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Hafter forces say migrant air strike victims were ‘human shields’

The self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), Khalifa Haftar, on Wednesday denied it targeted a detention centre for illegal immigrants near the Libyan capital, after more than 40 people were killed in an airstrike on the building.

Speaking in Benghazi, a spokesman said the LNA was a “responsible army” and its commander-in-chief had given orders not to target “any governmental, private or public institutions”.

Instead, General Khaled Elmahjob claimed the site had been used by an opposing militia, and suggested they may have placed detained illegal immigrants at the site to use them as human shields.

“They do not care about violating human rights. They are uncontrolled groups. They do not follow the humanitarian rules,” he said.

The LNA launched an offensive in April against the weak Tripoli-based government, which is supported by the US.

But Haftar’s forces, which control much of Libya’s east and south, were dealt a significant blow last week when militias allied with the Tripoli government reclaimed the strategic town of Gharyan, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the capital.

Gharyan had been a key LNA supply route.

The detention centre hit in the airstrike is located in Tripoli’s Tajoura neighbourhood.

Many camps for militias loosely allied with the UN-supported government are in Tajoura, east of the city centre, and Haftar’s forces targeted such camps with airstrikes in recent weeks.

The LNA on Monday said it had begun an air campaign on rival forces in Tripoli after it lost control of Gharyan.

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