CAIRO (AP) — An airstrike slammed into a military academy in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, on Saturday, killing at least 16 people, most of them students, the health authorities said.
Malek Merset, a spokesman with the Tripoli-based health ministry, said the airstrike took place in the Hadaba area, just south of the city center, where fighting has been raging for months. He said the strike wounded at least 37 others, who were taken to nearby hospitals for treatment.
Tripoli has been the scene of fighting since April between the self-styled Libyan National Army led by Gen. Khalifa Hifter and an array of militias loosely allied with the weak but United Nations-supported government that holds the capital.
The fighting has escalated in recent weeks since General Hifter declared a “final” and decisive battle for the capital after the Tripoli authorities signed military and maritime agreements with Turkey. On Thursday the Turkish Parliament authorized the deployment of troops to Libya.
Footage shared online on Saturday showed wounded people with bandages and blood on their legs being treated in a hospital. The Tripoli-based government blamed the Libyan National Army for the airstrike, but the group had no immediate comment.
General Hifter’s surprise military offensive in April came despite commitments to attend a national conference weeks later aimed at forming a united government and moving toward elections. The fighting has threatened to plunge Libya into violent chaos rivaling the 2011 conflict that ousted Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi as the country’s longtime leader and later killed him.
General Hifter’s Libyan National Army and the eastern government have the support of France, Russia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and other key Arab countries; the Tripoli-based government is backed by Turkey, Italy and Qatar.