Between 53 and 80 civilians have reportedly been killed in an airstrike on a migrant detention centre in Tajoura. The incident appears to be the worst single civilian harm event in recent Libyan history.
While most local sources blame the LNA, General Haftar’s army has rejected responsibility and accused the GNA of conducting the strike. Haftar, only days earlier, had announced to ramp up airstrikes following the LNA’s loss of Gheryan.
Reuters reported: “In a statement, the Tripoli-based government blamed the “war criminal Khalifa Haftar” for the incident,” adding that “an LNA official denied that his force had hit the detention centre, saying that militias allied to Tripoli had shelled it after a precision air strike by the LNA on a military camp.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, the GNA later accused the United Arab Emirates of conducting the airstrike with an F-16.
A report published by the Libya Herald also points at secondary explosions as the cause for the incident: “Sources in Tripoli said they heard the loud sound of explosions just after 5 am which were followed by a series of other explosions.” It added: “Unsurprisingly, there are conflicting narratives from the two conflicting sides, with the Hafter side saying they had targeted the militia base near the migrant centre and that the exploding ammunition caused the deaths of the migrants.”
The military camp mentioned is located next to the detention center on the outskirts of Tajoura. At the time, the center hosted around 600 migrants with the detention cell hit holding 126 people, most of them Sudanese and Moroccan, according to the Washington Post.
Amnesty International managed to speak to those affected and gave a more detailed account of what supposedly happened: “An Eritrean refugee said a first air strike hit a hangar adjacent to the detention centre, followed by a second strike that hit the men’s cell at the centre itself around five minutes later. Following the attack, up to 300 migrants and refugees – some of whom were returned to Libya after being intercepted in the Mediterranean in recent weeks – are now out in the streets of Tajoura, frightened and waiting for urgent assistance.”
Initial reports put the death toll at 40. However, most sources, such as UNSMIL, currently put the minimum death toll at 44. Additionally, 130 civilians were reportedly wounded. The UN later increased it’s minimum death toll to 53, including six children.
Harun Maruf later tweeted the number of casualties had risen: “An Official in Libya says death toll from airstrikes on migrant detention centre near Tripoli has reached 60.”
Anas El Gomati reported another significant increase to 80 civilians dead and 100 injured.
The incident will be updated once new information becomes available, with casualty numbers likely to rise.
The incident occured at approximately 5:05 am local time.