UAE involved in attack that killed 26 unarmed cadets in Libya's Tripoli, investigation reveals

UAE involved in attack that killed 26 unarmed cadets in Libya's Tripoli, investigation reveals
The missiles used in the devastating 4 January strike on unarmed military cadets in the Libyan capital has been traced back to a UAE-controlled drone
2 min read
28 August, 2020
Mourners carry coffins of the victims of the 4 January strike on Tripoli [Getty]

A drone operated by the United Arab Emirates was responsible for killing 25 unarmed army cadets at a training academy in Tripoli, Libya, in January this year, a BBC investigation has revealed.

New evidence unearthed by the group traces the Chinese Blue Arrow 7 missile that hit the site, to a type of drone named Wing Loong II. At the time, these drones were only being operated by Emirati forces out of the al-Khadim base in eastern Libya.

The strike, which occurred on 4 January 2020, came during the siege of Tripoli led by the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), a coalition of varying factions headed by warlord Khalifa Haftar.

Haftar's forces have international backing from the UAE, Egypt, Russia and Saudi Arabia, among others.

The LNA has denied involvement in the attack, saying the casualties could have been caused by local shelling or an attack from inside the academy.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

UAE using Egyptian air bases

The investigation also found evidence that, since February 2020, Egypt has allowed the UAE to station its Wing Loong II drones at an Egyptian air base across the border near the town of Siwa.

Satellite imagery has also revealed that Mirage 2000 fighter jets that match the colours of those used by the UAE are being stationed at a second Egyptian air base named Sidi Barrani.

The UN has pointed out that the same Mirage 2000 jets were used in the July 2019 air strike on a migrant detention centre in Tripoli that killed at least 53 people.

Sidi Barrani is also known to have received multiple cargo planes from the UAE, indicating that this is the delivery point for military equipment and supplies to be used in Libya.

Read more: Libya ceasefire: Window of opportunity or doomed to fail?

Haftar's forces launched an offensive to capture Tripoli in April 2019. But his campaign collapsed in June this year when militias allied to the Turkey-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) gained the upper hand, driving his forces from the outskirts of Tripoli and other western towns.

The chaos in the oil-rich country has worsened in recent months as foreign backers increasingly intervene, despite pledges to the contrary at a high-profile peace summit in Berlin earlier this year.

The rival factions announced on 21 August a ceasefire across the oil-rich country, however tensions remain and many are sceptical the agreement will hold.

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