US, UK Warn Citizens Against Travelling To NE India After Clashes

Indian flag

 

Washington and London issued travel warnings for northeast India as opponents of a new citizenship law geared up for more protests Saturday, following days of clashes that saw two people killed and dozens injured.

Many in the far-flung, resource-rich region fear the new legislation will grant citizenship to large numbers of immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh, who they accuse of stealing jobs and diluting the region’s cultural identity.

No major incidents were reported overnight in Guwahati in Assam state, the epicentre of the protests, where two were shot dead and 26 hospitalised this week after security forces fired blank and live rounds, medical staff said.

The funeral procession of 18-year-old Sam Stafford, who was killed in the firing, took place on Friday and was attended by hundreds of angry and distraught mourners who shouted “Long live Assam” in Dispur, the state capital adjoining Guwahati.

“We were watching news all day on TV about the protests when my nephew left home in the evening. We asked him not to go but he went with his friends,” the student’s aunt Julie Stafford told AFP.

Authorities announced a curfew in place in Guwahati would be lifted from 9am to 4pm Saturday.

But some protest groups said they planned to defy the curfew with more demonstrations planned for the afternoon and evening.

Samujjal Bhattacharya from the All Assam Students Union, which has been at the forefront of the protests, told AFP the group would continue its fight against the new law “in the streets and in the court”.

‘Exercise caution’ 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe postponed a summit that had reportedly been due to be held in Guwahati from Sunday, and the United States and Britain warned their nationals to “exercise caution” if travelling to the wider northeast region.

Other smaller protests against the new law erupted elsewhere around India Friday, with riot police clashing with hundreds of mostly student protestors in New Delhi and demonstrators setting fire to buildings at a railway station in West Bengal, officials said.

Rallies were also held in Kerala and Karnataka in the south as well as in Modi’s home state Gujarat in the west.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) — approved this week — allows for the fast-tracking of applications from religious minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, but not Muslims.

For Islamic groups, the opposition and rights organisations, it is part of Modi’s “Hindutva” Hindu nationalist agenda to marginalise India’s 200 million Muslims.

Modi denies this and says that Muslims from the three countries are not covered by the legislation because they have no need of India’s protection.

The passage of the bill sparked angry scenes in both houses of parliament this week, with one lawmaker likening it to anti-Jewish legislation by the Nazis in 1930s Germany.

The chief ministers of several Indian states — West Bengal, Punjab, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh — have said they will not implement the law.

AFP

Hong Kong Police, Protesters Clash In 16th Weekend Of Rallies

Pro-democracy protesters surround policemen attempting to detain a demonstrator during a protest in Hong Kong’s Tuen Mun district on September 21, 2019. PHILIP FONG / AFP

 

Riot police and protesters in Hong Kong fought brief skirmishes near the Chinese border on Saturday, the latest clashes during huge pro-democracy protests that have battered the financial hub for more than three months.

Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at small groups of hardcore activists who had built barricades in the outlying town of Tuen Mun, some of them lobbing bricks and at least one Molotov cocktail.

Multiple protesters were seen being arrested in the clashes, which were less sustained than the intense battles of previous weekends.

The city has been convulsed by months of huge, sometimes violent rallies calling for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability.

The movement is the biggest challenge to China’s rule since Hong Kong was handed back by Britain in 1997 and shows no sign of ending, with city leaders and Beijing taking a hard line.

Saturday’s clashes were the 16th straight weekend of protests and skirmishes.

In a now familiar pattern, the day began with a peaceful rally through Tuen Mun, a town in Hong Kong’s northwest, close to the border with mainland China.

At one point, a handful of protesters pulled down China’s flag flying outside a local government office and burned it.

Tensions soon spiked after police snatch squads rushed into a park where crowds had gathered and made a series of arrests.

Hundreds of hardcore activists then built barricades and dismantled nearby fences to arm themselves with makeshift clubs. Objects were also thrown onto nearby train tracks.

But protesters showed little appetite in holding ground, quickly retreating as soon as tear gas and rubber bullets were fired by police.

By Saturday evening, pockets of demonstrators and police were playing a familiar game of cat and mouse.

Calvin Tan, 22, was among those taking part in the rally earlier in the day.

He said most protesters were prepared for a “long term fight”.

“Every small protest matters, even though it doesn’t seem to help that much, it’s like each small step in a marathon,” he told AFP.

 ‘No choice’ 

Tan described himself as a moderate who avoids clashes with police. But he said he ideologically supports those on the frontlines.

“When facing institutional violence, we have no choice but to respond with street fights,” he said. “We have tried peaceful, rational and non-violent methods and continued using these ways to fight for our demands.”

Hong Kong has been plunged into crisis this summer.

The protests were ignited by a now scrapped plan to allow extraditions to the authoritarian Chinese mainland.

But when local leaders and Beijing refused to budge it snowballed into a wider campaign for democracy, fuelled by animosity towards the police.

Protesters have hurled rocks, bottles and petrol bombs as well as used slingshots in their battles with police, who have responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons with growing frequency.

