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UN chief expresses concern over Libya’s fragile political state

Only intra-Libyan dialogue can solve Libyan problems – UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres.

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UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres/ AFP

UN chief Antonio Guterres expressed deep concern over the risk of confrontation in Libya after forces loyal to a controversial strongman announced they were preparing to advance on Tripoli.

“I am deeply concerned by the military movement taking place in Libya and the risk of confrontation,” the visiting Guterres tweeted from the capital, which is controlled by a UN-backed unity government.

“There is no military solution,” he added.

Dozens of militias have fought for control of the North African country since a NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

But the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army of Khalifa Haftar has emerged as a key player, opposing the government in Tripoli and backing a parallel administration in the east.

Haftar launched an offensive into oil-producing regions of southern Libya in January ostensibly aimed at wiping out “terrorists” and criminal groups.

He has repeatedly expressed his intention to march on Tripoli.

LNA spokesman Ahmed Mesmari said at a press conference on Wednesday that “preparations are on the point of being completed… to purge the west of terrorists and mercenaries”.

Unity government chief Fayez al-Sarraj called the move an “escalation” and urged Haftar’s forces to “stop using the language of threats”.

He said he had ordered pro-government forces to prepare to “face all threats… whether from terrorist groups, criminals, outlaws and all who threaten the security of every Libyan city”.

The bellicose comments from Haftar’s forces come as the United Nations prepares to convene a conference later this month to hammer out a roadmap for delayed parliamentary and presidential elections.

“Only intra-Libyan dialogue can solve Libyan problems,” Guterres said on Thursday.

“I call for calm and restraint as I prepare to meet the Libyan leaders in the country.”

The rival leaders had agreed in Paris last year to hold elections before the end of the year, but that vote never materialised as Haftar’s forces and the Tripoli government grappled for power.

The UN has said Haftar and Sarraj agreed at a meeting in Abu Dhabi last month to make a new attempt to organise the elections.

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North Africa Politics

Libyan Navy rescues 335 migrants, recovers 1 body

Nine children were among 57 migrants in a wooden boat rescued Saturday about 40 nautical miles from the town of Zuwara

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Libyan navy rescues 335 migrants, recovers 1 body
(File photo)

The Libyan navy said Sunday 335 migrants had been rescued and one body recovered in separate operations off the coast, as they tried to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe.

Nine children were among 57 migrants in a wooden boat rescued Saturday about 40 nautical miles from the town of Zuwara, west of Tripoli, navy spokesman General Ayoub Kacem told reporters.

He said they were from Ethiopia and Egypt. 

The rescue came days after Libyan navy patrols on Tuesday “rescued 278 migrants on board four inflatable boats northwest and northeast of Tripoli”, Kacem added.

The operations took place off the coasts of the cities of Khoms, 120 kilometres east of Tripoli, and Sabratha, located 70 kilometres west of the capital.

READ: IOM reports over 100 migrants missing off Libyan coast

According to the statement, 128 Sudanese were on the boats, in addition to migrants from Chad, Egypt, Niger, Benin and Eritrea, including 35 women and 11 children.

One body was also recovered by the coastguard.

Libya, which has been facing transition crisis since the 2011 uprising that killed dictator Muammar Gaddafi, has long been a major transit route for migrants, especially from sub-Saharan Africa.

In general, migrants rescued at sea are first met by humanitarian agencies that provide medical care and food.

They are then taken into the charge of the body working to combat immigration at the interior ministry of the UN-recognised Government of National Accord. 

On August 9, the Libyan navy accused the authorities of failing to manage migrants rescued at sea, claiming that it could be forced to let people go free once brought back to land.

READ: From Sudan to Libya, nightmare for migrants continues

Despite the risks, migrants continue to attempt to reach Europe by sea, preferring to take their chances than stay in Libya, where they are subject to abuse, extortion and torture, according to humanitarian organisations. 

