Cairo- The U.N. delegate to Libya, Martin Kobler, defended the internationally-backed (Government of National Accord) GNA led by Fayez al-Sarraj saying that its presidential council still is constitutionally legitimate. Kobler added that rumors on the GNA’s legitimacy coming to an end by the end of this year had no truth.
More so, the United States has begun using a Tunisian air base to conduct surveillance drone operations inside Libya, the latest expansion of its campaign against ISIS hardliners in North Africa, U.S. government sources said on Wednesday.
Tunisia’s Defense Minister Farhat Horchani denied allowing Washington to operate from Tunisia missions in neighboring Libya against the terror group ISIS.
Horchani told the Mosaique FM radio station on Thursday: “We were one of the few first countries to oppose a foreign military intervention in Libya.”
“We don’t — and won’t — have a foreign military base in Tunisia,” he said.
“As part of Tunisian-U.S. bilateral cooperation, we have acquired drones to train our military personnel to use this technology and to control our southeastern border with Libya and detect any suspicious movement” there, Belhassen Oueslati, a defense ministry spokesman said.
But “Tunisian soil has never been and never will be used to strike targets in Libya. The drones are used by Tunisians and no one else,” Oueslati said.
On the other hand The Washington Post wrote that the Pentagon has secretly expanded its global network of drone bases¬ to North Africa, deploying unmanned aircraft and U.S. military personnel to a facility in Tunisia to conduct spy missions in neighboring Libya.
More than 90 migrants are believed missing after their boat sank off the coast of western Libya on Wednesday, a coastguard spokesman said.
Ayoub Qassem said coastguards had rescued 29 migrants some 26 miles off the shore east of Tripoli, and that survivors said 126 people had been on the rubber boat before one of the sides was ripped and it started taking on water.
Libya is the main departure point for mostly African migrants seeking to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. Smugglers arrange ill-equipped and overcrowded vessels that frequently break down or sink.
Qassem said the boat that sank on Wednesday had left at dawn from Garabulli, about 50km east of Tripoli.
“Because of overcrowding, one of the sides of the boat got torn and water leaked in,” he said. “Ninety-seven illegal migrants are still missing or they have drowned.”
The rate of recorded deaths in the Mediterranean has risen sharply this year, with more than 3,740 migrants drowning on their way to Europe. That nearly matches the toll for the whole of 2015.