Libyan pro-government warplanes launch strikes near Tripoli

  • AFP, Tripoli
  • Updated: Mar 24, 2015 10:22 IST

Libyan pro-government forces said they had targeted a weapons depot belonging to an Islamist-backed militia, as peace talks continued in Morocco and a UN special envoy met both sides late on Monday.

A militia spokesman said , however, that the raid had hit a refugee camp, killing eight civilians.

Military spokesman Colonel Ahmed al-Mesmari said "the air strike targeted a weapons storage facility belonging to Libya Dawn" in Tarhuna, some 80 kilometres southeast of Tripoli.

Libya Dawn is a militia alliance that includes Islamists and has installed a rival government and legislature in opposition to the country's internationally recognised government.

A spokesman for the group denied any of its weapons were in the area.

"Eight Libyan civilians died in the strike. Sadly this is their strategy, to kill civilians and claim to the international community that they are after weapons," he said, referring to the western-backed government.

Mesmari said that, after the air raid, members of Libya Dawn attacked the house of a military officer and "killed his wife, his daughter, his son, his brother and other people who were there" in retaliation.

The Islamist group denied the claim.

Mesmari meanwhile told AFP that pro-government forces had shot down a Libya Dawn plane at Ar-Rajban, some 170 kilometres southwest of Tripoli.

The Libya TV channel reported that pro-government forces had captured one of the pilots and another had died at the scene.

Libya has been in turmoil since the overthrow of Moamer Kadhafi in 2011 by rebels backed by NATO air strikes.

The country has had two governments and parliaments since Tripoli was seized in August 2014 by Libya Dawn and the internationally recognised government fled to the country's far east.

UN-backed efforts to reconcile the two sides have so far failed, but UN special envoy Bernardino Leon said on Monday he hoped for progress at ongoing talks in Morocco.

The first names for a new Libyan unity government could emerge this week, Leon said.

"It is going to be a difficult discussion and I wouldn't like expectations to be too high, bearing in mind how difficult the situation is on the ground. But there is a possibility and we will do our best to reach there by the end of this week," he said in Brussels.

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