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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

US accused of 11 civilian deaths in southern Libya

Locals reject US claim that air strike killed Al Qaeda members

A member of Libya's marginalised Tuareg people in the Meggedat valley, north-west of the Akakus mountain region. AFP
A member of Libya's marginalised Tuareg people in the Meggedat valley, north-west of the Akakus mountain region. AFP

The US has been accused of killing 11 civilians in an air strike in southern Libya last month that it said was targeted at Al Qaeda militants.

A day after the strike, the US military's Africa Command said it "conducted a precision air strike near Al Uwaynat, Libya, November 29, 2018, killing 11 Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb terrorists and destroying three vehicles".

The location of the strike, close to the border with Algeria, is mostly populated and controlled by the Tuareg, a largely impoverished and marginalised people. Four days after the attack, Tuareg residents took to the streets Al Uwaynat in protest, saying the bomb killed 11 civilians – not terrorists.

They also called on Africom to apologise and retract claims that the victims were terrorists.

"These young people were killed and burned in the air strike, some of them civilians and regular military personnel, including a field commander in the fortified structure who fought terrorism in Sirte," they said. "The Tuaregs are against terrorism and extremism."

Africom released a second statement saying: “At this time, we still assess that no civilians were injured or killed."

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If the Tuareg claim is confirmed, the incident would mark the biggest loss of civilian life from a US action in Libya in seven years, according to Airwars, a UK-based monitor that tracks air campaigns.

At least some of those killed were said to be militiamen aligned with a US-supported group which helped to oust ISIS from Sirte, Airwars said on Wednesday.

In June, the US claimed to have killed one terrorist in its last reported air strike against Al Qaeda in Libya.