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UN Security Council fails to condemn fatal attack on Libya migrant centre

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has condemned the attack.

Debris covers the ground after an airstrike at the detention center in Tajoura, east of Tripoli in Libya
Debris covers the ground after an airstrike at the detention center in Tajoura, east of Tripoli in Libya
Image: Hazem Ahmed via PA Images

THE DIVIDED UN Security Council has failed to condemn an attack on a detention centre for migrants in Libya after the US didn’t endorse a proposed statement, according to diplomats. 

At least 44 people were killed when the air strike hit the Tajoura detention center late on Tuesday night and more than 130 were severely wounded, according to the UN.

During a two-hour closed-door meeting yesterday, Britain circulated a statement that would have condemned the deadly air strike blamed on commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces, called for a ceasefire and a return to political talks. 

However, US diplomats told the meeting that they required a green light from Washington to approve the text and the talks ended without US approval, sources told AFP. 

Peru’s Ambassador Gustavo Meza-Cuadro, whose country holds the council presidency, told reporters that discussions were continuing on the press statement but council diplomats said they did not expect a response.

The attack is being blamed on Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar, who has been trying for three months to seize the capital.

In a statement, the internationally recognised national unity government (GNA) based in Tripoli denounced the attack as a “heinous crime” and blamed it on the “war criminal Khalifar Haftar”.

Haftar, who controls much of eastern and southern Libya, in early April launched an offensive to take the capital.

The GNA has accused pro-Haftar forces of having carried out a “premeditated” and “precise” attack on the migrant centre.

No one has so far claimed responsibility. However, pro-Haftar media reported a “series of air raids” in Tripoli and Tajoura last night.

Divided

World powers have been divided on how to respond to Haftar’s military campaign, with the US and Russia refusing to back UN calls for a ceasefire.

The proposed statement would have called on warring sides to “immediately de-escalate the situation and commit to a ceasefire”. 

A US State Department statement released in Washington earlier condemned the “abhorrent” air strike but did not call for a ceasefire. 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres earlier said he was outraged and called for an independent investigation into the deadly strike. 

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has condemned the attack. 

“I condemn the missile attack on a Libyan detention centre in Tajoura yesterday, which has killed dozens of migrants and refugees, and injured many more,” Coveney said in a statement. 

He said he joins the calls of the EU and UN for an investigation into the attack and has called on all parties to “allow unconditional access of humanitarian actors”. 

Attacks on civilians, or reckless attacks which endanger them, are completely unacceptable, are contrary to international humanitarian law, and in this instance may well constitute a war crime.

“This tragic event underlines the fact that the system of detention centres in Libya is completely unsuitable for migrants, and puts them at risk,” Coveney said.

“My thoughts are with the injured, and the families of those who lost their lives.”

Includes reporting by © – AFP 2019

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