Airstrike on Libyan migrant center kills 44 sparking international condemnation

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Military officers of the Libyan Government of National Accord inspect debris at a migrant detention center in Tripoli's Tajoura suburb after an airstrike killed dozens of people. (AFP)
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Wounded migrants lie on hospital beds after an air strike hit a detention center for mainly African migrants in Tajoura. (Reuters)
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Emergency workers arrive to the scene were an airstrike killed nearly 40 at Tajoura Detention Center, east of Tripoli on early July 3, 2019. (AFP)
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Belongings of migrants are seen at a detention center hit by an airstrike in the Tajoura suburb of Tripoli. (Reuters)
Updated 03 July 2019

Airstrike on Libyan migrant center kills 44 sparking international condemnation

  • The airstrike on the detention center in Tripoli’s Tajoura neighborhood also wounded 80 migrants
  • The Arab league, UN and European Union all condemn the attack, which tool place as fighting continues in Libya's capital

TRIPOLI: Outrage and calls for an independent probe mounted Wednesday as 44 migrants were killed in an air strike on a detention center in Libya that the UN said could constitute a war crime.
UN chief Antonio Guterres denounced the “horrendous” attack and demanded an independent investigation as the Security Council said it would hold urgent talks about the situation in the country.
Libya’s internationally-recognized government and rival commander Khalifa Haftar traded blame for the deadly assault, which the European Union called a “horrific” attack.
Bodies were strewn on the floor of a hangar in the Tripoli suburb of Tajoura, mixed with the blood-soaked clothes of migrants, an AFP photographer said.
“There were bodies, blood and pieces of flesh everywhere,” a survivor, 26-year-old Al-Mahdi Hafyan from Morocco, told AFP from his hospital bed where he was being treated for a leg wound.
Hafyan said he had been detained in the center for three months, after coming to Libya with a fellow Moroccan hoping to reach Europe across the Mediterranean.
His friend survived the attack unscathed, but his T-shirt was stained with other people’s blood. “We were lucky. We were at the back of the hanger.”
Tuesday night’s strike left a hole around three meters (10 feet) in diameter in the hangar, surrounded by debris ripped from the metal structure by the force of the blast.
At least 44 people were killed and more than 130 severely wounded, the UN said.
The UN shared the coordinates of the Tajoura center east of Tripoli with the warring sides to ensure that civilians sheltering there were safe, Guterres said.
UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame said the “attack clearly could constitute a war crime, as it killed by surprise innocent people whose dire conditions forced them to be in that shelter.”
The Arab League secretary general Ahmed Aboul Gheit stressed the need "of sparing civilians from the ongoing military actions around Tripoli, and maintaining the safety of civilians facilities and infrastructure."
Around 600 migrants and refugees were held in the Tajoura center, the compound’s head Noureddine Al-Grifi said, adding that people were wounded in another hangar.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
But the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) denounced the attack as a “heinous crime” and blamed it on the Haftar, who in early April launched an offensive to seize the capital.
Wednesday evening a spokesman for Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) said: “The (pro-Haftar) forces deny their responsibility in the attack on the migrant center of Tajoura.”
Ahmad Al-Mesmari blamed the attack on the GNA, accusing it of “plotting” against the LNA.
“We never target civilians. Our armed forces are professional and accurate in their strikes,” Mesmari said, calling for an investigation into the carnage.
The United States condemned an “abhorrent” attack and urged a “de-escalation,” the State Department said.
The European Union — echoing many countries and international organizations — called for an independent probe.
“Those responsible should be held to account,” an EU statement said.
The suburb of Tajoura, which has several military sites belonging to pro-GNA armed groups, is regularly targeted in air raids by Haftar’s forces.
The UN refugee agency deplored the attack.
“Migrants and refugees must NOT be detained; civilians must NOT be a target; Libya is NOT a safe place of return” for migrants and refugees, UNHCR head Filippo Grandi tweeted.
Charlie Yaxley, a spokesperson in Geneva, said the UNHCR had asked that the center be evacuated a few weeks ago after “a near miss from a similar air strike.”
The center was thought to have been used to store weapons, he added.
The UN’s mission in Libya has said around 3,500 migrants and refugees held in detention centers near the combat zone are at risk.
Wracked by chaos since the 2011 uprising against dictator Muammar Qaddafi, Libya has become a major conduit for migrants seeking to reach Europe and remains prey to numerous militias vying for control of the country’s oil wealth.
Also on Wednesday, air traffic was halted at the Libyan capital's only functioning airport, Mitiga, after an air strike, according to a post on the airport authorities' Facebook page.
Rights groups say migrants face horrifying abuses in Libya, and their plight has worsened since Haftar launched the offensive against Tripoli.
More than 700 people have been killed and 4,000 wounded since the assault began in early April, while nearly 100,000 have been displaced, according to UN agencies.
The two rival camps accuse each other of using foreign mercenaries and enjoying military support — especially air backing — from foreign powers.
Late Wednesday flights were suspended at Mitiga, Tripoli’s only functioning airport, a statement by airport authorities said, after Haftar’s forces launched an air strike on the facility.
A security source said the raid caused no casualties or damage.
LNA spokesman Mesmari said a “drone command center” at Mitiga was destroyed in the raid.

