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100 migrants walk free from shelled detention centre in Tripoli

The air strike, on 3 July, killed 53 people and injured 130 others, the World Health Organisation said in its latest death toll on Twitter.

Military officers of the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA)inspect damage and debris at a migrant detention centre used by the GNA in the capital Tripoli's southern suburb of Tajoura on July 3, 2019, following an air strike on a nearby building that left dozens killed the previous night. Picture: AFP.

TRIPOLI – Libyan officials allowed at least 100 migrants to walk free on Tuesday from a detention centre in the capital Tripoli that was hit by a deadly attack last week.

The air strike, on 3 July, killed 53 people and injured 130 others, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in its latest death toll on Twitter. It occurred as eastern forces under Khalifa Haftar keep up ground and aerial offensive to wrest control of Tripoli from the UN-backed government.

Officials at the centre, run by the UN-backed government in an eastern suburb of Tripoli, said they took the decision after the migrants protested over not being included in an evacuation list by the United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR).

Only 55 of the migrants were on the UNHCR list, said a local official at the detention centre who requested not to be named.

“We opened the gates and let them go,” he told Reuters.

A resident from Tajoura, a suburb in eastern Tripoli, said migrants were seen marching from the detention centre.

It was not immediately clear where they intended to go.

Following their departure, about 110 other migrants remain at the centre, lying in the open air and using mattresses for shelter from the sun, the official said.

“They don’t want to go back inside the hangar as they’re afraid of any further air strikes,” the official added.

Haftar’s forces and the UN-backed government have blamed each other for the 3 July air strike.

Libya is one of the main departure points for African migrants fleeing poverty and war to try to reach Italy by boat, but many are picked up and brought back by the Libyan coastguard, supported by the European Union.