BFF-29 1,000 dead in three-month fight for Libya’s Tripoli

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LIBYA-CONFLICT WRAP

1,000 dead in three-month fight for Libya’s Tripoli

TRIPOLI, July 5, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Some 1,000 people have been killed since
Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar launched a push three months ago to capture
Tripoli, the UN said Friday, including 53 detained migrants who died in a
devastating air strike.

Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army, which holds eastern Libya and
much of the country’s south, launched an offensive in early April to wrestle
the capital from forces loyal to the UN-recognised Government of National
Accord (GNA).

Air strikes and ground fighting have since left nearly 1,000 people dead
and some 5,000 wounded, the UN’s World Health Organization said, without
specifying the breakdown between civilians and fighters.

The fighting has forced more than 100,000 people to flee their homes in a
country mired by a bloody power struggle between militias since a NATO-backed
uprising that toppled and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

Among the dead are 53 migrants killed Tuesday night in an air raid on a
detention centre in the Tripoli suburb of Tajoura, held by the GNA, which
accused Haftar’s forces of carrying out the strike.

A Geneva-based spokesman for the International Organization for Migration
said six children were among the migrants killed.

Joel Millman said that “350 migrants, including 20 women and four children”
were still detained at the centre, one of five air hangers hit in the raid.

– ‘Tragedy’ –

Video surveillance footage from the detention centre, circulated Friday on
social media, showed people walking outside the hangar as a strong explosion
erupted, triggering panic, and leaving behind clouds of smoke and dust.

UN agencies and humanitarian groups have repeatedly voiced concern over the
plight of thousands and migrants and refugees held in detention centres near
combat zones in the capital.

“The contact details of these detention centres in Tripoli are well known
to both sides of the conflict,” spokesman for the UN’s refugee agency Charlie
Yaxley said.

The carnage in Tajoura was “a tragedy that should have never happened”, he
added.

Libya has become a major conduit for migrants seeking to reach Europe and
remains prey to numerous militias vying for control of the country’s oil
wealth.

Rights groups say migrants face horrifying abuses in Libya, and their
plight has worsened since Haftar launched the offensive against Tripoli.

According to the UN, some 5,700 refugees and migrants are being held in
detention centres in Libya, 3,300 of which are vulnerable to fighting in and
around Tripoli.

– Plane downed – An initial lightning assault in early April saw the LNA
steam towards the capital. But they have since been bogged down on its
southern outskirts, where frontlines have been frozen for months.

The GNA forces launched a surprise counter-attack late last month, seizing
the strategic town of Gharyan, the main supply base for Haftar’s offensive.

After the setback, Haftar’s forces threatened to intensify strikes against
their rivals.

Both sides have launched daily air raids throughout the fighting and each
lost several planes.

Troops loyal to Haftar said late Thursday they had downed a GNA jet near
the town of Tarhuna, used by the LNA as a rear base some 80 kilometres (50
miles) southeast of Tripoli

A GNA spokesman said they had lost contact with the L39 Albatros, which had
been on a combat mission south of the capital, without providing further
details.

Taking advantage of international divisions over the fighting in Libya, the
two rival camps have both remained convinced that with the help of their
backers they can win the battle.

The GNA receives support from Turkey and Qatar, and Haftar is backed by the
United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and according to experts, to some degree by the
United States.

BSS/AFP/FI/ 2150 hrs