20 deaths and 69 injured civilians in Libya from February to end of March: UN report

By Sami Zaptia.

London, 22 May 2019:

From 1 February to 31 March 2019, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) documented civilian casualties – 20 deaths and 69 injuries – during the conduct of hostilities across Libya, it says in a report released today.

These figures preceded the attack by Khalifa Hafter on Tripoli which started on 4 April. The latest World Health Organization figures for that period are 510 deaths and 2,467 wounded. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported in its last bulletin that since the 4 April fighting started there have been 29 confirmed civilian deaths and 126 wounded.

It is noteworthy that even the UN, with its huge budget and access to member state intelligence, was often unable to attribute deaths or casualties during the insecurity in Libya. 

For the 1 February to 31 March period, the latest UN report says that victims included 12 men, four women, and four children killed, and 60 men, two women, and seven children injured. Most civilian casualties were caused by shelling (11 killed and 51 injured), followed by gunfire (nine killed and 15 injured) and explosive remnants of war (ERW, three injured).

The report says that it documented civilian casualties in Derna (seven killed and 30 injured), Benghazi (one killed and 13 injured), Murzuq (10 killed and 26 injured), and Sabratha (two killed).

UNSMIL’s report also includes casualties from other possible violations of international humanitarian law and violations or abuses of international human rights law in Benghazi, Sabratha and Murzuq.

Casualties from unexploded explosive ordnance (UXO)

On 4 February 2019, three boys aged between 9 and 15 years, were injured when an unexploded explosive ordnance (UXO) detonated in Benghazi’s Kuweifiya area as they were collecting scrap metal.   

Derna  

Fighting between the Libyan National Army (LNA) and the Derna Protection Force (DPF), previously known as the Derna Mujahidin Shura Council, resulted in at least seven deaths and 30 injuries to civilians. Most civilian casualties were caused by indiscriminate fire and unguided weapons, such as artillery and mortars, as the LNA increased its operations to gain control of Derna’s Old City. While it remains difficult to verify casualty figures, UNSMIL received the following reports:

On 2 February 2019, at least four women and three infants were killed as the LNA shelled Derna’s Old City. On 9 February 2019, it was reported that 30 civilians, including one woman, were injured when the LNA shelled Derna’s Old City.

Southern Libya

The LNA and local affiliates pursued their advance in southern Libya. On 1 February 2019, LNA-affiliated forces moved from Sabha towards the southwestern town of Ghudwa to attack Tebu forces from the Murzuq’s Southern Protection Force and Chadian armed elements. UNSMIL recorded the following civilian casualties during the period:

On 3 February 2019, four civilians were killed and 19 others injured after an LNA airstrike in Murzuq.

On 17 February 2019, also in Murzuq, the LNA launched an airstrike at night, hitting Zawiat Zala’s block 17, killing at least one male civilian and injuring two children.

On 4 March 2019, one male civilian was injured when an armed group fired at houses in Umm al-Araneb’s Project 5 neighbourhood.

On 5 March 2019, unidentified armed men opened fire with a rocket-propelled grenade against a group of civilians watching a football game, killing at least three young boys and injuring four others near the Murzuq football field.  

On 9 March 2019, unidentified gunmen opened fire and killed a civilian as he was driving from Murzuq to Traghen.   

Incidents against civilian infrastructure

On 9 February 2019, an LNA airstrike hit the runway of the al-Feel oil field in southwestern Libya, damaging the facility. No civilian casualties were reported.  On 13 February 2019, foreign workers present at the al-Feel oil field were evacuated over concerns for their security; local workers remained in place.

On 12 February 2019, the LNA entered the Sharara oil field, further to negotiations with Petroleum Facilities Guards.  On 17 February 2019, the LNA issued a directive ordering the handover of the oil field to the National Oil Corporation (NOC) and lifting the force majeure status to allow for the resumption of oil production. However, the NOC maintained its position that the force majeure status would not be lifted as long as the security of its employees was not guaranteed.

On 6 March 2019, in Tripoli, unidentified armed men opened fire against the Suq al-Ahad grocery market. No casualties were reported, although the building sustained some damage.  The gunmen also blocked the market’s main entrance and the headquarters of the neighbouring tax collection office .

On the same day, in Sirte, the Sirte Protection Force blocked access to the city’s public facilities, including the electricity generating station, to protest against the GNA’s failure to pay salaries for the last 14 months.

On 14 March 2019, in Gharyan, the al-Qarya armed group – recently affiliated to the LNA – attacked a governmental building near the municipal council in response to the detention of one of its battalion leaders in Tripoli.  No casualties were reported, although some property damage was sustained.

On 16 March 2019, in Bani Walid, unidentified gunmen reportedly vandalized a historic building following a visit by the GNA Ministry of Culture.

On 30 March 2019, in Sirte, a home-made Improvised Explosive Device (IED) detonated at the Kortoba’s Mosque. The explosion resulted in property damage. No casualties were reported. 

Attribution

The LNA and its affiliates are believed to be responsible for the casualties documented in southern Libya, including airstrikes against Murzuq.

UNSMIL was unable to determine with certainty which parties to the conflict caused the other civilian casualties reported during the period.

Casualties from other violations of international humanitarian law and violations or abuses of human rights

 On 1 February 2019, a 22-year-old woman was injured by a stray bullet in Benghazi’s al-Kish area. There were no clashes in the vicinity at the time of the incident, and the source of fire was unknown.

On 4 February 2019, a 39-year-old man was injured by a stray bullet in Benghazi’s al-Hadiq area. The source of fire was unknown, and there were no clashes in the vicinity of the incident.

On 17 February 2019, a 17-year-old boy was injured by stray bullets in Benghazi’s Buzgiba neighbourhood and subsequently taken to al-Jalla Hospital for medical treatment. The source of fire was unknown, and there were no clashes in the vicinity of the incident.

On 23 February 2019, a 7-year-old boy was injured by stray bullets in Benghazi’s al-Lithi neighbourhood.  The source of fire was unknown, and there were no clashes in the vicinity of the incident.

On 24 February 2019, the Murzuq security director was killed in an attack by an unknown armed group.

On 26 February 2019, an engineer was killed in an attack by an unknown armed group in the al-Majori neighbourhood of Benghazi. The source of fire was unknown.

On 27 February 2019, two brothers were killed by an unknown armed group in the center of Sabratha. According to sources, they were attacked by an unknown armed group on the side of the road in the city center; their bodies showed signs of torture.

On 12 March 2019, six civilians, including five men and a 15-year-old boy, sustained injuries from stray bullets in Benghazi’s al-Salmani neighbourhood. The source of fire was unknown, and there were no clashes in the vicinity of the incident.

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