Al Marsad Investigates Car Attack at Al-Sawani and Pro-GNA Media Claims – Al Marsad

Media outlets and platforms affiliated with the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) have been broadcasting lately unfounded news items, fabricating facts on the ground and falsely accusing the Libyan National Army (LNA) of violations. The latest is the claim that the LNA targeted a car with a missile killing an entire family at Al-Sawani. In this exclusive report, Al Marsad investigates the claims by pro-GNA media on this incident.

[Libya, 26 August 2019] – Pro-GNA media machinery disseminated news on the targeting of a civilian car with a missile that “destroyed the car and killed its driver and passengers.” The media outlets did not specify the identities of the civilian victims. The traditional media and social media platforms of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) have moved from the stage of circulating the news that they wish to see happen, which one Libyan official described during the past few days as “wishful news” attributed to unidentified or unknown military or security sources, to the fabrication of an entire story such as the news of the targeting of a civilian car as and the killing of an entire family.

News of the bombing of another civilian car allegedly 24 hours after the first.

It is the same “family”, which has also been eulogized by the spokesperson of the internationally-sanctioned Salah Badi’s Al-Somoud Brigade, Ihmoud el-Jirrow who urged his social media followers to share the news. Yet no one made any effort to ask El-Jirrow the identities of the victims considering that he is one of the figures that has been at the forefront of the miserable Libyan political and security landscape for years.

Ihmoud el-Jirrow, spokesperson of Al-Somoud Brigade, mourning the deaths of the unknown family.

Believing that no one cares about the truth, the topic also impressed the armed group that proclaims itself as the Gharyan Protection Force (GPF). The GPF claimed Sunday through the Al-Raed News and Media Network, the electronic media arm of the Justice and Construction Party, that another civilian vehicle was targeted south of the city. Although the GPF did not support its news dispatch with any video footage or proof, the armed group disseminated it, perhaps in order to get an international condemnation from a UN agency or a Western embassy.

Some Facebook pages, TV channels and news sites loyal to the GNA went on to add a tragic description to the dramatic narrative of the story by claiming that the victims were forcibly displaced from the Gasr bin Ghasheer area to “escape the hell of the Libyan National Army to be chased by the bombs of its criminal Air Force in al-Sawani neighborhood.” However, Municipality of Gasr bin Ghasheer did not report any missing citizens.

The Libya Panorama Satellite TV, the media arm of the Justice and Construction Party, hosted a guest named Jalal el-Ziway who was introduced as a doctor at al-Sawani Field Hospital, and who said that a civilian car was bombed and three people were killed and that two others were injured, but he was not sure of their injuries. He did not, however, fail to express his opinion by talking that the same party to the conflict bombed civilian cars in the past.

The Libyan Al Ahrar TV anchor also, either inadvertently or perhaps deliberately, did not ask his guest any question about the victims’ age, gender, first names, and surnames.

Former Minister of Culture and Diplomat al-Habib al-Amin’s post.

Former Minister of Culture and Diplomat, al-Habib al-Amin, also shared the news of the bombing of the civilian car, by quoting social media activist Ghaida el-Touati, without even for a moment, asking the identity of the victims. He was, whoever, certain, even if three hundred miles away from his Maltese domicile, about the color of the flag of the raiding warplane. The credibility of al-Habib al-Amin appears to be dubious after his colleague Minister Salah al-Marghani denied his statement about a meeting that the two men held with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi in 2014.

Al Marsad Investigates the Claims of the Pro-GNA Media

As with any professional media platform that respects its readers’ minds, Al Marsad immediately telephoned the party accused of bombing the civilian vehicle, the Air Force of the General Command of the Libyan National Army, as soon as the news first appeared on Saturday at noon. The response came from Major-General Mohamed Al-Manfur, commander of the LNA Air Force Operations Room, who categorically denied any raids, suggesting that the car was hit from the ground by a launcher or similar projectile because if it was really hit by a warplane ammunition, it would have been fragmented into pieces and would not be the same as it appeared in the pictures after the incident.

