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Air Strike Strikes Migrant Detention Center in Libya, 40 People Killed

TRIPOLI – An air strike on Wednesday morning hit a detention center for migrants in the Libyan capital, killing at least 40 people and injuring dozens, AP reported Wednesday.
The air strike was likely to raise new concerns about the European Union’s policy of associating with Libyan militias to prevent migrants from crossing the Mediterranean, leaving them often at the mercy of brutal traffickers or stranded traffickers sordid detention centers near the front lines.
It could also reinforce Western pressure on Khalifa Hifter, a Libyan general whose forces launched an offensive in Tripoli in April. The Tripoli-based government accused its Libyan national army of being responsible for the air strike and called on the US support mission in Libya to set up an investigative committee to investigate.
A spokesman for Hifter’s forces did not immediately respond to phone calls and messages requesting comment. Local media reported that the LNA launched air strikes against a militia camp near the detention center.
The air strike targeting the Tajoura neighbourhood detention center in Tripoli also injured 35 migrants, according to the Interior Ministry in Tripoli. Malek Merset, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health, has published photos of migrants being taken into ambulances to hospitals. He had previously stated that 80 were injured.
Images circulating online and believed to come from the Migrant Detention Center showed blood and body parts mixed with rubble and objects belonging to migrants.
The air strike hit a workshop with weapons and vehicles, as well as an adjacent hangar with about 150 migrants, mostly Sudanese and Moroccan, according to two migrants who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity for fear.
The migrants said that three or four of them had survived and about 20 had been injured. They said the others had been killed, indicating that the final toll could be much higher.
The UN refugee agency in Libya has condemned the air strike on the detention center, which houses a total of 616 migrants and refugees.
The LNA launched an offensive against the weak government based in Tripoli in April. Hifter’s forces control much of eastern and southern Libya, but last week militias allied with the Tripoli government took over the strategic city of Gharyan, about 100km from the capital. Gharyan had been a key supply route for the LNA.
Many militia camps allied with the UN-backed government are in Tajoura, east of the city center, and Hifter’s forces have targeted such camps with air strikes. The LNA announced on Monday that it had started an air campaign against rival forces in Tripoli after losing control of Gharyan.
His forces include remnants of Gaddafi’s army as well as tribal fighters and ultra-conservative Islamists known as Salafists. They appear more like a regular army than their opponents, with uniforms and a clear chain of command.
Hifter’s forces use MiG fighter jets provided by neighboring Egypt, as well as drones attack helicopters and mine-proof vehicles. It was not clear immediately what ammunition had been used during the air strike on Wednesday morning.
Oded Berkowitz, a security analyst who focuses on the Libyan conflict, said the Hifter LNA was flying “a handful of obsolete aircraft” that are “in bad shape”. He said he had received spare parts from Egypt and possibly Russia, as well as disused aircraft from both countries.
“Egypt and the UAE have conducted air operations on behalf of the LNA, but there is no indication that the UAE has transferred aircraft to the LNA,” he said.
The fighting for Tripoli threatened to plunge Libya into another conflict of a scale comparable to that of the 2011 conflict that overthrew dictator Moammar Gaddafi and led him to death.
Hifter is determined to restore stability in this North African country. It is supported by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, while its rivals, mainly Islamists, are supported by Turkey and Qatar.
His campaign against Islamist militants in Libya since 2014 has earned him growing international support from world leaders who say they are worried that Libya is becoming a safe haven for people in Libya.
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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