The Address | Benghazi – Libya
Major General Muhammad al-Manfour, commander of the air force of the Libyan National Army (LNA), issued a statement categorically denying accusations of targeting the Tajoura Migrant Center, east of Trabus.
In a statement sent to The Libyan Address Journal, General al-Manfour expressed his condolences to the families of the victims and the LNA’s condemnation of the attack.
On the other hand, General al-Manfour said that Fayez al-Sarraj’s government in Tripoli shoulder responsibility for the attack through the use of migrant detention centers to store arms and ammunition, not to mention endangering migrants’ lives and their difficult humanitarian situations despite the huge international funding received by the Al-Sarraj government to help migrants.
He also criticized the policies of the Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini towards migrants, stressing that these policies are the reason for endangering the lives of migrants by returning them from the Mediterranean to Libya.
The following is the full text of the statement by Major General Muhammad al-Manfour, Commander of the Air Force of the Libyan National Army:
[Libya, 4 July 2019]
In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful
Statement by General Mohamed Manfour, the Commander of the Operations Room of the Air Force of the General Command of the Libyan National Army (LNA) on the attack on the Migrant Detention Centre in Tajourah.
In response to accusations that are not based on any evidence whatsoever against our Air Force; alleging that we deliberately targeted the Migrants Detention Centre in Tajourah, which resulted in the death of a number of migrants as a result of direct bombardment according to media reports;
We extend our deepest condolences to the families of the victims and wish the injured persons full and speedy recovery;
We, hereby, affirm that the unconstitutional Presidential Council, which has concluded flawed agreements on the issue of immigration, is the entity that bears full responsibility for the tragedy of the accumulation of illegal migrants in shelters unfit for human beings and run by murderers, criminals, and smugglers;
We confirm the following:
1) The Air Force Operations Room affirms that it has never targeted the aforementioned Migrants Detention Centre in Tajourah which has never been on the list of targets; and confirm that no weapons have ever been used to target it. Moreover, since the launching of the Operation Flood of Dignity, it has targeted only the combat sites that were preparing to attack our troops and civilians.
In this regard, the Air Force Operations Room affirms that it has a highly sophisticated database of the coordinates and locations of all shelters, detention centres, and prisons placed on the list of prohibited sites under any circumstances, even if used by the enemy as sites of hostile operations. This is based on our belief that these migrants are only hostages in the hands of these gangs; they are victims of despicable policies like the rest of our people who are systematically targeted in the areas of control of these criminal gangs of multiple faces, names and slogans.
2) The timing of the incident coincided exactly with hostile aircraft sorties in the area which flew from both the Mitiga Airbase and the Misrata Aviation Academy. These warplanes carried out at least one raid at approximately the same time in the city of Tarhouna. We do not know where the rest of the sorties were carried out. All evidence suggests explosions of large quantities of ammunition at the nearby al-Dhaman militia site 15 minutes before the bombing of the centre, which resulted in casualties in the aforementioned centre.
3) In addition to last night’s incident, the unconstitutional Presidential Council generally bears full criminal, moral and political responsibility for not taking any measures to ensure the safety of the migrants in its jurisdiction, both in the affected centre or in other militia-run centres, and to use them as storage sites for weapons and ammunition, as well as utilizing them for dual use, as in the case of the Tajourah Migrants Detention Centre, which was singled out by the spokesperson of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on May 8, calling for the evacuation of the centre because the militias had militarized the area and put the migrants’ lives at risk.
4) We condemn the policy of double standards practiced by the UNSMIL, headed by Ghassan Salamé, and its direct accusations and prejudices in its statement this morning that the raid was deliberate and directed by our forces. The UNSMIL position is fully consistent with the position of the unconstitutional Presidential Council, while turning a blind eye to the Gharyan massacre which Salamé considered an important development for the Skhirat militias in a statement the day after the massacre when the blood of the martyrs had still not dried, as was the position vis-à-vis with today’s massacre committed by the Air Force of the GNA militias in the Sidi al-Sayeh area.
We appeal to all relevant international organizations and bodies to rescue the illegal migrants in various locations of the western region from the grip of these criminal militias which have turned them into a commodity to make profits and collect funds from foreign countries concerned with the immigration dossier. Likewise, the unconstitutional Presidential Council continues to receive foreign aid under the pretext of combating illegal migration and puts these allocations in the pockets of its thieves and human traffickers.
We, hereby, inform the whole world that those who run these centres are the same human traffickers and the same leaders of the militias who profit from human trafficking, via land and sea, under the pretext of combating illegal immigration—they are the same people who use these migrants for slavery and forced labor.
In this regard we call upon these organizations and agencies to visit the migrants’ shelters and detention centres in the areas controlled by the Interim Government and the Libyan National Army (LNA). These centres are well organized, secure, and properly managed by supervisors and guards.
We also call upon the entire world and the European Union to put an end to the racist policies of Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, in conjunction with the unconstitutional Presidential Council, as the primary reason for the accumulation of migrants in the western region in Libya. He has had serious precedents that are manifest in the forcible return of migrants from across the Mediterranean Sea to Libya—returning these migrants once again to the hands of the same human traffickers from whom they fled, and to put them again between tanks and ammunition hangars in what is nothing less than a blatant violation of the basic rules of human rights and human values.
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