GP Insights

GP Insights # 96, 6 July 2019

Libya: Attack on Migration Centre kills 60
Lakshmi V Menon

What happened?

On 4th July 2019, at least 60 people were killed and scores more wounded by two air raids on a migration-refugee detention centre in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, sheltering African migrants – the latest victims of the Libyan civil war. According to the UN’s special envoy, the attacks amount to ‘war crime’. Meanwhile, Tripoli has blamed Khalifa Haftar, the renegade military commander attempting to seize the city, for the attacks.

What is the background? 

The contemporary Libyan civil war, as we know it, is the second in the history of Libya. The first Libyan Civil War also is known as Libyan Revolution or 17 February Revolution (2011) essentially commenced during the fag end of Gaddafi’s rule. Ever since the lynching and crude killing of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s revolutionary politician, the power vacuum has only further skewed and strained the country’s domestic politics; the humanitarian situation has deteriorated, and ethnic targeting and refugee crisis have peaked.
The second Libyan Civil War (2014) is the ongoing conflict with parties seeking to seize Tripoli and control Libya’s oil resources. In this scenario, Khalifa Haftar, the head of the Libyan National Army, escalates the threat of military bulldozing of Libya. 
Egypt, UAE, Qatar, and Sudan have all time and again assisted different factions in this strife hence reflecting regional conflicts within the domestic political scenario of Libya and in turn gradually escalating the Libyan civil war into a regional conflict. 

What does it mean?

Recently, WHO released reports stating that over 1000 had died as a result of the three-months fight for Tripoli. The conflict is claiming more and more lives every day. The air raids were orchestrated on the detention centre despite the UN providing the conflicting parties with precise coordinates of the detention centre. The Libyan guards also shot at refugees and migrants fleeing the centre. These point towards the attacks were planned and deliberate. In this scenario, the UN’s inefficacy in resolving the Libyan crisis is creating a dent in the organization’s credibility. 

Whether this eruption of conflict is a boon or curse in disguise for Italy is yet to be comprehended. Nonetheless, with militias about, fewer boats will transport refugees and migrants across the waters. 

This conflict is not going to fizz out shortly. Only time will tell if Haftar will succeed in seizing Tripoli and if the only solution left to Libya is one requiring military might. The larger worry – the world’s reluctance to condemn Haftar is looming large!

Lakshmi Venugopal Menon is a Research Consultant at ISSSP, NIAS. She can be reached at

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