Shocking videos have emerged online, showing what appears to be a drone strike on a Libyan military academy – instantly killing dozens of cadets and wounding just as many – as well as its bloody aftermath.
At least 30 trainees were killed and another 33 injured in the Saturday strike, health officials of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) said, noting the total death toll could still increase.
In one video circulating online, somewhat grainy and taken from a distance, a column of trainees is briefly seen in marching formation before it is obliterated by a direct hit that comes out of nowhere. A number of trainees are thrown to the ground immediately – many of them presumably killed – while a handful of survivors attempt to flee.
A second, much more graphic clip has also emerged, apparently taken in the moments following the strike. Screams of shock and prayers can be heard as someone looks over the grisly scene, with body parts and puddles of blood scattered across the academy courtyard. Footage captured later on shows debris still littering the charred concrete.
While it remains unclear who carried out the deadly bombing this weekend, the UN’s envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame suggested on Monday it was “probably” forces supporting the rival legislature based in Tobruk, led by military commander Khalifa Haftar. A spokesperson from Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) denied any involvement in the attack.
Salame stopped short of assigning definitive blame, however, and spoke out against foreign interference in Libya.
“Keep your hands out of Libya, the country is suffering too much from foreign interference in different ways,” Salame said. “There is enough weapons in Libya, they don’t need extra weapons, there are enough mercenaries in Libya, so stop sending mercenaries, as is the case right now with hundreds, probably thousands, coming into the country.”
On Thursday, the Turkish parliament approved the deployment of troops and weapons in Libya in order to prop up the GNA against the LNA. Haftar responded by declaring jihad and vowing to “confront and expel” any foreign forces in Libya.
Though the GNA is the internationally recognized government, Haftar’s forces control most of the country. They have made efforts to take Tripoli since April last year, and announced a major push in early December.
Libya never recovered from the US-led NATO operation which overthrew leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, unleashing years of bloody conflict and instability.