An airstrike late on Tuesday hit a detention center for mainly African migrants in the Tajoura suburb of the Libyan capital of Tripoli, killing at least 40 people and wounding 80, a health official said.
Pictures published by Libyan officials showed African migrants undergoing surgery in a hospital after the strike.
Libya is a main departure point for migrants from Africa and Arab countries trying to reach Italy by boat, but many get picked up by the Libyan coast guard supported by the European Union. Thousands are held in government-run detention centers in what human rights groups say are often inhuman conditions.
Tajoura, east of Tripoli’s center, is home to several military camps of forces allied to Libya’s internationally recognised government, which for three months has been battling eastern forces trying to take Tripoli.
On Monday, the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) said it would start heavy airstrikes on targets in Tripoli after “traditional means” of war had been exhausted.
The LNA denied it had hit the detention center, saying militias allied to Tripoli had shelled it after a precision airstrike by the LNA on a camp.
The LNA has failed to take Tripoli in three months of fighting and last week lost its main forward base in Gharyan, which was taken back by Tripoli forces.