2019 Tajoura migrant center airstrike

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2019 Tajoura migrant center airstrike
Part of Libyan Civil War (2014–present), European migrant crisis
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2019 Tajoura migrant center airstrike (Libya)
Location Tajoura, Libya
Coordinates 32°50′05″N13°23′05″E / 32.83472°N 13.38472°E / 32.83472; 13.38472 Coordinates: 32°50′05″N13°23′05″E / 32.83472°N 13.38472°E / 32.83472; 13.38472
Date2 July 2019 [1] [2]
23:30 [1]
TargetNearby military base
Attack type
Airstrike
Deaths53 [3]
Non-fatal injuries
130+ [4] [5]
Perpetrators Libyan National Army (alleged by Government of National Accord; denied by Libyan National Army)

On 2 July 2019 at 23:30 [1] [2] an airstrike by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) hit the Tajoura Detention Center outside Tripoli, Libya, while hundreds of people were inside the facility. [6] The detention center was being used as a holding facility for migrants and refugees trying to reach Europe when a storage hangar that it used as a residential facility was destroyed in an aerial bombing. The United Nations Human Rights Council stated that "It was known that there were 600 people living inside" the facility. [4] [7]

Airstrike Attack on a specific objective by military aircraft during an offensive mission

An airstrike, air strike or air raid is an offensive operation carried out by aircraft. Air strikes are delivered from aircraft such as Blimps, Ballons, fighters, Bombers, ground attack aircraft, attack helicopters and Drones. The official definition includes all sorts of targets, including enemy air targets, but in popular usage the term is usually narrowed to a tactical (small-scale) attack on a ground or naval objective as opposed to a larger, more general attack such as carpet bombing. Weapons used in an airstrike can range from aircraft cannon and machine gun bullets or shells, air-launched rockets, missiles, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles to various types of bombs, glide bombs and even directed-energy weapons such as lasers.

Khalifa Haftar Libyan warlord and former general

Field Marshal Khalifa Belqasim Haftar is a Libyan-American military officer and the head of the Libyan National Army (LNA), which, under Haftar's leadership, replaced nine elected municipal councils by military administrators, and as of May 2019, was engaged in the Second Libyan Civil War. On 2 March 2015, he was appointed commander of the armed forces loyal to the elected legislative body, the Libyan House of Representatives.

Libyan National Army

The Libyan National Army is a political faction in Libya and was formerly the country's national military, consisting of a ground force and air force. It was established by the Libyan government after the first Libyan civil war (2011), as Libya's previous national army was defeated by the uprising and 2011 military intervention by NATO. In 2014, the Libyan National Army became its own political faction when under the leadership of General Khalifa Haftar it launched Operation Dignity, a coup against the Islamist-dominated General National Congress, the Libyan parliament. Most of the Libyan military sided with Haftar. The LNA was the military of Libya until late 2015, when the internationally recognised Government of National Accord was established in Tripoli, and established its own Libyan Army. Since then the LNA has not been recognised as the military of Libya.

Contents

At least 53 people were killed and 130 were wounded. [3] The LNA's apparent recklessness and its alleged targeting of unarmed civilians were condemned by outraged responses which came from all over the world. The airstrike also raised scrutiny of the European Union's policy of cooperating with militias to detain migrants, and funding and training the Libyan Coast Guard which apprehended most of the migrants and refugees. [4] [6]

European Union Economic and political union of European states

The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of 28 member states that are located primarily in Europe. It has an area of 4,475,757 km2 (1,728,099 sq mi) and an estimated population of about 513 million. The EU has developed an internal single market through a standardised system of laws that apply in all member states in those matters, and only those matters, where members have agreed to act as one. EU policies aim to ensure the free movement of people, goods, services and capital within the internal market, enact legislation in justice and home affairs and maintain common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries and regional development. For travel within the Schengen Area, passport controls have been abolished. A monetary union was established in 1999 and came into full force in 2002 and is composed of 19 EU member states which use the euro currency.

Libyan Coast Guard

The Libyan Coast Guard, part of the Libyan Navy, is responsible for the onshore protection of public installations near the coast and the patrol of coastal waters for curbing smuggling and traffickers and for enforcing customs laws. As of 2015, the Libyan Coast Guard has over 1,000 personnel.

Background

The Tajoura Detention Center is located 16 kilometres (10 mi) east of the Libyan capital of Tripoli. It is part of a network of 34 migrant detention centers across northwestern Libya which house at least 5,000 people. The centers are operated by the Government of National Accord (GNA) and are used to detain migrants attempting to reach Europe. [8]

Tripoli Capital city in Greater Tripoli, Libya

Tripoli is the capital city and the largest city of Libya, with a population of about 1.158 million people in 2018. It is located in the northwest of Libya on the edge of the desert, on a point of rocky land projecting into the Mediterranean Sea and forming a bay. It includes the port of Tripoli and the country's largest commercial and manufacturing centre. It is also the site of the University of Tripoli. The vast Bab al-Azizia barracks, which includes the former family estate of Muammar Gaddafi, is also located in the city. Colonel Gaddafi largely ruled the country, from his residence in this barracks.

