Over 40 migrants killed in airstrike by Haftar forces on Libya detention centre

Over 40 migrants killed in airstrike by Haftar forces on Libya detention centre
An airstrike blamed on forces loyal to rogue Libyan general Khalifa Haftar has killed 40 migrants in a detention centre in Tripoli, as a deadly offensive on the capital continues.
3 min read
03 July, 2019
More than 40 migrants were killed in the airstrike on the detention centre [Twitter]
Over 40 migrants were killed in an airstrike on Tuesday night on their detention centre in a Tripoli suburb.

The airstrike was blamed on forces loyal to rogue Libyan general Khalifa Haftar, who has been trying for three months to seize the Libyan capital.

At least 70 were also wounded in the raid on Tajoura, an emergency services spokesman told Agence France Presse. 

"This is a preliminary assessment and the toll could rise," said spokesman Osama Ali.

He said 120 migrants were detained in the centre – a converted aircraft hangar - which was directly hit by the strike.

Bodies were strewn on the floor of the hangar, mixed with the belongings and blood-soaked clothes of migrants.

Rescuers were searching for survivors under the rubble, while dozens of ambulances rushed to the scene. 

In a statement, the internationally recognised national unity government (GNA) based in Tripoli denounced the attack as a "heinous crime" and blamed it on the "war criminal Khalifar Haftar".

Haftar, who controls much of eastern and southern Libya, in early April launched an offensive to take the capital. 739 people have been killed as a result, according to the World Health Organization, with over 4,000 wounded and 100,000 displaced.

The GNA accused pro-Haftar forces of having carried out a "premeditated" and "precise" attack on the migrant centre.

No one has so far claimed responsibility but pro-Haftar media reported Tuesday night that they had carried out a "series of air raids" in Tripoli and Tajoura. 

The suburb of Tajoura, which has several military sites belonging to pro-GNA armed groups, is regularly targeted in air raids by Haftar’s forces.

Migrants 'at risk'

The UN refugee agency UNHCR said it was "extremely concerned" at reports of the strikes on the migrant centre.

"UNHCR is extremely concerned about news of air strikes targeting Tajoura detention centre east of Tripoli, and accounts of refugees and migrants deceased," it tweeted.

"Civilians should never be a target."

Libya, wracked by chaos since the 2011 uprising against dictator Muammar Qadhafi, has become a major conduit for migrants seeking to reach Europe.

Rights groups say migrants face horrifying abuses in the North African country, which remains prey to a multitude of militias vying for control of the oil-rich country.

The plight of migrants has worsened since Haftar’s offensive against Tripoli began in April.

Haftar's forces have pledged to intensify air strikes on Tripoli after losing the key city of Gharyan to GNA forces.

The UN's mission in Libya has said around 3,500 migrants and refugees held in detention centres near the combat zone are at risk.

UN agencies and humanitarian organisations have regularly voiced their opposition to migrants apprehended at sea being brought back to Libya, where they are "arbitrarily detained" or at the mercy of militias.

Despite chronic instability, Libya remains an important transit point for migrants fleeing conflict and instability in other parts of Africa and the Middle East.

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