UAE warplanes are killing civilians in Benghazi
by ARNAUD DELALANDE
Twice in November 2016, the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council, or BRSC — a group with ties to Al Qaeda — published photos of United Arab Emirates Air Force AT-802 and Reaper-style drones in the sky over the Ganfouda area of Benghazi in eastern Libya.
On Nov. 2, 2016, an S-100 Camcopter drone performed a reconnaissance mission over this district two hours before a Reaper or similar unmanned aerial vehicle carried out an air strike on a residential area.
Ten days later, an Air Tractor belonging to the UAEAF struck the same area, killing at least four civilians including two children — and injuring another child. Drones launched four others air strikes in Ganfouda later the same day.
Evidence is mounting that the UAE is indiscriminately bombing militant strongholds in Libya. And civilians are caught in the crossfire.
This is not the first time the BRSC has claimed that Emirati aircraft are involved in bombing missions in Benghazi. Satellite imagery from July 2016 confirms that the Emirates has deployed six Air Tractors and three UAVs — probably Chinese-made Wing Loongs—to Al Khadim airport in Marj province.
Beginning September 2016, imagery firm Terra Server released photos confirming the presence of four AT-802s, three Wing Loong UAVs and two UH-60 helicopters at the base. In October 2015, the number of Air Tractors at Al Khadim apparently shrank to three — the fourth might have been in flight when the photo was taken — and no Wing Loongs were visible on the tarmac, perhaps suggesting they’ve left Libya.
But then on Nov. 4, 2016, the BRSC’s media arm published an infographic depicting the types of aircraft the group claimed were involved in air strikes on Benghazi in the previous month. According to the infographic, the AT-802Us and Reaper-style drones flew 13 and 41 attack missions, respectively, while the Camcopters performed 12 reconnaissance flights.
The fact that some UAVs continue to carry out air strikes suggests that the Wing Loongs probably left Al Khadim and relocated to another air base.
As in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, civilians are often the first victims of aerial bombing raids. On Sept. 30, 2016, Amnesty International confirmed that 130 Libyan families and hundreds of foreign nationals had been trapped for months in the residential district of Ganfouda, blocked from leaving by the Libyan National Army, the army of one of the two competing government regimes in the war-ravaged country.
A spokesman for the LNA criticized Amnesty’s claim — and counter-claimed that terror groups had been using families and foreign laborers as human shields. Of course, the spokesman failed to mention that, in fact, it’s not the LNA carrying out most of the air raids in Ganfouda. Rather, it’s the UAEAF, working on the LNA’s behalf.
On Oct. 4 and 5, 2016, the BRSC claimed that 18 civilians including 10 children had died in eight air strikes — two performed by Air Tractors, three by Wing Loong UAVs and three by LNA MiGs. During the same month, the UAE contributed to 85 percent of the bombing missions, according to the BRSC media infographic.
In the roughly two weeks starting Nov. 1, a total of 44 LNA and UAE air raids struck Ganfouda. The Benghazi Medical Center reported the deaths of 17 people on Nov. 14 as a result of nine air strikes by Emirati UAVs and six by LNA MiGs and helicopters.
It’s quite clear that the UAE holds in its hands the fates of the civilians trapped in Ganfouda.