Libyan demonstrators in City Gate protest Tobruk air strikes in Misrata

Forces loyal to Libya's internationally recognised government have for the first time carried out air strikes on targets in the third largest city of Misrata, which is allied to an armed group that seized the capital in the summer.

Demonstrators protest the latest air strikes against Fajr Libya in Misrata
Demonstrators protest the latest air strikes against Fajr Libya in Misrata
Demonstrators protest against the latest air strikes on Misrata
Demonstrators protest against the latest air strikes on Misrata
Seven of the 19 oil tanks at Al-Sidra were ablaze on Sunday as a result of the fighting.
Seven of the 19 oil tanks at Al-Sidra were ablaze on Sunday as a result of the fighting.

Libyan demonstrators have congregated at City Gate, Valletta, demanding an explanation for the rapid change of ambassador and condemning military attacks on civilians in Libya.

Some 20 demonstrators held up placards calling on Malta and other European states to stop their support for Abdullah al-Thinni’s parliament in Tobruk, where it is currently in exile.

The new head of the Libyan Embassy in Malta and Charge d'Affairs of the internationally-recognised Libyan government, based in Tobruk, Al-Habib Al-Amin, had previously told the press that the man currently occupying the Libyan Embassy in Attard, Hussain Musrati, was doing so illegally and that Al-Habib Al-Amin was the legal representative of the legitimate  government of Libya. 

Without warning, the Tobruk government had appointed Musrati as the new ambassador earlier this month, giving Al-Amin 72 hours to vacate the Ta Xbiex consulate. The move was described as "shocking" by one of the protesters today.

Khaled Dyab, a Libyan citizen resident in Malta, explained that the protesters were also there to voice their condemnation of the use of military force on civilians in their homeland. They held up placards of Hariba Haftar, a Gaddafi henchman, saying he is responsible for the death of thousands of Libyans. Haftar was granted political asylum in the United States and gained dual Libyan/ US citizenship earlier this year .

“When you have double citizenship you cannot rule our country. Who is giving him authority to speak in the name of Libyan people? He has blood of our youth on his hands. By recognising the Tobruk government you are recognizing this war criminal, who is bombarding Benghazi hospitals and schools".

The protesters will be delivering a letter addressed to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat requesting clarification of Malta's stance on Libya.

The other rival government has installed itself in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, mainly composed of Islamists from the General National Congress.

Forces loyal to Libya's internationally recognised government have for the first time carried out air strikes on targets in the third largest city of Misrata, which is allied to an armed group that seized the capital in the summer.

Al-Thinni has been forced to run a rump state in the east since a group known as the Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn) took control of Tripoli in August, setting up a rival government and parliament.

Residents said Sunday’s air strikes hit the school of aviation close to Misrata airport, the port and a steel plant.

Ismail Shukri, a spokesman for forces allied to Libya Dawn, confirmed that air strikes had taken place but said they caused no damage.

Colonel Ahmed Mesmari said the strikes were in response to a renewed attempt by the Fajr Libya on Sunday morning to seize the key Al-Sidra oil export terminal.

Fajr Libya has been attempting to take Al-Sidra and the nearby Ras Lanuf terminal since Thursday when it killed at least 22 soldiers in a surprise attack by speedboat.

Seven of the 19 oil tanks at Al-Sidra were ablaze on Sunday as a result of the fighting, an oil official said.

According to oil industry experts, Libya's oil production has dropped to less than 350,000 barrels per day, compared with 800,000 previously, since clashes first erupted around the export terminals on December 13.

Misrata, 200km east of Tripoli, is linked to Libya Dawn and home to a major sea port and free trade zone. The city had so far escaped the fighting that has threatened to break up Libya.

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