More drone strikes hit smugglers in Libya

AFP , Friday 2 Jun 2023

Forces of Libya's Tripoli-based government launched drone strikes against suspected smuggling sites in the country's west Friday as they pursued a campaign begun over a week ago, local media reported.

Libyan Prime Minister-designate Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah
FILE PHOTO: Libyan Prime Minister-designate Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah speaks during a news conference in Tripoli, Libya. AP


"Strikes targeted Zuwara" some 120 kilometres (75 miles) west of the capital near the border with Tunisia, broadcaster Libya al-Ahrar reported.

It aired footage of thick columns of smoke rising from two sites in the city, a departure point for migrants trying to reach Europe illegally.

On May 25, the defence ministry of the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity said it had begun a major military operation against "gangs of fuel, narcotics and human traffickers" in western coastal areas.

On Tuesday, a statement from the ministry announced that the first phase of the campaign had been successful.

It said "seven migrant smuggling boats, six drug trafficking depots... and nine tanker trucks used for fuel smuggling" had been destroyed.

The operation has continued despite claims of political score-settling in a divided country with two rival authorities, the UN-backed GNU headed by Abdulhamid Dbeibah and a rival administration in the east.

Oil-rich Libya was plunged into years of chaos after a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed strongman Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

Armed groups have exploited the turmoil to fund their activities through fuel smuggling and the illegal trafficking of migrants.

The current operation has so far been limited to drone strikes. The first targets were sites in Zawiya, 45 kilometres west of Tripoli.

Media reports said the towns of Al-Maya and Ajelat, both west of the capital, were also targeted.

Dbeibah, who is also defence minister, hailed the accuracy of the drone strikes in footage broadcast on Thursday of a meeting he held with the military.

"We will hit with an iron fist everywhere we can," Dbeibah wrote on his Facebook page.

He said that while the raids so far had been carried out by drones, the campaign's second phase would aim to "arrest all wanted persons", suggesting the future use of ground forces.

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