Libya Al Ahrar TV’s news item about the alleged killing of a family.

Mayor of Al-Sawani Municipality Denied Statements Attributed to him by Pro-GNA Media

While Al Marsad continued its investigative mission the pro-Presidential Council, Libya Al-Ahrar Satellite TV, published a statement attributed to the Mayor of al-Sawani Municipality where the incident occurred. “An entire family was killed in Haftar’s shelling,” the statement said.

Al Marsad was able to phone the Mayor of Al-Sawani Municipality of the Government of National Accord (GNA) at noon on Sunday. He first denied the statements attributed to him by the media, and confirmed that he was unaware of the killing of any family in a bombing, contrary to what was announced by the channels referred to, via anonymous sources, or the Media Office of the so-called Volcano of ِAnger Operation.

The Mayor of Al-Sawani Municipality revealed that the only victim whose name was identified was killed in the shelling of the car was a Libyan named Adel al-Qiloushi, who was accompanied by foreign people. Mr. Al-Qiloushi was a resident of the Central Al-Sawani and lived in Al-Garya district located within the jurisdiction of Al-Sawani Municipality. The Mayor of Al-Sawani Municipality stressed that he went to the house of the deceased to offer condolences.

Image of dark skinned body thrown next to the stricken car, Al-Sawani on 24 August 2019

It was surprising for Al Marsad newspaper that the whole family was annihilated in “an aerial bombardment” near Tripoli anyone without knowing the forenames, surnames or tribe of the victims. It was also strange that the Ministry of the Interior did not issue any statement as usual in such events, but most importantly, it is also known in the interconnected Libyan society that the news of the killing of a family cannot be kept secret and its identity remains known; there must be relatives, or neighbors, or colleagues who mourn the death of their loved ones a day after their death. When a family dies, for example, in a road accident on Tobruk-Ajdabiya highway, people in Wadi-el-Shatti in southern Libya, would know, let alone an alleged deliberate aerial bombardment that supposedly killed an entire family.

Ministry of Health Unable to Provide Any Details on the Victims

Al Marsad turned to the Ministry of Health on Sunday afternoon to find a satisfactory answer and identify the names of the victims, as it is the central body that receives the names of the deaths from various hospitals and police stations. We talked with the official of the Information Office at the Ministry of Health, Widad bin Niran. Bin Niran asked for some time to conduct the required phone calls in this case and told us that they do not have any names, identities, or official toll, and advised us to communicate with the spokesperson for the Ambulance Office, Dr. Usama Ali. However, late on Sunday, hours after we contacted the ministry, it published a statement on its Facebook page denouncing the deaths of what it said were “four civilians” in aerial bombardment, considering what happened as a war crime that must be brought to justice. The statement also did not identify the victims. Al Marsad returned late to communicate with Ms. Bin Niran in the hope that her ministry had obtained the names and issued a statement on this basis, she but did not respond to our message.

The statement by the Ministry of Health did not reveal the names and identities of the victims.

Based on the directive of Ms. Bin Niran in our conversation with her at noon before her ministry issued the statement, we immediately contacted Dr. Usama Ali who is in charge of the Ambulance Office. We managed to speak to him after several attempts due to the poor telecommunication network. We addressed the same question to Dr. Ali regarding the names, identities and age of the victims in the targeted car. His responded that he had no knowledge about the names, confirming that the bodies were completely mutilated and torn apart. Dr. Usama Ali told us that it is not their task as an Ambulance Office to track the names and identities of the victims and that their mission is only to transport the injured or deceased to hospitals and the Dar al-Rahma morgue. In contact with the Tripoli Medical Center, where the bodies were referred to them, when asked about the fact that the deceased were a whole family, they replied: “They are only three people, and we think they are family because there seemed to be the remains of a woman in the back seat.”

