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60 migrants drown off the coast of Tunisia

Tunisian fishermen rescued 16 people and brought them to shore in Zarzis.

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migrant boat
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Around 60 migrants most of them from Bangladesh have died after their boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea after it left Libya for Italy, the Tunisian Red Crescent said Saturday.

Survivors told the Red Crescent the tragedy unfolded after some 75 people who had left Zuwara on the northwestern Libyan coast late Thursday on a large boat were transferred to a smaller one that sank off Tunisia.

“The migrants were transferred into a smaller inflatable boat which was overloaded, and 10 minutes later it sank,” Mongi Slim, a Red Crescent official in the southern Tunisian town of Zarzis, told AFP.

Tunisian fishermen rescued 16 people and brought them to shore in Zarzis.

The survivors said they spent eight hours trapped in the cold sea before they were spotted by the fishermen who alerted the Tunisian coastguard, Slim said.

The bodies of three people were plucked out of the waters on Friday, the Tunisian defence ministry said.

Survivors said the boat was heading to Italy and had on board only men, 51 from Bangladesh, as well as three Egyptians, several Moroccans, Chadians and other Africans.

Fourteen Bangladeshi nationals, including a minor, were among the survivors, said the Red Crescent.

“If the Tunisian fishermen hadn’t seen them (migrants), there wouldn’t have been any survivors and we would have never known about this” boat sinking, said Slim.

Charity ships have plied the Mediterranean Sea to rescue migrants in large numbers but the number of rescue operations have dwindled as these vessels have come under fire, namely from the populist Italian government, over their action.

Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has imposed a “closed ports” policy, refusing to allow migrants rescued at sea to enter his country.

On Friday, however, more than 60 migrants disembarked in Italy after two boats which had left Libya faced difficulties at sea and needed assistance.

The UN agency for refugees UNHCR called for stepped up search and rescue operations to avoid future tragedies in the Mediterranean, which it calls the “world’s deadliest sea crossing”.

“Across the region we need to strengthen the capacity of search and rescue operations,” said Vincent Cochetel, the agency’s special envoy for the Mediterranean.

“If we don’t act now, we’re almost certain to see more tragic events in the coming weeks and months,” he warned.

According to the UNHCR, the journey across the Mediterranean “is becoming increasingly fatal for those who risk it”.

“In the first four months of this year, one person has died (crossing the Mediterranean) for every three that have reached European shores, after departing from Libya,” it said.

Libya, which has been wracked by chaos since the 2011 uprising that killed veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi, has long been a major transit route for migrants desperate to reach Europe.

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Twelve dead in Boko Haram attack in Gueskerou, Niger

The attack on Friday night in the border district of Gueskerou, is the latest to hit the Diffa region near Lake Chad.

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Boko Haram attacks army base in Nigeria. Kills five soldiers, 30 missing

A night raid blamed on Boko Haram has left a dozen villagers dead in southeastern Niger on the frontier with Nigeria, a local official said Saturday.  

The attack on Friday night in the border district of Gueskerou, is the latest to hit the Diffa region near Lake Chad.

“Twelve villagers were killed on Friday at around 8:00pm by Boko Haram elements,” a local elected official told AFP. He said eleven of those killed had been shot, but did not give further details. 

The Gueskerou area, abutting the Komadougou Yobe river that provides a natural frontier between Niger and Nigeria, has been exposed to years of killings and kidnappings at the hands of the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram.

In March, two attacks in the area left eight civilians and seven police dead. 

Boko Haram, loosely translated as “Western education is banned”, wants to create a hardline Islamic state.

A regional military coalition is battling the group, but at least 27,000 people have been killed in Nigeria alone.

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Egypt’s renovation of Baron Palace sparks online outcry

Mnay have faulted repair works as being misrepresentative of the building’s history and materials to be of poor quality

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Egypt's renovation of Baron Palace sparks online outcry
Ongoing restoration works at the historic "Le Palais Hindou" (also known as the "Baron Empain Palace") built by in the early 20th century by Belgian industrialist Edouard Louis Joseph, Baron Empain, in the classical Khmer architectural style of Cambodia's Angkor Wat, in the Egyptian capital Cairo's northeastern Heliopolis district. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

Egyptian authorities have defended renovation works at a historic Cairo palace after the site’s new look sparked mockery on social media.

