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42 killed, more than 60 injured in southern Libyan airstrike

The GNA condemned the attack on its Facebook page, also blaming it on Haftar’s forces

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42 killed, more than 60 injured in southern Libyan airstrike
(File photo)

At least 42 people were killed and dozens wounded in an airstrike targeting a town hall meeting in southern Libya, a local official and the UN-recognised government said Monday, accusing forces of military strongman Khalifa Haftar.

The Government of National Accord (GNA) said Sunday’s raid struck the residential district of Qalaa in the town of Murzuq.

The air raid left “42 dead and more than 60 injured, 30 of them critically,” municipal council official Ibrahim Omar told reporters.

He said a government building at which more than 200 local dignitaries were gathered “to settle social differences” was targeted three times.

READ: Libya’s Haftar-led forces claim airstrike on hospital

“No armed or wanted people were among them… Haftar bombed unarmed civilians,” he said, calling for humanitarian aid since the local hospital could not cope with the high number of casualties.

The GNA condemned the attack on its Facebook page, also blaming it on Haftar’s forces.

Haftar, who seized swathes of southern Libya earlier in the year, has been battling since April to oust pro-GNA forces from the capital Tripoli.

The GNA urged the UN’s Libya mission and international community “to carry out an investigation into the crimes committed by Haftar’s militias in Murzuq”.

There was no immediate comment on the raid from Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA).

READ: Health ministry confirms airstrikes kill 5 doctors in Libya

With its 50,000 inhabitants, mostly from the Toubou ethnic group, and its ancient fortress, the oasis town is located almost 900 kilometres by road south of Tripoli.

The Toubou have remained at odds with rival Arab tribes which have rallied with Haftar’s forces who took control of the region in January in an operation to “purge it of terrorists and criminals”.

Narrow escape at airport –

The European Union, which has previously called for those breaching international law in Libya to be brought to justice, condemned the strike.

“Indiscriminate attacks on densely populated residential areas may amount to war crimes and must cease immediately,” said EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic.

With fighting for Tripoli stalled on the ground after initial advances by Haftar’s forces, the two sides have increasingly taken their fight to the skies with warplanes and drones.

Aviation officials said Monday that a Libyan passenger plane had narrowly escaped being hit by incoming fire as it landed at Tripoli’s sole functioning airport.

READ: Libya’s GNA suspect new military escalation by Haftar-led forces

“The crew on the flight from Benghazi, which was carrying 124 passengers, avoided being hit by bombing on Mitiga International Airport” on Sunday, the airport’s management wrote on Facebook.

The incident forced the airport to close to air traffic and re-route flights to Misrata, some 200 kilometres further east, until late Sunday night.

The origin of the bombs was not clear, and no side has yet claimed responsibility.

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North Africa Politics

Libyan Navy rescues 335 migrants, recovers 1 body

Nine children were among 57 migrants in a wooden boat rescued Saturday about 40 nautical miles from the town of Zuwara

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Libyan navy rescues 335 migrants, recovers 1 body
(File photo)

The Libyan navy said Sunday 335 migrants had been rescued and one body recovered in separate operations off the coast, as they tried to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe.

Nine children were among 57 migrants in a wooden boat rescued Saturday about 40 nautical miles from the town of Zuwara, west of Tripoli, navy spokesman General Ayoub Kacem told reporters.

He said they were from Ethiopia and Egypt. 

The rescue came days after Libyan navy patrols on Tuesday “rescued 278 migrants on board four inflatable boats northwest and northeast of Tripoli”, Kacem added.

The operations took place off the coasts of the cities of Khoms, 120 kilometres east of Tripoli, and Sabratha, located 70 kilometres west of the capital.

READ: IOM reports over 100 migrants missing off Libyan coast

According to the statement, 128 Sudanese were on the boats, in addition to migrants from Chad, Egypt, Niger, Benin and Eritrea, including 35 women and 11 children.

One body was also recovered by the coastguard.

Libya, which has been facing transition crisis since the 2011 uprising that killed dictator Muammar Gaddafi, has long been a major transit route for migrants, especially from sub-Saharan Africa.

In general, migrants rescued at sea are first met by humanitarian agencies that provide medical care and food.

They are then taken into the charge of the body working to combat immigration at the interior ministry of the UN-recognised Government of National Accord. 

On August 9, the Libyan navy accused the authorities of failing to manage migrants rescued at sea, claiming that it could be forced to let people go free once brought back to land.

