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article imageOp-Ed: Attack on Haftar air base in Libya kills at least 60 people

By Ken Hanly     May 19, 2017 in World
At least 60 are dead, in what some media are describing as a massacre, in an attack by the Third Force Battalion along with members of the Benghazi Defense Brigades on the Brak-al-Shati airbase 650 km south of Tripoli.
Even though the Third Force is supposed to be under control of the GNA, the Presidential Council (PC) condemned the attack and said they had nothing to do with it and did not order the action. They have vowed to investigate and sanction those responsible. The GNA suspended its defence minister Mahdi al-Barghati and ordered an investigation into his role in the incident. Jamal al-Trelki commander of the Third Force was also suspended.
UK ambassador to Libya, Peter Millet, also condemned the assault tweeting:"Disgusted by attack on Brak al-Shati & reports of mass executions. Perpetrators must be brought to justice." The Ministry of Defense(MoD) of the GNA denied it had issued instructions to attack the Brak airbase. The Libya Observer claims that both Al Baraghati and Third Force commander Al-Treiki were dismissed rather than suspended. It also reports that a commission of inquiry has been formed into the attack that includes the Minister of Justice and of the Interior supervised by the PC as "Supreme Commander of the Libyan Army". This group will be anathema to Haftar who claims he is commander in chief of the Libyan National Army not the PC which he does not even recognize.
The attackers did not remain at the base. The base is now back under control of Haftar forces. There is a constant flow of photos of those killed on social media with some appearing to have been summarily executed. There has as yet been no independent verification of the number of casualties. The UN ambassador to Libya Martin Kobler, said he was outraged at reports of "significant" fatalities in the attack. He said that the dead included civilians, and noted there were reports that summary executions may have taken place.
The GNA Defense Ministry in spite of its condemnations of the attack claimed that the Dignity Operation of General Haftar was responsible for it, since his forces had been making frequent ground and air attacks on the Taminhint Airbase the headquarters of the Third Force. There were several casualties. The Third Force gave a similar reason for the attack: Meanwhile, the Media Office of the Third Force said the attack on Brak Airbase came in retaliation for the repeated Dignity Operation attacks and shelling on Taminhint Airbase. Head of the Media Office Mohammed Qaliwan told local media that their forces had disabled Brak Airbase to prevent future attacks on Taminhint. He also denied Dignity Operation media claims of field execution of militants.
In all probability there will be a rapid response by Haftar. The GNA calls on its forces to remain calm. This might be difficult if they are attacked. Haftar is unlikely to wait for the findings of the GNA commission of inquiry.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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