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The Latest: UN chief condemns 'horrendous' attack in Libya

By The News · 06 of July 2019 11:38:29
AP Photo,, No available, Libyan Red Crescent workers recover migrants bodies after an airstrike at a detention center in Tajoura, east of Tripoli Wednesday, July 3, 2019. An airstrike hit the detention center for migrants early Wednesday in the Libyan capital. (AP Photo/Hazem Ahmed)

BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — The Latest on developments in Libya, where an airstrike on a migrant detention center in Tripoli killed at least 40 people (all times local):

6:45 p.m.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is calling for an independent investigation of the “outrageous” bombing of a detention center for migrants near Libya’s capital Tripoli, noting that the U.N. had given its exact coordinates to parties in the ongoing conflict.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Wednesday that the secretary-general condemns “this horrendous incident in the strongest terms” and wants to ensure that the perpetrators of the attack are brought to justice.

Dujarric said the attack killed at least 44 migrants and refugees, including women and children, and injured more than 130 people.

He said the U.N. chief reiterates his call on the Libyan parties for an immediate cease-fire and return to political talks.

Libya is split between two warring governments and their allied militias.

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6:30 p.m.

The U.N. human rights chief says a deadly airstrike on a detention center housing migrants in Libya could amount to a war crime because the fighting sides knew that civilians were inside.

Michelle Bachelet said she was “shocked” about the deaths and injuries caused by the airstrike overnight near the capital, Tripoli. Officials said it left at least 44 people dead.

Bachelet said the warring sides in Libya’s conflict are bound “to take all feasible precautions to protect the civilian population” under international humanitarian law.

Tripoli has seen fierce fighting since the forces of Khalifa Hifter launched an offensive to take the city from the U.N.-supported government in April.

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6:05 p.m.

A leading rights group is urging the International Criminal Court to order an investigation into an airstrike that hit a migrant detention center near Libya’s capital, killing at least 44 people.

Amnesty International said Wednesday the attack on the center in Tripoli’s Tajoura neighborhood “must be investigated as a war crime.”

Magdalena Mughrabi, the group’s deputy Middle East and North Africa director, says the deaths are the “consequences of Libya and Europe’s callous migration policies.”

Amnesty says that a warehouse used to store weapons was located in the same compound as the Tajoura detention center. It also said that some detained migrants had been forced to work at the military site there against their will.

The group says it had warned Libyan authorities that they were endangering the lives of refugees and migrants by arbitrarily detaining them close to military targets.

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5:55 p.m.

The U.N. Security Council has scheduled an emergency session Wednesday afternoon on the airstrike on a detention center for migrants in Libya’s capital.

Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Karen Pierce said the UK requested the closed meeting, which will take place at 3 p.m. EDT.

Mohamed T. H. Siala, the foreign minister in Libya’s U.N.-supported government, also sent a letter to the Security Council requesting a meeting.

The airstrike killed at least 44 people and wounded dozens of others when it struck the detention center in a suburb of Tripoli.

The capital has seen fierce fighting between Libya’s warring militias in recent weeks.

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5:50 p.m.

The forces of Libya’s Khalifa Hifter are saying that an airstrike that hit a migrant detention center overnight and killed over 40, was targeting a rival militia near the capital, Tripoli.

Gen. Khaled el-Mahjoub, a spokesman for the self-styled Libyan National Army, denied targeting the detention center, saying it was the militia camp in the Tajoura neighborhood that was the target. 

However, he did not deny that the migrant detention center was hit. 

He said: “We didn’t give orders to target the shelter.”

He accused fighters allied with the U.N.-supported government of using detained migrants as “human shields, by placing them in ammunition storage places.”

The U.N.-supported government has blamed Hifter’s LNA for the airstrike that also wounded dozens.

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4:30 p.m.

Satellite images of a migrant detention center in Libya show part of the building was obliterated in overnight airstrikes, with a blackened hole in the roof of another section.

The U.N. says the airstrike near the capital, Tripoli, killed at least 44 people and wounded more than 130.

It wasn’t immediately clear who was responsible but some suspected involvement by foreign countries allied with General Khalifa Hifter, whose forces launched an offensive in April. On Monday, a spokesman for Hifter’s military warned of impending airstrikes around Tripoli.

Two migrants told The Associated Press that the airstrike hit a workshop housing weapons and vehicles and an adjacent hangar filled with detainees. The aid group Doctors Without Borders said a team that visited hours before the airstrike counted 126 people in that room alone.

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2:55 p.m.

The European Union is calling on Libyan authorities to better protect migrants after an airstrike killed more than 40 people at a migrant detention center overnight.

