Drone wars over Libya


With the forces of eastern strongman Khalifa Hifter stalled outside Tripoli in his drive to oust Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), both sides have been sniping at each other with drone strikes. Experts say that Hifter (also rendered Haftar) has procured Chinese-made Wing Loong drones from his main backer, the United Arab Emirates. The GNA, meanwhile, has turned to Ankara, its own increasingly open backer, which is believed to be supplying Turkish Bayraktar drones. All of this is in defiance of a supposed arms embargo, just renewed by the UN Security Council in June. Over 1,000 have been killed, close to 6,000 injured, and 120,000 displaced in the battle for Tripoli, which opened a year ago. (SCMP, Spet. 19)

The US has meanhwile resumed air-strikes on ISIS targets in Libya. Twice this month, US warplanes struck a presumed ISIS stronghold at Murzuq, in Libya’s desert south. Several militans were reported killed in each. (TLW, Sept. 25; Libya Herald, Sept. 28)

Photo of Wing Loong II drone via Xinhua

  1. UAE implicated in lethal drone strike in Libya

    The BBC reports that it has uncovered new evidence that a drone operated by the United Arab Emirates killed 26 unarmed cadets at a military academy in Tripoli in January 2020. The report claims that UAE-supplied Wing Loong II drones were operating from the Libyan air base at al-Khadim at the time of the strike. Al-Khadim is Libya’s east and used by Khalifa Haftar’s forces.

  2. Libyans accuse Italian commander over US drone strike

    Several Libyan families have accused the US military of killing 11 civilians in a 2018 drone strike and filed a criminal complaint in the Italian courts against the commander of the Sicily naval station for his role in carrying out the strike.

    Members of the ethnic Tuareg community, with the help of three human rights groups, filed the criminal complaint last Friday, accusing the Italian commander of Naval Air Station Sigonella of the unlawful use of force under both international and Italian domestic law.

    According to legal documents seen by The Intercept, the men killed had been heading from their homes in Ubari, a village in southwest Libya, toward the Algerian border to assist fellow community members in a feud over abandoned construction equipment.

    “The eleven victims were not members of Al Qaeda or any other terrorist organization and were not combatants,” reads the complaint, filed by Rete Italiana Pace e Disarmo, Reprieve, and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR). (MEE)