UAE drone strike on factory near Tripoli killed 8 civilians: HRW

Rights group urges Emirati authorities to investigate air attack that saw 27 others injured in November 2019.

A man injured in an airstrike that hit a biscuit factory is treated in a hospital in the capital, Tripoli, Libya, Monday, Nov. 18, 2019. Tripoli has been the scene of fighting since April between the
A man injured in an air strike that hit a biscuit factory is treated in a hospital in Libya's capital, Tripoli [Center for Field Medicine and Support via AP) [The Associated Press]

A United Arab Emirates (UAE) drone strike on a biscuit factory near the Libyan capital Tripoli on November 18 killed eight civilians and injured 27 others, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.

In a report released on Wednesday, the rights group said the UAE appeared to take little or no action to minimise civilian casualties and called on Emirati authorities to conduct a transparent investigation into the incident. 

“Since the current armed conflict in Tripoli erupted in April 2019, the UAE has been conducting air and drone strikes to support the Libyan Arab Armed forces, previously known as the Libyan National Army [LNA], one of two major parties to the conflict, some of which have resulted in civilian casualties,” HRW said.

“All causalities in the November incident were civilian factory workers, including seven Libyans and 28 foreign nationals, all of them men.”

HRW visited the site in December 2019 and said it saw no signs to suggest that armed groups were active in the area. Personnel at the factory said the closest military facility was a field hospital that was located more than 1.5km (0.9 mile) away. 

“The failure to verify that the workers there were civilians and that there was no legitimate military target would show recklessness and bad intelligence,” Eric Goldstein, acting Middle East and North Africa director at HRW, said.

The oil-rich North African nation has been mired in conflict since the 2011 overthrow of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi, with rival administrations in the east and west vying for power.

In April 2019, LNA commander Khalifa Haftar –  who controls much of eastern Libya –  launched an offensive to seize Tripoli.

The UAE has, by some estimates, carried out as many as 850 strikes in support of Haftar since he launched his assault on Tripoli last year.

The United Nations panel of experts on Libya also found that Abu Dhabi has supplied the renegade commander with military equipment in violation of a 2011 UN army embargo.

Source: Al Jazeera