Rights group says Egypt airstrikes in Libya killed civilians
Feb. 23, 2015
CAIRO (AP) — A leading international human rights group said Monday that the Egyptian military failed to take the necessary precautions to avoid civilian casualties during its airstrikes last week against what Cairo said were militant targets in Libya.
Egypt launched the strikes following the beheadings of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in the Libyan city of Sirte by militants affiliated with the Islamic State group, which has captured parts of Iraq and Syria and now has also gained a foothold in the North Africa country.
Egypt said the strikes were carefully planned. The Islamic State's branch in Libya retaliated, killing at last 40 people in a string of suicide bombings in eastern Libya on Friday.
Amnesty International said in a statement released Monday that as the chaos in oil-rich Libya escalates, civilians increasingly bear the brunt of the violence, raising the prospects that war crimes are being committed amid retaliatory attacks by all sides.
"Civilians in Libya are in mortal danger as retaliatory attacks by all sides spiral even further out of control in the aftermath of the horrific murder of the 21 Egyptian Copts," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International. "Attacks which do not discriminate between civilians and fighters are war crimes."
Amnesty said its research into the Feb. 16 airstrikes in the eastern Libyan city of Darna found that at least two missiles struck a heavily populated residential area, killing seven civilians — a mother, her three children and three other people. The mother, her children and another woman died from the falling debris, while the other two civilians were killed by shrapnel. One of them was filming the airstrikes from his rooftop, according to a witnesses cited by Amnesty.
The London-based group also said that witnesses reported military targets were also struck, including compounds belonging to militias. One of the compounds hit was located close to a civilian-populated area.
Sahraoui said Egyptian authorities must disclose detailed information about the airstrikes.
"Egypt has now joined the ranks of those placing civilians at risk in Libya. The killing of seven civilians, six of them in their own homes, must be investigated, as it appears to have been disproportionate," she said.
In a similar report last week, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said at least six civilians were killed in the airstrikes.
In a statement aired late Sunday, Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said his military had to avenge the death of the Christians.
"We hit 13 targets. They were carefully studied and there was precise reconnaissance ... so that no one thinks we are carrying out hostile acts against civilians," el-Sissi said.