Report: UAE Using Chinese Drones for Airstrikes in Support of Libyan Warlord Haftar

China's drones are now flying in the Middle East, as Beijing is more willing than the United States to sell its military UAVs to other nations. 

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) reportedly used Chinese-made drones to launch deadly airstrikes on Tripoli on behalf of Libyan renegade Gen. Khalifa Haftar, military analysts alleged Thursday.

Propped up by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Russia, and France, Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA) have conquered most of the North African country, particularly the nation’s eastern and southern territories.

On April 4, Haftar’s LNA, which is loyal to the breakaway government based in eastern Libya’s Tobruk region, launched an offensive to push the United Nations-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA) out of its home base of Tripoli.

Defense News reported on Thursday:

Military analysts are blaming Chinese-made drones for deadly missile strikes on Tripoli as Libyan strongman Gen. Khalifa Haftar tries to conquer the city.

Aircraft seen circling over the Libyan capital during nighttime raids in recent days were likely Chinese Wing Loong II drones operated by the United Arab Emirates. … The UAE previously supplied the general with air support from a base it set up at Al Khadim in eastern Libya in 2016, and its Chinese drones were reportedly used to strike Derna last year as Haftar battled Islamic militants there.

The article came days after the GNA accused the LNA’s Arab supporters of providing Haftar with aircraft, including drones, used to intensify the air campaign against the internationally-recognized government this week.

On Monday, National Public Radio (NPR) reported that LNA assets were launching rockets and mortars into densely populated areas in Tripoli almost daily, leaving civilians trapped and unable to flee the bombardments.

NPR noted that civilians reported seeing drones over Libya.

Citing Tripoli residents, Al Jazeera noted that “both sides have used heavy artillery and air attacks.”

The UAE is reportedly using Chinese drones to help Haftar.

Jalel Harchaoui of the Clingendael Institute in the Netherlands told Defense News, “Buying drones from the U.S. takes time, is expensive and there is accountability, but buying Chinese drones is now cheap, fast and no one breathes down your neck — the floodgates are open.”

Aniseh Bassiri Tabrizi of the Royal United Services Institute in the U.K. added:

The fact the raids are at night, combined with eye witness reports, make it very likely these are the UAE’s Chinese drones. The UAE has also used them in Yemen, although there they coordinated with the U.S., while in Libya they are breaking a U.N. embargo on supplying arms to the country.

Haftar has surfaced as the main rival of GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.

Critics have accused U.S. President Donald Trump of endorsing Haftar after years of American support for the GNA.

Libya has descended into political and security chaos since the U.S. and NATO-backed removal and subsequent execution of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Now, two rival governments are competing for territory and influence while jihadi groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) entrench themselves deeper in the North African country located a few hundred miles from the shores of Europe.

Haftar’s international backers believe he can restore stability in Libya and defeat the jihadi groups operating there.

According to the World Health Organization, the fighting in Tripoli has already killed more than 390 people and injured over 1,900 others since Haftar’s offensive began on April 4, Asian News International (ANI) reported.

Fighting in Tripoli has also displaced 50,000, China’s state-owned Xinhua reported.

The casualties appear to have intensified over the last week after Haftar reportedly boosted the LNA’s air campaign.

Last month, the U.N. confirmed “indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas in Tripoli,” including in refugee and migrant detention centers.


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