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UN experts say Libya airstrike likely tied to Hifter allies

by Ace Damon
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UNITED NATIONS (AP) – UN experts say it is "highly probable" that a deadly air strike on a Libyan migrant detention center was carried out by a fighter jet operated by a government that supports Khalifa Hifter, which launched a offensive in April to capture the capital, Tripoli.

The expert panel said in a report to the UN Security Council that "it reserves the identification of this member state until new evidence or physical images emerge to increase confidence levels in the assignment."

The July 3 night raid on the Tajoura detention center near Tripoli killed more than 50 people and injured more than 130 others. UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said the attack could be a war crime.

The panel, which monitors sanctions against Libya, said it "continues to investigate the circumstances of the air strikes."

The summary and conclusions of the report on the attack on Tajoura were seen on Friday by the Associated Press.

Migrants and asylum seekers "remain vulnerable not only to the effects of the conflict but to abuse" in government detention centers, including "degrading living conditions, repeated extortion, sexual exploitation and other exploitation and torture," the report said. .

Libya became an important crossing point for migrants to Europe following the overthrow and death of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 when the North African nation was thrown into chaos, armed militias proliferated and central authority entered. collapsing.

The country was divided, with a weak UN-backed administration in Tripoli overseeing the west of the country and a rival government in the east aligned with the self-styled Libyan National Army led by Hifter, a former Libyan army general. Each side is supported by a variety of militias and armed groups fighting for resources and territory.

Hifter launched the surprise military offensive on April 4, aimed at Tripoli, with support from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Russia. But he faced strong resistance from fighters aligned with the UN-recognized government, which is aided by Turkey and Qatar.

The attack on Tajoura was one of the deadliest since the beginning of the conflict.

The panel said it had "independent evidence from a trusted confidential source that an unknown number of Mirage 2000-9 fighters" were using al-Khadim air base in eastern Libya and the Jufra base in northern central part. from the country. the time of the Tajoura attack.

Hifter's forces do not have such sophisticated aircraft, the panel said.

He said the Mirage 2000-9 can operate at night and provide accurate guided munitions and missiles.

“Therefore, the panel considers it highly probable that the air raid was conducted using PGM (precision guided munitions) at night by a modern FGA (fighter ground attack) aircraft owned and operated by a member state, acting in support of the HAF (Hifter Armed Forces), ”says the report.

Although no country has been named, the United Arab Emirates has a fleet of Mirage 2000-9 fighters produced by Dassault Aviation of France. In November 2017, the United Arab Emirates military announced plans to upgrade the fleet.

As for Hifter's offensive, UN experts said it had stalled reforms and triggered a new phase of instability in Libya.

Experts also said both sides of the conflict received weapons and military equipment, technical support and "non-Libyan fighters", in violation of the UN arms embargo.

"Jordan, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates have routinely and sometimes blatantly provided weapons with little effort to disguise the source," the report said. "The panel also identified the presence of armed groups from Chad and Sudan in support of affiliated forces" on both sides.

But, the panel added, "in reality the impact of foreign armed groups on the outcome of the conflict was limited."

"Neither side has the military capability to effectively decide the outcome in its favor," the report said. "Consequently, deaths between armed and civilian groups remain low."

The Security Council's 15-member Security Council monitoring sanctions against Libya are expected to discuss the report later this month, and diplomats said they could be made public in December.

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Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

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