In a statement Wednesday, the EU’s top diplomat and two top policy commissioners deplored the “shocking and tragic attack” and said that it highlights “the dire and vulnerable situation of migrants caught up in the spiral of violence in the country.”

They say many more migrants “are at risk and should be transferred to safe places swiftly.”

The officials called on Libyan authorities to make sure its system of detaining migrants met “human rights” standards.

The EU is training and funding the Libyan coastguard to prevent migrants leaving the war-torn country for Europe.

The airstrike hit near the capital, Tripoli, which has seen fierce fighting between rival militias in recent weeks.

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2:26 p.m.

France is calling for Libya’s warring sides to stop fighting and resume talks after an airstrike killed more than 40 people in a migrant detention center.

In a statement Wednesday, the French foreign ministry called for a quick return to the U.N.-backed talks.

France also called for guaranteed access for humanitarian groups, which have often struggled to bring aid to the thousands of migrants trapped in detention centers, including many who have been intercepted by the Libyan coast guard en route to Europe.

Rights groups, however, have challenged French and European support for the Libyan coast guard’s efforts to turn back migrants at sea, saying Libya is not a safe country for their return.

Libya is split between two rival governments, based in the country’s east and west.

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12:15 p.m.

The aid group Doctors Without Borders says the detention center cell struck by an overnight airstrike in Libya held 126 migrants.

The group’s Libya medical coordinator, Prince Alfani, said teams visited the center just hours before the airstrike and saw 126 people inside the cell that was destroyed early Wednesday. Alfani says survivors fear for their lives, and he called for immediate evacuation of everyone in the detention centers.

No one has claimed responsibility for the airstrike, which the U.N. says killed at least 44 people and wounded more than 130.

The airstrike hit around the same time as a phone call came in from a man saying he was among 60 people in a boat sinking off the coast of Libya, including 20 women and small children, according to Alarm Phone, which takes emergency phone calls from migrants.

There was no word on the fate of the boat.

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11:50 a.m.

A Libyan minister claims a foreign country was behind the airstrike that hit a migrant detention center in the capital, Tripoli, killing over 44 people.

Fathi Bashagha, the interior minister in the U.N.-supported government, told The Associated Press that foreign countries allied with Khalifa Hifter’s self-styled Libyan National Army “went mad” after his forces lost the strategic town of Gharyan last week.

He did not name any countries or provide any evidence. Hifter has received aid from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia. The Tripoli government has blamed the airstrike on Hifter’s forces.

Bashagha denies there were weapons stored at the detention center, but two migrants who spoke to The Associated Press said the militia operating the facility kept weapons and vehicles in a workshop near a hangar where the migrants were being held. They say both the workshop and the hangar were hit.

Spokesmen for the LNA could not immediately be reached for comment.

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11 a.m.

The head of the African Union is condemning an airstrike that hit a detention center for migrants in the Libyan capital, killing at least 40 people.

In a statement, Moussa Faki Mahamat called for an independent investigation into the airstrike on the Tajoura detention center and said those responsible for the “horrific crime” should be held to account.

He also demanded an immediate cease-fire in Tripoli, where the self-styled Libyan National Army, led by Khalifa Hifter, launched an offensive in April. His forces are battling militias loosely allied with a weak U.N.-supported government based in Tripoli.

The Tripoli government blamed the airstrike on Hifter’s forces. LNA spokesmen could not immediately be reached for comment.

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10 a.m.

The U.N. refugee agency is calling for an immediate end to bringing migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean back to Libya after an airstrike hit a detention center, killing at least 40 people.

Charlie Yaxley, spokesman for the UNHCR, noted that the agency had warned less than two months ago that anyone inside the Tajoura detention center was at risk of being caught in the fighting around Tripoli. Then, an airstrike that hit nearby injured two migrants among more than 500 people detained there.

Yaxley says UNHCR is sending medical teams to the site after the latest airstrike.

Europe is equipping and training the Libyan coast guard, which has intercepted thousands of migrants in the Mediterranean and taken them back to detention centers in Libya, where many languish without sufficient food or medical care.

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2:40 a.m.

A Libyan health official says an airstrike has hit a detention center for migrants in a suburb of the capital of Tripoli, killing at least 40 people.

Malek Merset, a spokesman for the health ministry of the U.N.-supported government, says the airstrike on the Tajoura detention center also wounded 80 migrants.

In a statement, the U.N.-supported government blamed the self-styled Libyan National Army, led by commander Khalifa Hifter, for the airstrike.

Libya is split between two warring governments and Hifter’s forces control much of the country’s east and south.