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Libyan guards shot at fleeing migrants, UN says, as Security Council fails to condemn attack

Mahmud Turkia, AFP | Military officers of the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) inspect damage and debris at a migrant detention centre used by the GNA in the capital Tripoli's southern suburb of Tajoura on July 3, 2019.

The UN Security Council failed to condemn a deadly attack on a migrant centre after the US declined to endorse a joint statement, diplomats said. The UN reported Thursday that Libyan guards shot at migrants trying to flee the airstrikes.

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The divided UN Security Council on Wednesday failed to condemn a deadly attack on a detention centre for migrants in Libya after the United States did not endorse a proposed statement, diplomats said.

During a two-hour closed-door meeting, Britain circulated a statement that would have condemned the deadly air strike blamed on commander Khalifa Haftar's forces, called for a ceasefire and a return to political talks.

But US diplomats told the meeting that they required a green light from Washington to approve the text and the talks ended without US approval, sources told AFP.

At least 53 people were killed when the air strike hit the Tajoura detention centre late Tuesday and more than 130 were severely wounded, according to the UN.

The United Nations said Thursday it had reports that Libyan guards shot at refugees and migrants who were trying to flee the airstrikes, adding that at least six of the dead were children.

The UN's humanitarian report said there were two airstrikes, one hitting an unoccupied garage and one hitting a hangar containing around 120 refugees and migrants.

“There are reports that following the first impact, some refugees and migrants were fired upon by guards as they tried to escape,” the report said.

Peru's Ambassador Gustavo Meza-Cuadro, whose country holds the council presidency, told reporters that discussions were continuing on the press statement but council diplomats said they did not expect a response.

Haftar, who holds sway in eastern Libya, launched an offensive in April to seize Tripoli, seat of a UN-recognised government that is backed by various militias.

World powers have been divided on how to respond to Haftar's military campaign, with the United States and Russia refusing to back UN calls for a ceasefire.

The proposed statement would have called on warring sides to "immediately de-escalate the situation and commit to a ceasefire".

The government of national accord, based in Tripoli, said Haftar's forces were responsible for the strike on the detention centre.

A US State Department statement released in Washington earlier condemned the "abhorrent" air strike but did not call for a ceasefire.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres earlier said he was outraged and called for an independent investigation into the deadly strike.

He recalled that the United Nations had shared the coordinates of the detention center with the warring sides to ensure that civilians sheltering there were safe.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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