Three children, all sisters, were killed, and their mother and a fourth sister wounded in an air strike near a military intelligence camp in Libya’s capital, a Reuters reporter and health officials said.
The mother was in critical condition and her daughter had emergency surgery to amputate a leg after the strike in Al Fornaj neighbourhood of southern Tripoli, the Tripoli-based Health Ministry and hospital officials said.
Libya’s internationally recognised government blamed the strike on forces of Khalifa Haftar, the commander in the east of the North African country who has been trying to seize Tripoli in a ground and air campaign since April.
A Reuters reporter saw a badly damaged two-storey house witnesses said was hit around midday. The family living there were among those displaced from the outskirts of Tripoli since the start of Haftar’s campaign, residents said.
Neighbour Walid Khamis said he heard a single warplane before the strike. “It circled, dipped, then launched,” he said.
A taxi driver whose vehicle was damaged said: “I was sleeping and when I heard the strike I woke up. They are neighbours. Then we started to take out the children” from the rubble.
Spokesman for Haftar’s forces, Ahmed Mismari, said air strikes including one against a military intelligence camp in Al Fornaj “caused heavy losses in lives and equipment”.
About 30 metres from the house is the entrance to a compound which a security official said was a military intelligence camp. It appeared undamaged.
Conflict in and around Tripoli killed and wounded hundreds of civilians and more than 120 000 are displaced. Haftar’s offensive has not breached the city’s southern defences.
The UN mission to Libya said in a statement it “condemns in the strongest possible terms the reckless disregard for the lives of innocent people and calls for the immediate cessation of indiscriminate attacks”.
It noted the attack came just over a week after another strike blamed on Haftar’s forces wounded several children at a riding club near the UN base in western Tripoli.
Mismari said an ammunition store 200 metres from the riding club was targeted
Haftar’s forces did not target “any civilian locations in Tripoli,” he said. “Any target is decided based on confirmed and triple-checked ground intelligence.”
Germany unveiled plans last month for a UN-backed conference in November that will push for a ceasefire and for regional actors to stop arming the warring sides.
Haftar is backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, while Turkey supports the Tripoli government.