Conflicting Details

When we asked them whether they had confirmed that the body found in the back seat belonged to a woman, they confirmed that they were not sure that the remains of the body belonged to a woman but that they found the remains of long hair and clothes resembling women’s clothes. They assured us that it is difficult to say in this case that the victim is a woman where there are only human body parts, but only forensic medicine can determine the sex of the victim. Here, it is worth mentioning the inconsistency in the number of these unidentified victims. The ministry spoke in its statement of four deaths while Dr. Usama Ali says they are only three, and Dr. Jalal Al-Zawi says through the Panorama TV Channel that they maybe five. In all cases, the identities and names were not known.

The back of the stroke car, Al-Sawani (24 August 2019)

As directed by Dr. Ali, we contacted the Tripoli Medical Center and through the main telephone number of the centre, we talked to the Dar Al Rahma morgue. After repeated telephone calls, a person who identified himself as one of the staff in the department replied, declining to be named when he learned that we were a news agency looking for the identities of dead persons. He said that he was not authorized to disclose the names and identities of the received bodies. He stressed that it is the jurisdiction of the Public Prosecution and that they are not authorized to speak on these topics and hung up the phone, closing the door as it were to any hope for a satisfactory answer that could lead to details on the family pro-GNA media claimed was killed and whose identities are unknown until the moment of publishing this report early Monday.

Al Marsad earlier on Sunday afternoon contacted the Gasr Bin Ghashir Municipality after news reports claimed the alleged family victims were residents of that municipality. The Gasr Bin Ghashir Municipality stressed that they had no knowledge of any family in their jurisdiction that was killed, except the family of the late Ramadan Ibrahim Salil al-Dhuwaibi who were killed on the morning of 22 July by a missile fired by a Turkish plane in the area of al-Marazik, south of the municipality.

Before contacting all the above authorities, Al Marsad contacted contacted on Sunday morning General al-Mabrouk al-Ghazwi, Commander of the Western Region Operations Group at the General Command of the Libyan National Army. Al-Ghazwi first confirmed that their Air Force did not target any civilian car in that area of the incident, located between al-Kremiya and al-Sawani; the area was not within their operational scope on the day of the incident, which prompted Al Marsad before publishing his statement, and in order to maintain professionalism, to verify from the other authorities referred to by the other party, to find any inconsistent feedback by Al-Ghazwi, but to no avail.

This photo show where the car was hit, Al-Sawani (24 August 2019)

Al-Ghazwi also stated that their military intelligence assured them that the dead had been killed in a car chase by another vehicle that fired a rocket-propelled grenade that hit the stricken car from the left rear. The sources said that the passengers of the car were African mercenaries working for the Commander of the Western Military Region of the Government of National Accord (NA), Osama Juwailli.

He concluded by saying: “The information we have is that the passengers of the car were armed fighters from the frontlines, with dark skin, who were killed according to our information in a car chase by another vehicle due to a dispute over thefts and disagreement over money, and the Libyan person according to the same information was also one of the men of Osama Juwailli and is known as a resident of the Central al-Sawani and lived in al-Garya district located within the jurisdiction of al-Sawani Municipality where our forces have no presence. It is no secret that al-Sawani, al-Aziziya, and most of the Warshefana region has an extensive presence of African mercenaries from Chad and Niger; the backbone of the armies of smugglers, human traffickers, and the militias of these areas are affiliated with the hopeless Presidential Council that has no legitimacy.”

Media and Government Must Provide Evidence and Transparency

Al Marsad draws the attention of all those named in this report that their right to reply and comment on the subject is guaranteed. Al Marsad welcomes and expresses its willingness to publish any information or comment from any Libyan entity or official on the case, or if they possess any evidence of the identities of the deceased. We believe that this should be documented and accompanied by death certificates, forensic reports and identification of the families of the deceased and their names and photographs in order to ascertain the causes of death and the nature of their work and the reason for their presence in the area of ​​Al-Sawani and their relationship to the only Libyan identified so far, Adel al-Qiloushi.

Al Marsad believes it is the basic right of the public to know what happened and to demand transparency from the media outlets and statements issued by both the media and government alike.

© Al Marsad English (2019).