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Mysterious air raids still pound Libya, kill civilians: New report

Smoke rises from a destroyed house after it was hit by an airstrike in Sirte, Libya, October 14, 2016. (Photo by Reuters)

Seven years after the Libyan uprising, which led to the ouster of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi with a military intervention led by NATO, “murky and mysterious” airstrikes are still being carried out from the country’s airspace, with no one claiming responsibility when civilian deaths occur, a new report has revealed.

According to a report conducted by the London-based monitoring group Airwars, and a US-based think tank, New America, more than 2,000 air raids were conducted in Libya between September 2012 and June 2018.

However, fewer than 50 percent of the purported 2,158 airstrikes have been publicly declared.

This file photo shows the aftermath of a NATO-led airstrike on the area of Tajura, east of Tripoli, Libya, on May 24, 2011.

The study, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post before its publication later this week, said the airstrikes have been conducted by rival local factions as well as the United States.

‘A tragedy for the Libyan people’

France, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Egypt were also among the outside forces involved in the post-revolution war in the North African country, “with far less transparency,” the paper said.

“Not one belligerent has taken responsibility for a single civilian death in Libya since 2012, and that’s a continuation of what we saw with NATO back in 2011,” said Chris Woods, the director of Airwars. “It’s a tragedy for the Libyan people.”

Among the foreign forces, the US has played the most significant military role, having conducted about 525 strikes in Libya since September 2012, the study found.

Using news reports and accounts on social media, it concluded that at least 237 civilians, by the lowest estimate, and as many as 387 civilians, by the highest, had been killed in the years-long chaotic air war. At least 324 civilians were also wounded in those attacks.

This is a general view of destroyed buildings in a central district in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, on March 13, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

It was not clear why the foreign countries were still involved in military operations in Libya. An official with New America said a “proxy” war was underway in the country, but he did not explain who was fighting whom.

“This is one of the world’s forgotten wars,” said Peter Bergen, a vice president of New America. “The NATO intervention didn’t end the conflict; it precipitated a new phase and Libya is now an arena for proxy warfare.”

Libya descended into a civil war after the NATO-led air campaign helped topple Gaddafi, who was captured and killed on October 20, 2011. The Libyan revolution, however, did not bring stability to the oil-rich country.

Governance split between two rival groups; one in the capital, Tripoli, and the other in the eastern city of Tobruk.

The power vacuum after the fall of Gaddafi also led to the rise of militant groups, including a Daesh affiliate, which gained power in the country and started exploiting its natural resources.

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