Officials: Bombs kill 7 in shelter for displaced in Libya
CAIRO (AP) — Bombs hit a shelter for displaced people in Libya’s capital Tripoli, killing at least seven people including a 5-year-old child from Bangladesh, health authorities said Sunday.
The shelling of the facility in the city’s Furnaj district late Saturday also wounded at least 17 people, including a 52-year-old Bengali migrant and his 5-year-old child, Malek Merset, said a spokesman for the capital’s Field Medicine and Support Center. The man is also the father of the dead child.
It was the latest attack on civilians in the fighting over Tripoli between eastern-based forces under military commander Khalifa Hifter and an array of militias loosely allied with the U.N.-supported but weak government in the capital. The center is part of the Tripoli-based government’s Health Ministry.
A fire broke out in parts of the shelter housing people displaced by previous clashes in Tripoli, Merset said.
The center’s statement did not say which side was responsible for the shelling. Later Sunday, Tripoli-allied forces accused Hifter forces of committing the attack. There was no immediate comment from Hifter’s camp.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Libya condemned what it called the “repulsive shelling” on a shelter for displaced people, who were forced to leave their homes in Tripoli’s Ain Zara district earlier in the fighting.
The self-styled Libyan Arab Armed Forces, led by Hifter, launched an offensive to take Tripoli in April last year. In recent weeks, the fighting has intensified as foreign backers of the two sides stepped up their military support.
Hifter is backed by France and Russia, as well as Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and other key Arab countries. The Tripoli-allied militias are aided by Turkey, which deployed troops and mercenaries to help shore up their allies earlier this year, as well as by Italy and Qatar. Mercenaries, mainly from the Syrian battlefield, are now fighting on both sides and complicating an already complex proxy war.
Earlier this year, Tripoli-allied militias took several western towns from Hifter’s forces and stepped up their attacks using drones supplied by Turkey on a key military base and the town of Tarhuna.
Hifter’s LAAF said Saturday it shot down a Turkish drone that was trying to attack the al-Watiya airbase. The Tripoli-allied militias claimed they destroyed a Russian-made anti-aircraft system, a claim dismissed by the LAAF.
Libya has been in turmoil since 2011, when a civil war toppled and later killed long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The country has since split between rival administrations in the east and the west, each backed by armed groups and foreign countries.
The Tripoli fighting has threatened to push Libya into a major conflagration on the scale of the 2011 civil war.