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Mysterious Airstrikes Targeting Islamist Militia Kill 15 in Tripoli

Unidentified planes targeted several militia positions in Libyan capital including the Interior Ministry.
Image via Reuters

Bombs dropped by unidentified warplanes in two separate airstrikes killed 15 fighters and wounded 30 more in Libya's capital of Tripoli on Saturday, according to a senior Islamist-allied Misrata militia official.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to the Associated Press, said the airstrikes were targeted at several militia positions, including the Interior Ministry. A warehouse was also set alight during the strike and thick plumes of smoke were seen brooding over Tripoli on Saturday morning following the attack.


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Columns of smoke rose over Tripoli on Saturday morning, August 23, after unidentified planes reportedly bombed the city.

Among the 30 wounded were two sons of the Mistrata militia military council leader, Ibrahim Bin Rajab, the official said.

A militia spokesman, Mohammed al-Gharyani, also said that far from abandoning its strategic positions in the Interior Ministry — the military police headquarters and army headquarters — the Misrata forces would be staying put, and will soon be joined by militia fighters from surrounding areas.

"Our response will be severe," al-Gharyani said of the bombing.

Saturday's airstrikes echo similar unclaimed attacks conducted earlier this week, and brings about the latest round of casualties in the ongoing war between rival militias.

The Libyan government has directed the military to investigate the source of the unknown airstrikes, conducted with apparent guided munitions. Speculation has swirled around possible foreign involvement, but neighboring countries, including Algeria and Italy, have so far denied any such intervention.

Meanwhile, Libya's embattled army and police force are struggling to gain control of the sparring militias. The various groups, which are divided along ethnic and religious lines, have been fighting for control since assisting the government in the ousting of Moammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Fighting and violence in recent weeks has concentrated primarily in the eastern city of Benghazi and around Tripoli international airport, where Misrata forces have been battling the powerful Zintan militia who currently control the airport, which has been all but demolished in the clashes.

Several hundred people have died as the crisis has intensified in recent months, prompting the closure of most Western embassies and evacuation of diplomatic and security personnel. Thousands of Libyans, fearing the crossfire, have been displaced after fleeing their homes.

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Follow Liz Fields on Twitter: @lianzifields