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UN Suspects Foreign Jets Attacked Libyan Migrant Camp

The Tajoura migrant camp after being hit by an airstrike in July of 2019.
The Tajoura migrant camp after being hit by an airstrike in July of 2019. (Photo: YouTube)

The United Nations is reportedly close to identifying the responsible party in an attack on a migrant camp in Libya that killed dozens last July.

In July of this year, the Tajoura migration concentration camp in Libya, which sheltered hundreds of sub-Saharan African migrants, was hit by deadly airstrikes from an unidentified source. The attack claimed the lives of 53 and injured 130 others, including men, women and children, now a leaked United Nations (U.N.) investigation seen by the BBC casts suspicion on the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.).

The attack was described by U.N. officials as possibly mounting to a war crime “depending on the precise circumstances,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said at the time.

The U.N.’s Special Mission in Libya issued a statement after the attack saying that the U.N. had shared coordinates with the Libyan warring parties, including the Libyan National Army (L.N.A.) of Gen. Khalifa Hafter who is backed by the U.A.E. and Egypt. The coordinates were shared in order to prevent the migration center from being harmed.

Immediately after the July attack, Haftar claimed his forces hit a legitimate target but he later walked back the claim and denied any responsibility.

According to the U.N. investigation seen by the BBC, the attack is believed to have been carried out by Mirage 2000-9 fighter jets, which were operating from two airbases inside Libya at the time of the strike. The BBC added, the confidential report concludes it is “highly probable” the airstrike was carried out using precision-guided missiles by a fighter jet “operated by a [UN] member state acting in direct support of HAF [Haftar Armed Forces]”.

The report did not specifically name the U.A.E., nor any other state, but both the U.A.E. and Egypt have been in support of the L.N.A. and both already have the type of Mirage fighter jets which are believed to had carried out the attack on the Tajoura concentration camp.

The BBC also claimed a source with knowledge of the U.N. investigation said the U.N. was focused on the U.A.E. despite not mentioning the country in the U.N. report, and that the report focuses on two airbases called Jufra and Al-Khadim which were used in the attack last July.

In 2017, the U.N. revealed that the U.A.E. had helped erect the al-Khadim airbase for the Libyan National Army of Gen. Khalifa Haftar.

Neither the U.A.E., Egypt nor the L.N.A. responded to the BBC’s requests for comments on the U.N. investigation.

Back in 2011, the U.N. imposed an arms embargo on Libya. Countries, including the U.A.E., U.K., U.S. and France recently signed a commitment to continue with the embargo.

Since April, Haftar’s L.N.A. has been involved in air and ground attacks on government forces in Tripoli, as the two sides battle for control of the Libyan capital.

The U.N.-recognized government in Tripoli is the official legal authority of Libya, but it lacks real control over the country, as the L.N.A. has rapidly consolidated power over the country’s oil fields and eastern region.

Libya’s civil war started in 2011 when Libyan crowds took to the streets in protest of the rule of Libya’s former president, Muammar Gaddafi. Gaddafi had been in power for four decades before he was assassinated in October 2011.

According to the International Organization for Migration, intensified airstrikes and heavy shelling in and around Tripoli have displaced at least 93,000 people.

Rami Almeghari

Rami Almeghari is a freelance independent writer, journalist and lecturer, based in the Gaza Strip. Rami has contributed in English to several media outlets worldwide, including print, radio and TV. He can be reached on facebook as Rami Munir Almeghari and on email as [email protected]

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