Libya crisis: United Nations warns attacks on civilians may amount to war crimes

10 April, 2019, 07:32 | Author: Trevor Moore
  • Forces loyal to Libya's UN-backed unity government guard Tajura a coastal suburb of the Libyan capital Tripoli

The UN mission in Libya said on Twitter that Salame met Monday with unity government head Fayez al-Sarraj in Tripoli to discuss how to "assist at this critical and hard juncture".

Forces allied to the Tripoli administration were seen inside the airport, while clashes with the eastern forces were raging south of the airport, a Reuters reporter at the scene and residents said.

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Libya, Maria Ribeiro, said Monday the fighting had displaced more than 2,800 people, blocked rescuers from reaching casualties and damaged electricity lines.

There is also fighting around Tripoli's worldwide airport, 15 miles south of the city center, which has not been operational for years.

Forces under the command of Libya's renegade General Khalifa Haftar are believed to have launched an air raid against the only functioning airport in Tripoli, as heavy fighting rages for control of the capital.

The government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj, 59, is seeking to block the LNA with the help of allied armed groups who have rushed to Tripoli from Misrata in pickup trucks fitted with machine guns.

Far south of Tripoli, the jihadist Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for attacking the town of Fuqaha, where residents said three people were killed and another kidnapped.

Mr Serraj has run Tripoli since 2016 as part of a UN-brokered deal boycotted by Mr Haftar.

The death toll continues to rise in Libya, where attacks have killed more than 45 people in the last few days.

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The UN Support Mission in Libya's (UNSMIL) head Ghassan Salame condemned the aerial attack on Mitiga airport in a statement. "The United Nations is deeply concerned for the welfare of the civilian population in the ongoing violence and of the implications of the attack on the airport".

The offensive has raised fears of return to all-out war in Libya and left a question mark over the UN-led effort to lay the groundwork for elections with the 14 to 16 April conference.

The EU's foreign policy chief on Monday added her voice to those urging the eastern strongman to stop his offensive, in the wake of calls for restraint by the UN Security Council and the United States.

The LNA says it has 85,000 men, but this includes soldiers paid by the central government that it hopes to inherit. The media office of Hifter's army said 22 of their troops had been killed since Thursday.

Mismari said that the LNA had lost only two members in the fighting.

France, which has close links to Mr Haftar, said it had no prior warning of his push for Tripoli, a diplomatic source said.

The US military has already moved a contingent of US forces out of the country due to the increased unrest.

France's stance has created tensions with Italy, which has sought a leading role to end the turmoil in its former colony.

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