Libyan Crisis: UAE’s Involvement Exposed in Fatal Drone Strike
Foreign Policy

Libyan Crisis: UAE’s Involvement Exposed in Fatal Drone Strike 

Last updated on September 19th, 2020

Adding to the woes of the ongoing Libyan crisis, 26 unarmed cadets at a military academy in Libya’s capital city Tripoli died to due to local shelling in January this year. The city was under siege by the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) at that time.

A new evidence by BBC News has revealed that a drone handled by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was involved in the attack on the academy in Tripoli on January 4. While the LNA has denied responsibility for the attack, evidence indicates that the cadets were hit by a Chinese Blue Arrow 7 missile.

The evidence collected by the media house also reveals that the missile was fired by a drone called the Wing Loong II. Interestingly, at the time of the strike, Wing Loong II drones were only operating from one Libyan air base – Al Khadim. Moreover, it was the UAE that supplied and operated the drones that were stationed at Al Khadim. The UAE has denied any involvement in Libyan crisis, saying it only supports the UN peace plan.

What Happened on January 4, 2020?

Around 50 unarmed cadets were doing routine drills at a military academy in the south of Tripoli a little after 2100 hours. Without any prior warning, an explosion detonated in the centre of the group, leaving 26 cadets dead or dying on the parade ground.

“We were witnessing our colleagues dying, breathing their last breath, and we couldn’t do anything… There were guys whose torsos were separated from their bodies. It was an awful crime, a crime that has nothing to do with humanity,” a 20-year-old attack survivor Abdul Moeen said.

More than seven months have passed, yet the attack remains unclaimed. LNA Chief Khalifa Haftar covered up the attack saying the explosion might have been caused by a locally fired mortar shell or an attack from inside the academy.

What does the evidence reveal?

Three weeks before this strike, the UN said that the Blue Arrow 7 “is ballistically paired to be delivered by the Wing Loong II… and by no other aviation asset identified in Libya to date”.

The UN and the BBC, both have found evidence that drones operating at the Al Khadim base, in LNA-controlled eastern Libya, belonged to the UAE. Last year, the UN concluded that the UAE violated the UN arms embargo imposed on the country since 2011 by sending Wing Loong drones and Blue Arrow 7 missiles to Libya, thus aggravating the Libyan crisis.

An arms registry has also been found that shows the UAE, in 2017, bought 15 Wing Loong drones and 350 Blue Arrow 7 missiles.

Evidences also reveal that the UAE has been using Egyptian military air bases, with Egypt’s permission, close to the Libyan border. In February 2020, the Wing Loong II drones stationed in Libya appear to have been moved over the border into Egypt, to an air base near Siwa in the western Egyptian desert.

Satellite images show that another Egyptian military air base, Sidi Barrani, has also been used as an operating base for Mirage 2000 fighter jets. These jets have been painted in colours that can be seen on the jets flown by the UAE.

While the UAE and Egypt attended a conference on Libya convened by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin in January this year, showing their support for the UN peace process and agreed to stay away from the Libyan crisis, both the countries have clearly failed to adhere to the peace plan and have clearly violated the terms.

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