Conflict

Dozens killed and injured following attack on Murzuq, southern Libya

North Africa

As tensions rise in the southern Libyan town of Murzuq, the warring factions in Libya continue to blame one another for the bloodshed.

The town of Murzuq was captured by the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Libya strongman and renegade leader Khalifa Haftar, in the month of February in 2019. It has been a hotbed of conflict due to its strategic position in the south of the country where oil fields are abundant and rebels opposing Haftar’s rule are active.

An airstrike recently conducted by the LNA killed scores of civilians, including wedding guests, when LNA aircraft hit a building near to where a wedding was taking place. According to the member of the municipal council, Mohammed Omar, the attacks commenced on Sunday, 4 August.

Military clashes in Murzuq and the surrounding region have stepped up this year as a result of the launch of the LNA’s “Karama Operation”, which has expanded the army’s rule over the southern regions of the country. The LNA has stated that was targeting “Chadian opposition fighters” in the region. This is generally a reference to Toubou fighters who are opposed to Haftar’s rule. LNA troops claimed that they only sought to target militants who were holed up in al-Maqrif and Bindlouh neighbourhoods. Nevertheless, civilian casualties have been recorded.

The European Union (EU) condemned the attacks stating that they constitute a breach of international law: “Indiscriminate attacks on densely populated residential areas may amount to war crimes and must cease immediately”.

This constitutes the second airstrike in the space of a month wherein the LNA has been condemned for an attack that has led to civilian deaths. The first such attack was on a detention centre for refugees in the area of Tajoura, in the west of the Libya capital Tripoli, where dozens of refugees were killed.

The LNA has concentrated its forces on the offensive on Tripoli, which is currently under the control of the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA). However, it is keen to hold onto key strategic areas in the south of the country, as the battle for Tripoli drags on without any signs of a clear victory for either side.