Archaeologists unearth 27 coffins buried 2,500 years ago in Egyptian tomb

Updated 22 September 2020

Archaeologists unearth 27 coffins buried 2,500 years ago in Egyptian tomb

  • Egyptian antiquities officials believe the discovery to be the largest of its kind in the region

CAIRO: Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered 27 coffins that were buried more than 2,500 years ago in a pharaonic cemetery.

The sarcophagi were found at the Saqqara site in the governorate of Giza, south of the Egyptian capital, Cairo.

Egyptian antiquities officials believe the discovery to be the largest of its kind in the region. Saqqara was an active burial ground for more than 3,000 years and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Initial studies indicate that the coffins and shrouds inside have remained tightly sealed since burial, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.

The discovery was part of an Egyptian dig in the Saqqara area which unearthed an 11-meter-deep well containing colorfully painted wooden coffins stacked on top of each other along with other smaller artefacts.

Khaled Al-Anani, the Egyptian minister of antiquities, postponed announcing the discovery until he could visit the site himself, where he thanked teams for working in difficult conditions.

Ahmed Abdel Aziz, a professor of pharaonic archeology at a private university, said: “This new discovery is not the first in the Saqqara archaeological area. Archaeological discoveries have increased over the past years which draw attention to this region.

“This prompted many archaeological missions from many countries to work in this region, trying to probe the depths of this region and the treasures hidden inside it.”

Al-Anani said the increase in archaeological discoveries and the number of projects recently implemented by the Ministry of Antiquities were down to political will and exceptional support from the Egyptian government.

He pointed out the importance of resuming the work of 300 archaeological missions from 25 countries after a hiatus of a number of years, including some working in Egypt for the first time such as the joint Egyptian Chinese archaeological mission.

There were about 50 Egyptian missions working at sites in governorates throughout the country and Al-Anani praised their efforts in helping to unearth more evidence of ancient Egyptian civilization.

Mustafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Egyptian Antiquities, said that Saqqara was one of the most promising historical areas when it came to archaeological discoveries, adding that he planned to continue working in the area with his mission members to uncover more secrets and treasures of the past.

He noted that new finds during the current excavation season would have a positive impact on tourism in Egypt at locations such as Giza, Saqqara, Luxor, and Aswan.

Mohamed Abdel Hamid, vice president of the Egyptian Association for Tourism and Archaeological Development, said that the discovery was a testament to the architectural development of the area that could be seen in King Djoser’s collection. The pharaoh was found in a step pyramid which was the first tomb in Egypt to be built using stones.