Saturday, 18/1/2020 | 5:30 UTC+0
Libyan Newswire

Libya: Deadly air strike on migrant centre sparks outrage

TRIPOLI Outrage and calls for an independent probe mounted as 44 migrants were killed in an air strike on a detention centre in Libya that the UN said could constitute a war crime.

UN chief Antonio Guterres denounced the horrendous attack and demanded an independent investigation, as a divided Security Council failed to condemn the strike.

Libya's internationally recognised government and its arch-foe strongman Khalifa Haftar traded blame for the deadly assault, which the European Union called a horrific attack.

Tuesday night's strike left a hole around three metres in diameter in the hangar, surrounded by debris ripped from the metal structure by the force of the blast.

At least 44 people were killed and more than 130 severely wounded, the UN said.

The UN shared the coordinates of the Tajoura centre east of Tripoli with the warring sides to ensure that civilians sheltering there were safe, Guterres said.

UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame said the attack clearly could constitute a war crime, as it killed by surprise innocent people whose dire conditions forced them to be in that shelter.

Around 600 migrants and refugees were held in the Tajoura centre, the compound's head Noureddine al-Grifi said, adding that people were wounded in another hangar.

The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) denounced the attack as a heinous crime and blamed it on the war criminal Khalifa Haftar, who in early April launched an offensive to seize the capital.

Wednesday evening a spokesman for Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) said: The (pro-Haftar) forces deny their responsibility in the attack on the migrant centre of Tajoura.

Ahmad al-Mesmari blamed the attack on the GNA, accusing it of plotting against the LNA.

We never target civilians. Our armed forces are professional and accurate in their strikes, Mesmari said, calling for an investigation into the carnage.

The United States condemned an abhorrent attack and urged a de-escalation, the State Department said.

The European Union echoing many countries and international organisations called for an independent probe.

The suburb of Tajoura, which has several military sites belonging to pro-GNA armed groups, is regularly targeted in air raids by Haftar's forces.

The UN's mission in Libya has said around 3,500 migrants and refugees held in detention centres near the combat zone are at risk.

More than 700 people have been killed and 4,000 wounded since the assault began in early April, while nearly 100,000 have been displaced, according to UN agencies.

Late Wednesday flights were suspended at Mitiga, Tripoli's only functioning airport, a statement by airport authorities said, after Haftar's forces launched an air strike on the facility.

A security source said the raid caused no casualties or damage.