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President declares state of emergency in 2 provinces due to ethnic violence in Chad

The state of emergency will run for three months in Sila and Ouaddai regions

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Chad President Idriss Deby declared a state of emergency in two eastern provinces

Chad President Idriss Deby declared a state of emergency in two eastern provinces on Sunday after violent intercommunal clashes left dozens dead earlier this month.

The state of emergency will run for three months in Sila and Ouaddai regions bordering Sudan where 50 people have died since August 9 in fighting between cattle herders and settled farmers, the president’s office said.

“From now, we will deploy military forces who are going to ensure the security of the population in the region,” Deby said while on a trip to Sila. “We must disarm all the civilians who have weapons in their hands,” he continued.

Eastern Chad is in the grip of a cycle of violence between nomadic camel herders and sedentary farmers from the Ouaddian community. Herders have for decades moved their livestock through the Ouaddai region in rotations between summer and winter pastures.

Most of the herders’ animals belong to the president’s Zaghawa ethnic group, and the farmers say they often escape censure when unrest breaks out between the two sides. Similar conflicts between herders and farmers erupt in other African countries, notably Nigeria.

Drought and population growth have aggravated the conflict, while an influx of weapons from conflict-stricken neighbours have made it even more deadly. Deby earlier this month blamed the surge in violence partly fon an influx of guns to the former French colony from conflict zones in neighbouring Libya, Central African Republic and Sudan, where a protest movement ousted the president in April.

“The government has created special disarmament units. We take away the weapons, but the next day more arrives,” he said. The president described the violence as a “national concern”, adding: “We are witnessing a terrible phenomenon.”

“Those with guns are not hesitating to shoot the police. We must wage a total war against those who carry weapons and are killing people,” he said at the time. Legislative elections in Chad are scheduled to take place by the end of the year. They have been postponed several times since 2015 as Deby, who got into power in 1990, looks to maintain his rule of the country.

Deby hinted in June that military courts may be reintroduced in a bid to curb unrest, a suggestion denounced by the country’s opposition. Military justice, applied to civilians as well as the armed forces, was abolished in Chad in 1993. In 2016, the country also scrapped the death penalty, except for “terrorism”

Deby said the decades-long conflict over land in Ouaddai had spread since the start of this year to other regions where previously the communities lived side by side in an “exemplary” manner. He cited Sila where he said more than 40 people had been killed since January.

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Libyan National Army attack Mitiga airport and Zuwara airfield

Libyan National Army said it targeted a hangar “which houses Turkish drones and their ammunition”.

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(FILES) This file photo taken on April 08, 2019, shows the Mitiga International Airport in Libya's capital Tripoli. - Rocket fire on August 11 hit the Libyan capital's sole functioning airport, violating a temporary truce between the unity government and forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar, airport authorities said. (Photo by Mahmud TURKIA / AFP)

Tripoli’s sole functioning airport Mitiga and Zuwara airfield were targeted for the second time in less than 48 hours – the former hit overnight Thursday and the latter on Friday morning.

The Government of National Accord (GNA) reported that three people were wounded in the raids by forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar against the two airports under its control.

Airport management at Mitiga reported rocket fire against the runway “as planes took off and landed”. 

The UN-recognised GNA said on Facebook that Haftar’s forces “targeted employees of the airport services company” at Mitiga with Grad missiles, causing shrapnel wounds to two workers and damaging a bus.

Flights were temporarily suspended or rerouted to Misrata, 200 kilometres (120 miles) east of Tripoli.

In the attack against Zuwara airfield, Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army said it targeted a hangar “which houses Turkish drones and their ammunition”.

The Tripoli-based GNA said a member of civil protection was wounded in that attack.

Pro-Haftar forces also “targeted other hangars… located 1.5 kilometres to the east of Abu Kamach”, LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mesmari said on Facebook.

The country’s biggest petrochemical complex is located there, near the Tunisian border.

Forces loyal to the GNA and the LNA are embroiled in a stalemate in Tripoli’s southern outskirts after Haftar launched an offensive against the capital in April.

Fighting over the last four months has killed 1,093 people and wounded 5,752, according to the World Health Organization. 

Some 120,000 have been displaced over the same period.

Libya has been mired in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. 

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