Tensions in Libya are high, after more than 40 people in a migrant detention center were killed by an airstrike. The group behind the attack has a controversial leader with a history of questionable ties to the United States…
At least 44 people were killed and more than 130 were injured after an airstrike targeted a migrant detention center near Libya’s capital. But the people on the ground have warned the death toll could be much higher, as rescue workers search for bodies among the rubble. According to reports, the majority of the migrants were Africans who were captured and as they attempted to flee across the Mediterranean Sea, to Europe.
The airstrike was launched by the Libyan National Army, an opposition group that launched an offensive against the UN-backed, Government of National Accord in April. The opposition is currently fighting to gain control of Libya’s capital, but the ongoing war has killed hundreds of civilians, and has created even more chaos in an already unstable country.
The migrants who were killed were just a fraction of the estimated 6,000 African migrants who are being held in detention centers in Libya, which are run by militias accused of torture and inhumane treatment, according to the United Nations refugee agency.
A 2018 UN report on human rights abuses in Libya found that migrants in the country are subjected to rape, violence, slavery, forced labor, extortion and exploitation.
In response to the latest attack, the UN’s envoy to Libya said it could be considered a war crime because it was a surprise attack on innocent civilians that killed dozens.
There has also been criticism surrounding the leader behind the forces that launched the deadly attack—General Khalifa Haftar.
The Libyan warlord, who is also an American citizen, has quite the history. He was once a close ally of Gaddafi, but after a falling out, he moved to the US where he lived near the CIA’s headquarters for nearly two decades. He then returned to Libya in 2011, and was instrumental in the overthrow of Gaddafi.
Now that Haftar’s latest target is the government that the US has support for the last several years, it would seem logical the US would be against his mission.
But when Haftar was making headlines and protesters were taking to the streets in Libya to rally against him earlier this year, the White House released a statement claiming Trump spoke to the general on the phone.
At the time, Trump praised Haftar for his“significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources.” But it remains to be seen if the White House will continue its support for the opposition, as it continues to wage war against the government the US helped to create.