Haftar Airstrike Leaves 43 Dead In Southern Libya

  • The government urged the United Nations to "initiate an investigation into the crimes committed by Haftar militias in Murzuq."
  • Media loyal to Haftar said the attack targeted Chadian mercenaries, a description used to refer to the ethnic Taibo group opposed to Haftar.
  • This is the second time in two months that an airstrike has resulted in large civilian casualties.

At least 43 people have died and more than 60 have been injured in an aerial bombardment against the city of Al Murzuq (southwest of Libya) executed by the forces led by Marshal Khalifa Haftar, a local strong man, as reported by news sources citing a representative of the city council.  Haftar’s forces, based in eastern Libya, say they targeted the city on Sunday evening but denied targeting civilians.

Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar (born c. 1943) is a dual Libyan-American citizen who is a military officer and the head of the Libyan National Army (LNA), which, under Haftar’s leadership, replaced nine elected municipal councils by military administrators, and as of May 2019, was engaged in the Second Libyan Civil War. On 2 March 2015, he was appointed commander of the armed forces loyal to the elected legislative body, the Libyan House of Representatives.

The raid, which hit the local council in the castle area “left 42 dead, more than 60 wounded, 30 of them serious.” The meeting was attended by more than 200 people, who were “seeking to resolve social differences among themselves,” according to news sources quoted Ibrahim Omar, an official in the Council. Local media reported earlier that the raid hit a wedding.

The UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) condemned the attack on social media and accused Haftar’s forces of carrying it out. The government urged the United Nations to “initiate an investigation into the crimes committed by Haftar militias in Murzuq.”

Media loyal to Haftar said the attack targeted Chadian mercenaries, a description used to refer to the ethnic Taibo group opposed to Haftar. In the fighting, which has been going on for months, between the forces of the National Reconciliation Government and the Haftar forces, more than 1,000 people have been killed since April, according to the World Health Organization.

This is the second time in two months that an airstrike has resulted in large civilian casualties. In June, 44 people were killed in a migrants’ detention center in Tripoli suburbs. Haftar’s forces took control of Merzek earlier this year during its offensive to control the oil-producing areas of Libya but later withdrew.

Muammar Gaddafi dominated Libya’s politics for four decades and was the subject of a pervasive cult of personality. He was decorated with various awards and praised for his anti-imperialist stance, support for Arab—and then African—unity, and for significant improvements that his government brought to the Libyan people’s quality of life. Conversely, Islamic fundamentalists strongly opposed his social and economic reforms, and he was posthumously accused of sexual abuse. He was condemned by many as a dictator whose authoritarian administration violated human rights and financed global terrorism.

Conflict has torn apart the country after the overthrow of more than four decades of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. There is no power in Libya to control the entire country, which has become unstable and torn between a number of political and military factions.

Haftar has been an active figure in the Libyan political scene for four decades and was one of Gaddafi’s close allies. He was forced, after a dispute in the late 1980s, to leave Libya and live in exile in the United States. After returning to the country following the outbreak of the intifada in 2011, Haftar fought alongside Islamist opposition groups during the uprising that toppled Gaddafi, before turning into a bitter enemy.

In February 2014, he appeared on television in a video showing his plan to “save the country,” calling on the Libyans to rise up against the National Congress, the elected parliament formed after the revolution. In May 2014, Haftar launched what he called Operation Dignity in Benghazi and the east on Islamist armed groups, including those close to the Muslim Brotherhood, and succeeded in presenting himself on the outside stage as an adversary to Islamists in Libya, and gaining the support from the UAE and Egypt.

In March 2015, the new House of Representatives (replacing the National General Congress) appointed him as Commander-in-Chief of the Libyan National Army, which nearly a year later expelled armed Islamic factions from most of Benghazi. In September 2016, Haftar led Operation Lightning Flash to control major oil facilities in the Crescent Petroleum region. Haftar does not recognize the national reconciliation government, headed by Fayez al-Sarraj, which is recognized by the international community.

Today’s focus is on Tripoli, the Libyan capital, where the armed factions of the internationally recognized government have pledged to confront the Libyan National Army forces led by Haftar. He then issued orders to his forces to move westward and control Tripoli, the headquarters of the UN-backed National Accord Government.

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Doris Mkwaya

I am a journalist, with more than 12 years of experience as a reporter, author, editor, and journalism lecturer." I've worked as a reporter, editor and journalism lecturer, and am very enthusiastic about bringing what I've learned to this site.  

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