Government of National Accord

The Government of National Accord is an interim government for Libya that was formed under the terms of the Libyan Political Agreement, a United Nations-led initiative, signed on 17 December 2015. The agreement was unanimously endorsed by the United Nations Security Council, which welcomed the formation of a Presidency Council for Libya and recognized the Government of National Accord as the sole legitimate executive authority in Libya. On 31 December 2015, Chairman of the Libyan House of Representatives, Aguila Saleh Issa declared his support for the Libyan Political Agreement. During 2015–2017, the General National Congress criticized the unity government on multiple fronts as biased in favor of its rivals, the House of Representatives.

In April 2019, the Libyan National Army, under Haftar's command, began a major offensive to capture western Libya and the capital Tripoli. After an airstrike hit a target less than 100 metres (330 ft) from the detention center in May, the UN Refugee Agency called for the evacuation of refugees and migrants in detention centers in conflict areas of Tripoli. [8] [9] On 1 July 2019, the LNA said it had begun an air campaign. [4] The LNA's spokesman said that the air campaign destroyed the main control room for drones at Mitiga International Airport, which led to the airport—Tripoli's only functioning airport—suspending civilian flights. [4]

2019 Western Libya offensive A Military Campaign in Western Libya

The 2019 Western Libya offensive, code-named "Operation Flood of Dignity", is a military campaign by the Libyan National Army under Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, which represents the Libyan House of Representatives, to capture the western region of Libya and eventually the capital Tripoli held by the UN Security Council-recognised Government of National Accord.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees United Nations agency mandated to protect and support refugees

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is a United Nations programme with the mandate to protect refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people, and assist in their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to a third country.

Mitiga International Airport airport in Tripoli, Libya

Mitiga International Airport is an airport in Libya, located about 8 kilometres east of Tripoli's city center.

Airstrike

Near midnight on 2 July an airstrike directly struck Tajoura Detention Center's residential hangar as migrant families were sleeping or listening to the conflict outside. [1] A Doctors Without Borders medical coordinator counted 126 migrants living inside of the center's hangar unit shortly before it was hit by the strike. [7] Aerial photos from the scene show that the explosion caved in the roof and blew out the walls of the section of the hangar where it struck. [10] Reports were made to the UN that guards shot at refugees and migrants trying to flee from the air strike. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said there were two air strikes, one hitting an unoccupied garage and one hitting a hangar containing around 120 refugees and migrants. According to the OCHA, some refugees and migrants were fired upon by guards as they tried to escape. The Tripoli-based interior ministry denied firing at fleeing refugees and migrants categorically. [11] [12] [13] [14] A media advisor to the Tripoli-based Ministry of Health said in the aftermath that "there was blood and body parts all over the place" and the Tripoli-based government described it as a "massacre". Hospitals worked at above-average capacities as they attempted to treat a flood of injured patients from the attack. [15] According to the United Nations, at least 53 people were killed in the airstrike and 130 were injured.

Médecins Sans Frontières organization

Médecins Sans Frontières, sometimes rendered in English as Doctors Without Borders, is an international humanitarian medical non-governmental organisation (NGO) of French origin best known for its projects in conflict zones and in countries affected by endemic diseases. In 2015, over 30,000 personnel — mostly local doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, logistical experts, water and sanitation engineers and administrators — provided medical aid in over 70 countries. Most staff are volunteers. Private donors provide about 90% of the organisation's funding, while corporate donations provide the rest, giving MSF an annual budget of approximately US$1.63 billion.

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs organization

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is a United Nations (UN) body formed in December 1991 by General Assembly Resolution 46/182. The resolution was designed to strengthen the UN's response to complex emergencies and natural disasters. Earlier UN organizations with similar tasks were the Department of Humanitarian Affairs (DHA), and its predecessor, the Office of the United Nations Disaster Relief Coordinator (UNDRO). In 1998, due to reorganization, DHA merged into OCHA and was designed to be the UN focal point on major disasters. It is a sitting observer of the political debate United Nations Development Group.

Haftar's forces, who are backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia, have said they were targeting a nearby military site. [4] According to Amnesty International, there was a weapons storage warehouse in the same compound as the detention center; GNA Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha denied that weapons were stored at the compound. [4]

Egypt Country spanning North Africa and Southwest Asia

Egypt, officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia by a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt is a Mediterranean country bordered by the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south, and Libya to the west. Across the Gulf of Aqaba lies Jordan, across the Red Sea lies Saudi Arabia, and across the Mediterranean lie Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, although none share a land border with Egypt.