The site, dubbed the Baron Palace, was built between 1907 and 1911 by wealthy Belgian industrialist Edouard Empain. 

The baron also spearheaded the development of the surrounding upmarket neighbourhood of Heliopolis.

Built in a style reminiscent of the Cambodian Hindu temple of Angkor Wat, the striking building set amid lush gardens has long since fallen into disrepair.

READ: Biblio-art: How Polish artist adorns Egyptian monastery with Christian designs

But work to restore the building has sparked outcry.

Many have taken issue with white marble additions to the building’s rosy pink stone exterior, saying the materials are of poor quality and not in keeping with the original style.

One Twitter user asked:

“Who is the fool behind the restoration of Egypt’s palaces? Our heritage is being systematically destroyed.”

A Facebook page called Egyptian Historians chided officials for the “warped” restoration.

Egypt's renovation of Baron Palace sparks online outcry
Ongoing restoration works at the historic “Le Palais Hindou” (also known as the “Baron Empain Palace”) built by in the early 20th century by Belgian industrialist Edouard Louis Joseph, Baron Empain, in the classical Khmer architectural style of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, in the Egyptian capital Cairo’s northeastern Heliopolis district. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

“Be honest with yourselves and admit that you ruined it… you are literally demolishing our monument”, a post on the group’s page said.

READ: Tutankhamun gilded coffin receives restoration in Egypt

Antiquities Minister, Khaled El-Enany dismissed online criticisms as “fake news”.

“I didn’t hear one word of truth in all these social media comments,” he said in a statement.

His ministry said the colours of the palace had faded from weather damage over many years.

“The restoration is a real dream and we will breathe life into this abandoned landmark,” Enany added.

WATCH: Egypt begins restoration of Tutankhamun’s coffin

General Hisham Samir, who heads up the ministry’s engineering branch, said the colours were “correct and are backed up by historical sources.”

The works began in July 2017 in co-operation with the Belgian government and will cost 100 million Egyptian pounds (over $6 million), the statement added.

Samir told reporters that the work is expected to be completed by year’s end with plans to open the building to the public by early 2020.

Egypt’s multitude of historical monuments and buildings are a major draw for tourists, though the country has often faced accusations of neglecting these sites.

READ: Contents of two ancient pyramids unveiled in Egypt

The government has recently launched various restoration projects to stimulate tourism, a key sector that has suffered in recent years due to political insecurity and sporadic jihadist attacks.

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Central Africa News

Measles is a bigger threat in DR Congo than Ebola – NGO

Last year, cases more than doubled to almost 350,000 from 2017, according to the World Health Organization

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Measles has killed 2,758 people in DR Congo since January, more than the Ebola epidemic in a year, medical NGO Doctors Without Borders said, and called Saturday for a “massive mobilisation of funds.”

The disease, preventable with a vaccine, has infected over 145,000 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo between January and early August, it said in a statement.

“Since July, the epidemic has worsened, with a rise in new cases reported in several provinces,” said the NGO that goes by its French acronym MSF.

“Only $2.5 million has been raised out of the $8.9 million required for the Health Cluster response plan  — in stark contrast with the Ebola epidemic in the east of the country, which attracts multiple organisations and hundreds of millions of dollars in funding,” it added.

MSF tweeted that without a “massive mobilisation of funds and response organisations, the current measles outbreak in #DRCongo could get even worse.”

The NGO said it has vaccinated 474,860 children between the ages of six months and five years since the beginning of the year and provided care to more than 27,000 measles patients.

In the country’s east, Ebola has claimed more than 1,900 lives since erupting last August.

Measles is a highly-contagious diseased caused by a virus that attacks mainly children. The most serious complications include blindness, brain swelling, diarrhoea, and severe respiratory infections.

Last year, cases more than doubled to almost 350,000 from 2017, according to the World Health Organization, amid a rise in “anti-vaxxer” sentiment in some countries that can afford the vaccine, and lagging resources for the preventative measure in poor nations.

DR Congo declared a measles epidemic in June.

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