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40 killed, 80 injured as airstrike hits migrant detention facility in Libya

A man walks next to the damaged building of a detention center for mainly African migrants, after an airstrike, in a suburb of Tripoli, Libya, early on July 3, 2019. (Photo by Reuters)

Forty people have lost their lives and 80 others sustained injuries when an airstrike struck a detention facility for illegal migrants in a eastern suburb of the Libyan capital of Tripoli.

Libyan officials said the aerial assault took place late on Tuesday, and targeted the center in the Tajoura suburb of the city.

Several bodies lay on the floor of the hangar in the area as ambulances rushed to the scene. Pictures published by the authorities also showed African migrants being treated in a hospital after the strike.

Center officials blamed the raid on militiamen loyal to the renegade commander of the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), Khalifa Haftar.

Haftar launched his deadly campaign on April 4, when he ordered his loyalists to invade Tripoli and seize it from troops aligned to Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA). Since then, fighting has killed 653 people, wounded more than 2,000 and displaced over 93,000, according to the United Nations.

Libyan government forces recently dealt a major blow to the LNA by retaking the strategic town of Gharyan, a supply line for Haftar’s forces on the Tripoli front.

Haftar’s offensive has upended UN-led plans to stabilize Libya after years of conflict that have left the oil-rich nation divided and caused living standards to plummet.

UN reports have previously said that the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have been arming Haftar’s forces since 2014.

The New York Times, confirming the discovery of sophisticated US missiles and weaponry at a base in southern Tripoli by the GNA forces in a report on June 30, said the UAE's Ambassador to the US Yousef al-Otaiba had declined to answer questions about the provenance of the missiles.

The American daily, however, said it would be in breach of both the terms of the sale and a UN arms embargo on the conflict-ridden Libya if the missiles were found to have been sold or transferred to forces under Haftar’s command.

The GNA has reportedly launched a fact-finding mission with the goal of producing a report that would be submitted to the United Nations as well as other international organizations.

Officials at the US State Department and the Pentagon also said they had opened investigations into how the weapons had ended up on the Libyan battlefield.

"We take all allegations of misuse of US origin defense articles very seriously. We are aware of these reports and are seeking additional information," a State Department spokesperson said on condition of anonymity. "We expect all recipients of US origin defense equipment to abide by their end-use obligations."

Libya has been the scene of increasing violence since 2011, when former dictator Muammar Gaddafi was toppled from power after an uprising and a NATO military intervention.

His ouster created a huge power vacuum, leading to chaos and the emergence of numerous militant outfits, including the Daesh terrorist group.

Libya has two rival seats of power: one known as the House of Representatives and based in the eastern city of Tobruk, and another in Tripoli, which is headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj and enjoys UN recognition.  

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