United Arab Emirates Country in Western Asia

The United Arab Emirates literally "'State' of the United Arab Emirates", sometimes simply called the Emirates, is a country in Western Asia at the southeast end of the Arabian Peninsula on the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman to the east and Saudi Arabia to the south and west, as well as sharing maritime borders with Qatar to the west and Iran to the north. The sovereign constitutional monarchy is a federation of seven emirates consisting of Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain. Their boundaries are complex, with numerous enclaves within the various emirates. Each emirate is governed by a ruler; together, they jointly form the Federal Supreme Council. One of the rulers serves as the President of the United Arab Emirates. In 2013, the UAE's population was 9.2 million, of which 1.4 million are Emirati citizens and 7.8 million are expatriates.

Russia transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia

Russia, or the Russian Federation, is a transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and North Asia. At 17,125,200 square kilometres (6,612,100 sq mi), Russia is by a considerable margin the largest country in the world by area, covering more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area, and the ninth most populous, with about 146.80 million people as of 2019, including Crimea. About 77% of the population live in the western, European part of the country. Russia's capital, Moscow, is one of the largest cities in the world and the second largest city in Europe; other major cities include Saint Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg and Nizhny Novgorod. Extending across the entirety of Northern Asia and much of Eastern Europe, Russia spans eleven time zones and incorporates a wide range of environments and landforms. From northwest to southeast, Russia shares land borders with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and North Korea. It shares maritime borders with Japan by the Sea of Okhotsk and the U.S. state of Alaska across the Bering Strait. However, Russia recognises two more countries that border it, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both of which are internationally recognized as parts of Georgia.

Reactions

Libya

The Government of National Accord (GNA) blamed the attack on air forces associated with Haftar of the Libyan National Army (LNA). Haftar had been waging an offensive against the UN-backed GNA in Tripoli since April, and the airstrike had occurred two days after the general threatened bombings in the area after announcing "traditional means" of war were insufficient. [4] [6] Although the LNA had announced plans for airstrikes in response to losing control of Gharyan, [16] a spokesman for Haftar told The Independent that the allegations that the LNA was behind the bombing were "incorrect" because "the LNA has no air operations." [15]

GNA Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha announced on 4 July that the government was considering closing detention centers and releasing all migrants as the government cannot ensure their protection. [17] The next day, Bashagha accused the United Arab Emirates of bombing the migrant center with a US-made F-16 jet. When asked if the GNA had any proof that an Emirati jet conducted the attack, the Minister said: "The sound of the jet was identified by technicians and pilots who heard it. The destructive power [of the bombs] is very big and is similar to the destructive power [of the bombs dropped] in 2014." [18]

International

Foreign nations and international bodies like the UN and African Union collectively called for an investigation, condemning the airstrike and lamenting the loss of life. A spokesman for the United Nations Refugee Agency stated that the detention center's close proximity to a weapons warehouse made it a target by association. [4] Michelle Bachelet, the UN's Human Rights Chief, said the airstrike might constitute a "war crime." [5] In an official statement, Secretary-General António Guterres demanded a probe into "how this happened and who was responsible and to bring those individuals to account." [19] The UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration made a joint statement: "Our two organizations strongly condemn this and any attack on civilian life. We also call for an immediate end to detention of migrants and refugees." [6] The UN Security Council considered a resolution drafted by the United Kingdom which would have condemned the attack and called for a ceasefire, which didn't pass after not being endorsed by the United States. [14] [20] The African Union issued a statement via Commission Chair Moussa Faki reiterating its call for an immediate ceasefire and demanding that "an independent investigation be conducted to ensure that those responsible for this horrific crime [against] innocent civilians be brought to account." Faki also emphasized the need for humanitarian relief from the international community to protect migrant populations. [21] The Middle East and North African director for Amnesty International, too, demanded that the International Criminal Court investigate the bombing as a war crime, highlighting the disaster as a "consequences of Libya and Europe's callous migration policies". [4]

Foreign affairs ministries for regional neighbors of Libya and the United Arab Emirates similarly called for changes to international migrant-holding policies and condemned the strike as a war crime. [22] The Minister for Foreign Affairs for Malta Carmelo Abdella emphasized that migrants and refugees in dangerous situations should be "swiftly transferred to safe places under the supervision and protections of the United Nation," [23] and on 7 July Malta's government allowed 65 migrants rescued while sailing from Libya to Europe to stay in Malta to await relocation to the European Union. [24] The Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Qatar, a regional neighbor to the accused United Arab Emirates, called for an "urgent international investigation" into the airstrike. Algeria's government similarly condemned the airstrike for the wanton deaths of civilians, and insisted on the "immediate return to the process of inclusive dialogue between all Libyan parties." [25]

Even nations outside of the regions severely affected by the European migrant crisis stated their outrage while demanding investigations and policy changes. The U.S. State Department made an official statement for conflicting Libyan parties to "de-escalate fighting in Tripoli and return to the political process," and Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the attack a "crime against humanity" and blamed Haftar's forces for the airstrike. [26] The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs similarly issued a similar statement emphasizing the need for a "comprehensive and credible investigation of this crime" and called for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in order to prevent new casualties." [27]

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References

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