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Libyan pro-Tobruk warplanes launch strikes near Tripoli

Violence escalates as UN envoy left shuttling between Tobruk and Tripoli
Forces loyal to Tobruk have been taking aim at Libya Dawn despite UN peace efforts (AFP)

Forces loyal to Libya’s Tobruk-based government said late on Monday that they had targeted a weapons depot belonging to rival Libya Dawn forces.

Military spokesman Colonel Ahmed al-Mesmari said "the air strike targeted a weapons storage facility belonging to Libya Dawn" in Tarhuna, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) southeast of Tripoli.

Mesmari added 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. 

A Libya Dawn spokesperson, however, said that the strike hit a refugee camp, killing eight civilians.

"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," the spokesperson said, referring to the Tobruk-based government.

The reports could not be independently verified.

The Libyan army, which is loyal to Tobruk, also said that it shot down a Libya Dawn Mig 23 that was involved on a raid Zintan airport, some 170 kilometres southwest of Tripoli. A Libya TV channel later reported that pro-government forces had captured one of the pilots and another had been killed in the crash.

The raids come despite UN attempts to keep talks - which were launched in Morocco last Friday - and aimed at creating a unity government, alive.

On Sunday, the UN special envoy Bernardino Leon said that a draft deal could be penned as early as Monday. While no deal appears to have been made, Leon on Monday reiterated that he remained optimistic as he shuttled between the Tripoli-based General National Council and Tobruk.

As the talks began on Friday, forces loyal to Tobruk launched raids to “liberate” Libya Dawn-controlled Tripoli, nearly prompting talks to collapse.  

Libya has seen its security situation deteriorate since the NATO-backed overthrow of former strongman Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Tensions escalated further last summer when the elected House of Representatives moved to Tobruk and Libya Dawn forces took control of the capital and established a rival government, largely made up of former GNC members. 

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