United Nations, May 22 (AP/UNB) — The U.N. envoy for Libya warned Tuesday that the oil-rich nation "is on the verge of descending into a civil war" that could divide the country and imperil the security of its neighbors and the wider Mediterranean region.
Ghassan Salame told the Security Council that extremists from the Islamic State and al-Qaida are already exploiting the security vacuum sparked by the offensive to take the capital Tripoli launched April 4 by the self-styled Libyan National Army led by Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter.
He said the black flags of the Islamic State extremist group are appearing in southern Libya and there have been four attacks by its fighters in the south since April 4 that together have killed 17 people, wounded more than 10 and led to eight kidnappings.
"Libyan forces that had in the past courageously defended their country against these terrorist groups are now busy fighting each other," Salame said.
Besides innocent Libyans being increasingly subjected to the increasing wrath of Islamic State extremists, he said, "there will be spillover of this violence to Libya's immediate neighbors."
Civil war in Libya in 2011 toppled and later killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and the chaos that followed resulted in a divided country, with a U.N.-aligned, but weak, administration in Tripoli overseeing the country's west and a government in the east aligned with Hifter. Each is backed by an array of militias and armed groups fighting over resources and territory.
Salame lamented that when Hifter launched the offensive on April 4 "the capital was enjoying a measure of increased security, the population a much more stable currency and an improved economic outlook, and the political process, despite many obstacles, was moving forward" with a national conference 10 days away to chart a roadmap to elections and a united future for Libya.
But 48 days into Hifter's offensive, he said, more than 460 people have died, including 29 civilians, over 2,400 mainly civilians have been wounded, and over 75,000 civilians have been forced from their homes.
Humanitarian officials estimate that "over 100,000 men, women and children remain trapped in immediate frontline areas, with over 400,000 more in areas directly impacted by the clashes, he said. And "nearly 3,400 refugees and migrants are trapped in detention centers exposed to, or in close proximity to, the fighting."
Salame said there are also numerous reports of extremists, people on U.N. sanctions blacklists, and people wanted by the International Criminal Court "appearing on the battlefield on all sides."
He called on the Security Council to support the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry "to determine who has taken up arms and support the establishment of mechanisms to ensure the exclusion of unwanted elements." And he urged all parties to hand over those sought by the ICC.
Salame also said that "arms are pouring in again to all sides" from many countries that he did not name, in violation of a U.N. arms embargo against Libya. He urged the U.N. to enforce the embargo, saying the amount and sophistication of new weapons "are already causing greater numbers of casualties."
"I am no Cassandra, but the violence on the outskirts of Tripoli is just the start of a long and bloody war on the southern shores of the Mediterranean, imperiling the security of Libya's immediate neighbors and the wider Mediterranean region," Salame said.
However, the U.N. envoy said "full civil war is not inevitable," though "it may occur by the will of some parties, and by the inaction of others."
He called on the Security Council to urge an immediate cease-fire and return to a U.N.-led political process.
"A better future is still possible, but we all must be seized with the fierce urgency of now while the front lines remain on the outskirts of Tripoli and before the battle moves, God forbid, to the capital's more densely populated neighborhoods," Salame said.
Cairo, May 20 (AP/UNB) — Egypt says security forces killed 12 members of a militant group with suspected links to the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood in shootouts in Cairo, just hours after a roadside bomb struck a tourist bus near the Giza Pyramids, wounding at least 17.
The Interior Ministry says seven of the militants were killed in a firefight when police raided their hideout in the Sixth of October suburb. The remaining five were shot and killed after opening fire on police storming their residences in Cairo's Shorouk suburb.
The ministry says explosive devices, weapons and ammunition were found in the militants' possession. It says the militants belonged to "Hasm," an armed faction of the Brotherhood.
Sunday's roadside bomb wounded at least 17 people including South African tourists.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack.
United Nations, May 18 (AP/UNB) — Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is strongly urging all countries to implement an arms embargo against Libya, saying preventing the proliferation of weapons is important to de-escalate the current fighting and restore stability in the country.
The U.N. chief expressed deep concern in a report to the Security Council circulated Friday that current military operations in Libya are reportedly "being reinforced by the transfer of arms into the country, including by sea."
Guterres was reporting specifically on implementation of a resolution last June authorizing the European Union's maritime force to enforce the arms embargo on the high seas off the coast of Libya.
He noted that EU countries in March extended the mandate of the naval mission, but took the unusual step of restricting its operation by refusing to allow it to deploy any ships. Instead, the EU said it will deploy more planes and personnel.
Italy commands the mission known as Operation Sophia, but the populist government in Rome refuses to allow its ships or aid groups' migrant rescue vessels to disembark in Italian ports. The EU move on suspending the naval mission was widely viewed as being aimed at easing tensions with Italy's anti-migrant government.
Guterres said Operation Sophia reported that between March 23, 2018 and March 22, 2019 it conducted 1,083 "hailings," 84 friendly approaches and three vessel inspections. It said no weapons were seized.
But the secretary-general said there are still attempts to smuggle arms to Libya, citing the reported seizure of arms and related military material by Libyan port and customs authorities.
Given the current suspension of Operation Sophia, Guterres said, "it is as relevant as ever for member states, in order to complement the efforts of the military operation, to inspect cargo in their territorial waters or at their seaports that is heading to and coming from Libya."
More broadly, the secretary-general cited reports of violations of the arms embargo by air, land and sea during the recent military escalation and fighting in Libya — sparked by an offensive to take control of the capital Tripoli launched April 4 by the self-styled Libyan National Army, led by Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter.
Civil war in Libya in 2011 toppled and later killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and the chaos that followed resulted in a divided country, with a weak U.N.-supported administration in Tripoli overseeing the country's west and a government in the east aligned with Hifter. Each is backed by an array of militias and armed groups fighting over resources and territory.
Guterres said he is "deeply concerned that an important opportunity for an inclusive dialogue and the search for a political solution for Libya may be undermined" by the current military escalation.
He noted that that since the Security Council imposed the arms embargo on the import and export of weapons to and from Libya in 2011 its implementation "continues to encounter challenges."
"I strongly urge member states to fully implement the embargo measures, which are of immediate importance to the protection of civilians and the restoration of security and stability in Libya and the region," Guterres said.
Khartoum, May 14 (AP/UNB) — A Sudanese medical union says six people have been shot and killed in overnight clashes between security forces and protesters behind the uprising that ousted President Omar al-Bashir.
The Sudan Doctors Committee, which is part of the Sudanese Professionals Association that has been spearheading the protests, said on Tuesday the six included an army officer.
The clashes took place in several locations across the country, including the ongoing sit-in area outside the military headquarters in Khartoum.
The ruling military council confirmed the death of an army major and said three troops were wounded at the sit-in.
Al-Bashir has been imprisoned in the capital, Khartoum, since the military removed him from power on April 11. The demonstrators, however, have remained in the streets, demanding the military hand over to civilian rule.
Maiduguri, May 10 (AP/UNB) — Authorities say nearly 900 children who were enlisted in a civilian defense militia in northeastern Nigeria have been officially separated from the group in accordance with a U.N. accord.
The children had been part of a group that was helping government forces fight armed Islamic extremists.
A total of 894 child soldiers formerly in the vigilante group helping government forces to fight armed insurgents in northeast Nigeria have been taken away from the group on Friday.
Mohamed Fall, UNICEF representative in Nigeria said efforts to release the children began in September 2017 when the vigilante group pledged to stop recruiting children. More than 1,700 children and young people already have been released.
UNICEF said that hundreds of the children will go to school while others will receive vocational training.