On Friday Amnesty International released a report accusing Hong Kong’s police of using excessive force, in some cases amounting to torture.

The UN’s rights watchdog has also criticised the city’s police.

But the city’s force reject such criticism, saying their officers have used proportionate force against hardcore protesters who are showing increasing levels of violence.

At a briefing with foreign journalists on Friday, a senior commanding officer said he was alarmed by the latest tactics from protesters.

“Our officers are worried that… violence has got to such a level that they might have to kill someone or be killed themselves,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“We have been so restrained but in the face of such violence, this pressure has become extremely dangerous.”

AFP

Police Fire Tear Gas As Clashes Return To Hong Kong Streets

Protesters reacts as Police fire tear gas towards them in Kowloon Bay in Hong Kong on August 24, 2019, during the latest opposition to a planned extradition law that has since morphed into a wider call for democratic rights in the semi-autonomous city.  ANTHONY WALLACE / AFP

 

Hong Kong riot police on Saturday fired tear gas and baton-charged protesters who retaliated with a barrage of stones, bottles and bamboo poles, in another tense bout of violence.

The city has been gripped by three months of street protests that started against a proposed extradition bill to China but have spun out into a wider pro-democracy movement.

An uneasy peace had descended this week but that was broken on Saturday as thousands of demonstrators — many wearing hard hats and gas masks — marched through the industrial Kwun Tong area, where they were blocked by dozens of officers with shields and batons outside a police station.

Frontline protesters pulled together a barricade of traffic barriers and bamboo construction poles, spray-painting walls with insults directed at the police.

As the afternoon wore on some fired stones from slingshots, prompting a charge from police wielding batons and pepper spray.

Tear gas swept across the road as protesters retreated, leaving a trail of broken bottles and at least one small fire in their wake.

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Several of the black-clad protesters were detained as officers swept through, with police justifying their charge on “a large group of violent protesters” who had set fires and hurled bricks.

The city had appeared to have pulled back from a sharp nosedive into violence, with the last serious clashes taking place a week and a half ago just after protests paralysed the financial hub’s airport.

Tension flickered throughout Saturday’s march, where dozens of the most radical demonstrators known as “braves” had gathered, battle-hardened by a three-month street campaign.

“I understand being peaceful will not solve the problem,” 19-year-old student protester Ryan told AFP, giving one name.

“The government won’t respond to peaceful protest. If I am arrested it is because I come out to speak for justice.”

Hundreds of thousands marched peacefully last Sunday, as a key protest group sought to regain the moral high ground in a city shocked at the level of violence.

But Saturday’s face-off underscored the dangerous deadlock into which the city has sunk — with the government unmoving in the face of protester demands, and demonstrators stubbornly refusing to leave the streets.

China has used a blend of intimidation, propaganda and economic muscle to constrict the protests in a strategy dubbed “white terror” by the movement.

Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific has sacked staff over their political activities, while the MTR — the city’s metro operator — has been pilloried for closing stations after Chinese state-media accused it of offering an “exclusive” transport service to protesters.

 ‘No future’ 

Protests started against a bill that would have allowed extradition to China, but have bled into wider calls for democracy and police accountability in the semi-autonomous city.

Protesters say Hong Kong’s unique freedoms are in jeopardy as Beijing tightens its political chokehold on the city.

Soaring living costs and few job opportunities have also driven many of the mainly young protesters to the streets.

Hong Kong’s police force have become the target of the protesters’ ire for their perceived heavy-handed response to the months of demonstrations.

Scores of “braves” dug up bricks and tied metal barriers together a few hundred metres from the police as they appeared to dig in for more clashes.

Scuffles continued into the night including in the working-class district of Wong Tai Sin.

One frontline protester explained his motivation for joining the street struggle.

“The government chose not to solve the problem through communicating with the protesters,” Lueng told AFP.

“I don’t see our future facing this regime, so gradually I stepped closer and closer to the front line.”

Older Hong Kongers are divided on the motivation and tactics of the movement which has brought unprecedented chaos to a city once known for its safety and stability.

“The youngsters who come out have put their future at stake… they are doing this for Hong Kong,” 65-year-old Dee Cheung told AFP earlier, before explaining why he joined the protests.

“There might be some things we don’t agree with, like the ‘braves’ who tend to charge. But let’s think about why they do that?”

AFP

Jukun, Tiv Youth Leaders Disagree Over Taraba Clashes

The communal clashes in Taraba have continued to be a cause of worry for residents, even as the government continues to put measures in place to check the spate of attacks on communities in the state.

On Monday, the youth leaders of the two main ethnic groups in the state – Jukun and Tiv – appeared as guests on Sunrise Daily, Channels Television’s breakfast show where they disagreed over the clash.

Power Tussle

The Youth Leader of Jukun, Eric Yohanna, believes the communal clashes in the state are as a result of three major factors.

He said, “There is competition for land; secondly, competition for economic resources then thirdly, there is competition for political power.

“So, you can’t take these three items from what is happening there. The level that the crisis is going is taking totally a different dimension, more of political.”

According to Yohanna, the Tivs in the state are demanding for things that are not possible and the demands did not just emanate.

