The United Arab Emirates (UAE) was reportedly behind the lethal drone strike that killed 26 unarmed cadets at a military academy in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, back in January, according to the BBC. 

UAE had denied responsibility for the attack. 

Egypt is also implicated in the strike, having helped the UAE move the drones and missiles from a Libyan airbase onto Egyptian airbases at Siwa and Sidi Barrani.

At the time of the drone strike on January 4, Tripoli was under siege by General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA). The LNA said that it was not behind the attack and that it probably was a mortar attack by local forces or as an insider attack within the academy. 

According to the BBC report, the military academy was hit by a Chinese Blue Arrow 7 missile. It was fired by the Wing Loong II drone that took off from the al-Khadim air base, which at the time was operated by the UAE.

The UAE has denied having any involvement in the Libyan civil war. It has openly stated support for the UN peace process.

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The BBC reported that the Blue Arrow 7 missile is only used by China, Kazakhstan, and the UAE. It can only be fired by the Chinese-made Wing Loong drone.

The investigation also pieced together the bits of shrapnel found on the ground after the attack. They perfectly matched the Chinese-made missile. Additionally, the drone, the only aircraft capable of firing the missile, operated over the Libyan capital Tripoli in January.

On the night of January 4, the cadets were in a formation shortly after 9 p.m. They turned to march off the quad in front of the academy when the missile struck the center of the formation. It devastated the group, killing or mortally wounding 26 of the cadets, with the rest scattering for cover. 

Libyan cadets seconds before the drone strike that killed 26 of them. (CCTV screenshot)

“We were witnessing our colleagues dying, breathing their last breath, and we couldn’t do anything… There were guys whose torsos were separated from their bodies. It was an awful crime, a crime that has nothing to do with humanity,” Abdul Moeen, a 20-year old cadet who survived the attack, said in an interview with the BBC.

The BBC also uncovered an arms registry showing that, in 2017, the UAE bought 15 Wing Loong drones and 350 Blue Arrow 7 missiles.

An Egyptian military base, Sidi Barrani, has been used to transfer fighter jets “painted in colors that are not used by the Egyptian air force, but which exactly match the jets flown by the UAE,” the report, using satellite images, concluded.

The report also showed that the planes in the satellite images matched the model implicated by the UN for carrying out an airstrike on a refugee camp in Tripoli in July 2019, which killed 53 people.

The report painstakingly documented several cargo flights of IL-76 jets taking off from the UAE and deploying cargo containers matching the exact components for the Wing Loong drones.

The UN-recognized Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) has repeatedly accused the UAE and other countries of supporting Haftar’s military campaigns against Tripoli while ostensibly backing the UN’s arms embargo.

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In 2019, the UN accused the UAE of violating the arms embargo on Libya by sending drones and missiles into the country.

Also, a UN report in March revealed that two Dubai-based companies, Lancaster 6 DMCC and Opus Capital Asset Ltd. FZE, both registered in the UAE, have been sending Western mercenaries to support Haftar’s forces. They have also been supplying him with helicopters, drones, and cyber warfare capabilities through a web of shell companies.

Turkey has also been accused of violating the UN’s arms embargo. Its assistance to the GNA has been instrumental in turning the civil war’s tide and driving Haftar’s forces back toward the Egyptian border. 

Libya has been wracked by violence since 2011 when a NATO-backed uprising overthrew and killed longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi, who had ruled the country since 1969. Since his death, the country has been wracked by chaos, violence, and humanitarian suffering, Multiple foreign powers have become involved in the country.

Since the 2014 disputed elections, the country has been divided between the UN-recognised GNA and the forces loyal to Haftar.

Both sides announced recently that they would cease all hostilities and hold national elections. The U.N. approved the statements.

To see the BBC’s investigation video, click here.