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New Libyan air strikes against trafficking sites: media

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Libya’s Tripoli-based government on Saturday carried out a fresh round of drone strikes in Zawiya, in the country’s west, as part of an operation against smuggling networks, local media reported.

The strikes come after the eastern-based parliament in the divided country on Thurdsay accused the Tripoli-based government of hitting the home of one of its legislators.

“Air strikes were carried out on Saturday by drones targeting and destroying tanker trucks carrying smuggled fuel,” the Libya al-Ahrar television channel said.

Another site was hit “near the Bir al-Ghanam bridge” in Zawiya, 45 kilometres (28 miles) west of Tripoli on the Mediterranean coast, the broadcaster added.

Several other explosions were heard across the city’s west early on Saturday, according to residents who spoke to AFP by telephone.

Official comment has not yet been offered by the UN-recognised government in Tripoli.

Thursday’s strikes also targeted sites around Al-Maya, a small port between Zawiya and the capital that has seen repeated clashes between rival militias in recent weeks.

On Thursday, the defence ministry said it had carried out “accurate and targeted air strikes against the caches of traffickers of fuels, narcotics and human beings” around Zawiya.

The strikes had been ordered by interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Ddeibah, the ministry added.

Libya was plunged into chaos after a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed strongman Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, with armed groups exploiting the situation to fund their activities through fuel smuggling and the trafficking of migrants.

The North African country, which is awash with weapons, is split between the nominally interim Tripoli-based government in the west, and another in the east backed by military strongman Khalifa Haftar.

On Friday, Libya’s eastern parliament denounced Thursday’s “attack” on the home of Zawiya legislator Ali Bouzribah.

Bouzribah, an opponent of Ddeibah, also condemned the strikes on Libyan television.

The strikes “illustrate the urgent need for the reunification of Libya”, the UN’s Support Mission in Libya said Friday.

“UNSMIL reminds all involved in the incidents in Zawiya that any law enforcement measures should respect relevant national and international laws. Protection of civilians should remain paramount,” it added.

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