READ: From Sudan to Libya, nightmare for migrants continues

Despite the risks, migrants continue to attempt to reach Europe by sea, preferring to take their chances than stay in Libya, where they are subject to abuse, extortion and torture, according to humanitarian organisations. 

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President declares state of emergency in 2 provinces due to ethnic violence in Chad

The state of emergency will run for three months in Sila and Ouaddai regions

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Chad President Idriss Deby declared a state of emergency in two eastern provinces

Chad President Idriss Deby declared a state of emergency in two eastern provinces on Sunday after violent intercommunal clashes left dozens dead earlier this month.

The state of emergency will run for three months in Sila and Ouaddai regions bordering Sudan where 50 people have died since August 9 in fighting between cattle herders and settled farmers, the president’s office said.

“From now, we will deploy military forces who are going to ensure the security of the population in the region,” Deby said while on a trip to Sila. “We must disarm all the civilians who have weapons in their hands,” he continued.

Eastern Chad is in the grip of a cycle of violence between nomadic camel herders and sedentary farmers from the Ouaddian community. Herders have for decades moved their livestock through the Ouaddai region in rotations between summer and winter pastures.

Most of the herders’ animals belong to the president’s Zaghawa ethnic group, and the farmers say they often escape censure when unrest breaks out between the two sides. Similar conflicts between herders and farmers erupt in other African countries, notably Nigeria.

Drought and population growth have aggravated the conflict, while an influx of weapons from conflict-stricken neighbours have made it even more deadly. Deby earlier this month blamed the surge in violence partly fon an influx of guns to the former French colony from conflict zones in neighbouring Libya, Central African Republic and Sudan, where a protest movement ousted the president in April.

“The government has created special disarmament units. We take away the weapons, but the next day more arrives,” he said. The president described the violence as a “national concern”, adding: “We are witnessing a terrible phenomenon.”

“Those with guns are not hesitating to shoot the police. We must wage a total war against those who carry weapons and are killing people,” he said at the time. Legislative elections in Chad are scheduled to take place by the end of the year. They have been postponed several times since 2015 as Deby, who got into power in 1990, looks to maintain his rule of the country.

Deby hinted in June that military courts may be reintroduced in a bid to curb unrest, a suggestion denounced by the country’s opposition. Military justice, applied to civilians as well as the armed forces, was abolished in Chad in 1993. In 2016, the country also scrapped the death penalty, except for “terrorism”

Deby said the decades-long conflict over land in Ouaddai had spread since the start of this year to other regions where previously the communities lived side by side in an “exemplary” manner. He cited Sila where he said more than 40 people had been killed since January.

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Libyan National Army attack Mitiga airport and Zuwara airfield

Libyan National Army said it targeted a hangar “which houses Turkish drones and their ammunition”.

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(FILES) This file photo taken on April 08, 2019, shows the Mitiga International Airport in Libya's capital Tripoli. - Rocket fire on August 11 hit the Libyan capital's sole functioning airport, violating a temporary truce between the unity government and forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar, airport authorities said. (Photo by Mahmud TURKIA / AFP)

Tripoli’s sole functioning airport Mitiga and Zuwara airfield were targeted for the second time in less than 48 hours – the former hit overnight Thursday and the latter on Friday morning.

The Government of National Accord (GNA) reported that three people were wounded in the raids by forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar against the two airports under its control.

Airport management at Mitiga reported rocket fire against the runway “as planes took off and landed”. 

The UN-recognised GNA said on Facebook that Haftar’s forces “targeted employees of the airport services company” at Mitiga with Grad missiles, causing shrapnel wounds to two workers and damaging a bus.

Flights were temporarily suspended or rerouted to Misrata, 200 kilometres (120 miles) east of Tripoli.

In the attack against Zuwara airfield, Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army said it targeted a hangar “which houses Turkish drones and their ammunition”.

The Tripoli-based GNA said a member of civil protection was wounded in that attack.

Pro-Haftar forces also “targeted other hangars… located 1.5 kilometres to the east of Abu Kamach”, LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mesmari said on Facebook.

The country’s biggest petrochemical complex is located there, near the Tunisian border.

Forces loyal to the GNA and the LNA are embroiled in a stalemate in Tripoli’s southern outskirts after Haftar launched an offensive against the capital in April.

Fighting over the last four months has killed 1,093 people and wounded 5,752, according to the World Health Organization. 

Some 120,000 have been displaced over the same period.

Libya has been mired in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. 

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