monday a legal action that they say is the first to target soldiers from the Russian mercenary organization Wagner for crimes committed in Syria, highlighting growing efforts to hold accountable contract soldiers in war zones.

The case arose from the swirl of violence in Syria as multiple factions, contract soldiers and proxy forces have fought one another outside the Geneva Conventions or other treaties on the laws of war. The legal filing tries to use a patchwork of national legislation and treaties to plug that hole, what the rights groups called an impunity gap for mercenaries even as they proliferate on modern battlefields.

“We are seeing a resurgence of mercenaries in armed conflicts around the world,” Ilya Nuzov, director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia at the International Federation for Human Rights, one of the groups that brought the legal action, said in a telephone interview. “Unfortunately, they commit grave human rights abuses.”

The case, if it ever comes to court, would seem easy to prosecute because those accused filmed themselves killing a man who they claimed was a member of the Islamic State militant group. It is not clear why they recorded the killing, but analysts said that it might have been for propaganda reasons or as a horrific form of advertising.

have studied the clips for years. But the killing remained a crime without punishment because of the complicated jurisdictional issues related to contract soldiers.

Novaya Gazeta, an independent Russian newspaper, two years ago identified one of the attackers as a member of the Wagner mercenary group, which the United States government has said in sanctions documents is financed by Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, an oligarch who has been called “Putin’s chef” for winning catering contracts for the Kremlin.

The Kremlin has denied any ties to Wagner or to the Russian-speaking men who appear in the video.

a rising concern for human rights groups. About three-quarters of wars today are fought by such soldiers, rather than by members of nations’ armed forces, said Varvara Pakhomenko, a human rights consultant.

the Central African Republic, Libya, Sudan, Syria and Ukraine.

In Syria, it was partly a moneymaking strategy. Under a program first revealed by Russian investigative reporters in 2017, the Syrian government granted companies with ties to the Russian security services mining, oil or natural gas rights in territories outside the Syrian state’s control. The practice was seen as an incentive for the companies to hire contract soldiers to capture the areas.

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