Eleven civilians were reported killed as a result of a US airstrike near Al Uwaynat. The event marks the biggest single allegation of civilian harm against the United States in Libya so far.
Initial reports had indicated that the US had targeted Al Qaeda members with a precision strike near the town in the south of Libya. AFRICOM confirmed the strike a days later saying that “U.S. Africa Command conducted a precision airstrike near Al Uwaynat, Libya, November 29, 2018, killing eleven (11) al-Qa’ ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) terrorists and destroying three (3) vehicles.” It added that “at this time, we assess no civilians were injured or killed in this strike.”
On December 2nd, however, SITE Intelligence group reported that “Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM), al-Qaeda’s branch in Mali, reportedly rejected the claim by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) that its airstrike in Libya killed 11 al-Qaeda members, alleging instead that the victims were Tuaregs with no connection to the group.”
Two days later protests by Tuaregs in Al Uwaynat followed, claiming those killed in the attack where civilian tribespeople. The Libya Observer wrote: “Members of the Tuareg community gathered in Ubari town in southwestern Libya to condemn in the strongest terms the airstrike conducted by US Africa Command (AFRICOM) near Awaynat town last Thursday, which killed 11 people; AFRICOM claimed they were al-Qaeda militants.
The protesters accused AFRICOM of killing 11 innocent people under the pretext of terrorism and without any evidence substantiating their guilt, denouncing what they described the defamation and the media disinformation campaign against the martyrs of the ‘horrific Awaynat massacre,’ in reference to those killed in the airstrike.
Banners were raised against AFRICOM, accusing it of killing innocent people on charges of terrorism and rejecting the killing and exterminating of Tuareg ‘via phone calls’.
The protesters called on the Attorney-General and the Interior Ministry to open an investigation into the attack to determine the facts and circumstances.
In a statement issued during the stand, the tribe members demanded in the name of the persons entitled to claim retaliation and in the name of Tuareg Tribe elders and dignitaries, the Presidential Council, the House of Representatives, and the High Council of State to open an impartial international and local investigation in what they called the ‘Awaynat massacre’ in no more than 48 hours, warning to step up their protest if their demands were not met.”
In addition, the article said that the “statement insisted that the victims included civilians and military personnel, among them, was a field commander in Al-Bunyan Al-Marsous, who fought terrorism in Sirte to offer his country security and stability.”
The statement also described the convoy that was bombed to have been “on its way to rescue a group of Tuareg, near the Algerian border, who were encountering a smuggling gang attempting to smuggle heavy machinery to Algeria.”
Rpoh Libya posted a video of Moses Tony on Facebook, allegedly showing him fighting ISIS in Sirte. The post says he was killed in the “unprovoked” strike.
A Facebook post by “No to the Brotherhood and extremists in Libya” says that Issa Mousi Ahmed Malik Taraki was killed “in an airstrike carried out by AFRICOM by unmanned aerial vehicles, which targeted three four-wheel-drive vehicles belonging to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) while they were in the area of Wadi Filalin-Awainat, north of Ghat.
However, there are voices from the Tuareg tribes refusing that the targeted group is linked to Al-Qaeda (Sahel and Sahara), led by the Algerian leader Jamal Akasha and the Meccan Yahia Abualhamam, and that this group was fighting ISIS in Sirte.”
Responding to a second request about the incident by Airwars, AFRICOM stated: “At this time, we still assess that no civilians were injured or killed as part of the Nov. 29 air strike.
However, we are aware of reports alleging civilian casualties resulting from the Nov. 29 airstrike near Al Uwaynat.
As with any allegation of civilian casualties we receive, U.S. Africa Command will review any information it has about the incident, including any relevant information provided by third parties. If the information supporting the allegation is determined to be credible, USAFRICOM will then determine the next appropriate step.
USAFRICOM complies with the law of armed conflict and takes all feasible precautions during the targeting process to minimise civilian casualties and other collateral damage.”
Al Jazeera later published an article with the names of the remaining victims, again quoting locals saying none of them were members of Al Qaeda.
The local time of the incident is unknown.