Air Strike on South Libyan Town Kills at Least 43: Official

August 5, 2019 Updated: August 5, 2019

TRIPOLI—A drone airstrike by eastern Libyan forces on the southern Libyan town of Murzuq has killed at least 43 people, a local official said on Monday, Aug. 5.

The attack is the second major airstrike blamed on the eastern Libyan National Army (LNA) forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar after at least 44 migrants were killed in July when a detention center in a suburb of the capital Tripoli was hit.

Libya airstrike migrant center 2
Migrants carry the remains of their belongings from among rubble at a detention center for mainly African migrants that was hit by an airstrike in the Tajoura suburb of the Libyan capital of Tripoli, Libya on July 3, 2019. (Ismail Zitouny/Reuters)
Libya airstrike
A fighter loyal to the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) forces checks the ruins of a building near the Yarmouk military compound, following airstrikes south of the Libyan capital Tripoli on July 1, 2019. (MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images)

The LNA confirmed a strike late on Sunday on Murzuq, but denied it had targeted any civilians. The LNA had also denied it had hit the detention center but acknowledged increased airstrikes on the capital.

The internationally recognized government based in Tripoli opposing Haftar said dozens were killed and wounded in Murzuq.

Reached by telephone, Murzuq municipal council member Mohamed Omar told Reuters: “The airstrike resulted in 43 killed and 51 wounded. This is only an initial toll of casualties.”

The LNA seized Murzuq at the start of this year as part of an offensive to control the oil-producing south. But it later moved out to concentrate forces north where it has been trying to take the capital of Tripoli in a four-month campaign.

The LNA said in a statement its strike had targeted “Chadian opposition fighters,” a phrase that usually refers to Tebu tribesmen opposing them in the area.

Haftar’s LNA, allied to a parallel government based in eastern Libya, has seen its advance on Tripoli held up by robust defenses on the outskirts of the capital, and said it would start heavy air strikes after “traditional means” of war had been exhausted.

On Sunday, the U.N. Libya mission (UNSMIL) condemned in a statement “the repeated indiscriminate shelling” of Tripoli’s only functioning airport after several strikes in the past days.

The United Nations did not name the LNA but said the attacks had “continued unabated” since the start of the LNA offensive on Tripoli.

There was no immediate U.N. comment on the Murzuq strike.

Haftar’s attempt to capture Tripoli has derailed U.N. attempts to broker an end to the chaos that has prevailed in Libya since the NATO-backed overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

 By Ahmed Elumami and Ulf Laessing