Libyan pro-government warplanes launch strikes near Tripoli

March 24, 2015 6:11 am
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Members of the Libya Dawn, an alliance of Islamist-backed militias, stand by a crater on the ground following a reported air raid by Libyan pro-government forces in Tarhuna on March 23 2015 © AFP
Members of the Libya Dawn, an alliance of Islamist-backed militias, stand by a crater on the ground following a reported air raid by Libyan pro-government forces in Tarhuna on March 23 2015 © AFP

, TRIPOLI, Mar 24 – Libyan pro-government forces have targeted a weapons depot belonging to an Islamist-backed militia, as peace talks continued in Morocco and a UN special envoy met both sides late Monday.

A militia spokesman said however that the raid had hit a refugee camp, killing eight civilians.

Military spokesman Colonel Ahmed al-Mesmari said “the air strike targeted a weapons storage facility belonging to Libya Dawn” in Tarhuna, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) southeast of Tripoli.

Libya Dawn is a militia alliance that includes Islamists and has installed a rival government and legislature in opposition to the country’s internationally recognised government.

A spokesman for the group denied any of its weapons were in the area.

“Eight Libyan civilians died in the strike. Sadly this is their strategy, to kill civilians and claim to the international community that they are after weapons,” he said, referring to the Western-backed government.

Mesmari said that, after the air raid, members of Libya Dawn attacked the house of a military officer and “killed his wife, his daughter, his son, his brother and other people who were there” in retaliation.

The Islamist group denied the claim.

Mesmari meanwhile told AFP that pro-government forces had shot down a Libya Dawn plane at Ar-Rajban, some 170 kilometres (105 miles) southwest of Tripoli.

The Libya TV channel reported that pro-government forces had captured one of the pilots and another had died at the scene.

Libya has been in turmoil since the overthrow of Moamer Kadhafi in 2011 by rebels backed by NATO air strikes.

The country has had two governments and parliaments since Tripoli was seized in August 2014 by Libya Dawn and the internationally recognised government fled to the country’s far east.

UN-backed efforts to reconcile the two sides have so far failed, but UN special envoy Bernardino Leon said Monday he hoped for progress at ongoing talks in Morocco.

The first names for a new Libyan unity government could emerge this week, Leon said.

“It is going to be a difficult discussion and I wouldn’t like expectations to be too high, bearing in mind how difficult the situation is on the ground. But there is a possibility and we will do our best to reach there by the end of this week,” he said in Brussels.

Late Monday, he met the internationally recognised foreign minister Mohamed Al-Dayri outside Tobruk airport. “They discussed the ongoing dialogue,” a source at the foreign ministry told AFP.

Leon then went to Tripoli where he met members of the Islamist-backed General National Congress (GNC), the alternative parliament, according to an AFP photographer.

On Friday the internationally recognised cabinet based in the eastern city of Tobruk said loyalist forces had launched an offensive to “liberate” Tripoli.

The Tripoli parliament’s delegation threatened to walk out of the peace talks in the Moroccan resort of Skhirat when the fighting erupted at the end of last week.

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