He explained that while the governor was already working persistently to resolve the matter, the said crisis at the Federal University, Wukari, did not happen at the institution.

“You can’t give a chiefdom where there is no documented evidence to show the existence of transferred chiefdom earlier on.

“The Jukun people that we are; we are peace-loving, we are well cultured, and we respect our elders and the norms of society. We are untouchable and undefeatable when it comes to war which is the historical background of the Jukun,” the Jukun youth leader said.

On ways to resolve the clashes, he insisted that the right thing to do was for the Tivs in Benue State to stay off Taraba.

Yohanna accused them of being the cause of the problem in the state, adding that they should allow the Tivs in Taraba to resolve their issues with their Jukun brothers.

Indigenes, Not Settlers

But the President of the Tiv Youth Council, Mike Muswan, disagreed with his counterpart and blamed the clashes on the Jukuns.

He alleged that the people of the opposite tribe have refused to accept the Tivs as residents of Taraba, rather than referring to them as settlers.

“The Taraba people must be able to acknowledge that the Tiv people are indigenes of Taraba state and not settlers. For a long time, Jukun people say Tiv people are settlers; so that is the major cause of that crisis.

“The attack comes up after every 10 years of census where they know that the Tiv people are coming to dominate the state. So their fear is that the Tiv people should not take over Taraba State,” Muswan said.

He also raised alarm about an alleged “systematic plan for killing” the Tiv people in Taraba, adding that it has been on record.

The youth president claimed that the entire Tiv community in Taraba were killed in 2001, alleging that some big political figures in the state were responsible for the killing.

“The only solution to this crisis is that the leaders of the Tiv and the Jukun must be sincere in solving this matter,” he said.

Kyrgyzstan Special Forces Arrest Ex-President After Violent Clashes

A member of the Kyrgyz special forces points his weapon during clashes between supporters of Kyrgyzstan’s former president and law enforcement, in the village of Koy-Tash, some 20 kilometres from Bishkek on August 8, 2019. Vyacheslav OSELEDKO / AFP

 

Kyrgyzstan’s former president was detained in a major security operation Thursday, police said, a day after clashes between his supporters and law enforcement left one dead and dozens injured.

The Central Asian state, which has seen two revolutions in less than two decades, is on the brink of crisis amid a standoff between ex-leader Almazbek Atambayev and his protege-turned-foe President Sooronbai Jeenbekov.

Atambayev was detained by security services at his residence in the village of Koi-Tash near the capital Bishkek, after the second raid in two days on the compound.

A police statement said Atambayev “will be delivered to the relevant authorities for further investigative measures.”

An AFP correspondent at the scene saw security forces drive a military vehicle through the gates of the complex where the former head of state has been holed up for weeks.

Officers broke up a crowd of Atambayev supporters using tear gas and smoke grenades, the journalist said.

Police said that no-one had died during the second operation.

Atambayev has ignored police summonses for questioning on corruption charges that supporters say are politically motivated.

On Wednesday an already tense political situation escalated when the national security service announced an operation to take Atambayev from the residence outside Bishkek, capital of the Muslim-majority nation of six million people.

The operation failed and descended into violence.

 Security officers beaten 

The health ministry said a special forces officer had died from a gunshot wound and the head of the Chui province police department was in a critical condition after being concussed during the clashes on Wednesday.

The ministry said 52 people were injured, around half of them law enforcement officers.

A further five people — one civilian and four servicemen — were taken to hospital after the operation on Thursday.

Early Thursday President Jeenbekov convened a meeting of the state security council and an emergency session of parliament.

Jeenbekov said during the security council meeting that Atambayev had “rudely flouted the Constitution and laws of the Kyrgyz Republic” by resisting detention.

 Putin intervention 

Parliament in June stripped Atambayev of his immunity as a former president and the state prosecutor brought corruption charges against him.

The standoff has drawn in Russia — the country’s Soviet-era master and traditional political patron — where hundreds of thousands of Kyrgyz work as migrant labourers.

Last month Russian President Vladimir Putin met with both Jeenbekov and Atambayev in Moscow in a bid to defuse the confrontation.

Erica Marat, Associate Professor at the National Defense University in Washington D.C., said Atambayev’s outreach to Putin shows that “he clearly sees himself as a viable political figure in Kyrgyzstan“, emboldening his stance against the incumbent leader.

Marat said the pair’s confrontation is symptomatic of Kyrgyzstan‘s failure to reform its security institutions and courts.

“Jeenbekov must now decide whether to escalate violent confrontation with Atambayev’s supporters or negotiate,” Marat said.

 Ex-friends 

Jeenbekov and Atambayev were once friends, and the former leader backed the incumbent in 2017 elections that marked an unprecedented peaceful transfer of power between heads of state.

But they fell out just months after Jeenbekov’s inauguration as Atambayev publicly criticised his successor and security services arrested several key Atambayev allies.

Political analyst and video blogger Azim Azimov raised fears that the standoff might devolve into a “civil conflict… if both sides decide to take it to the end.”

“This is the most scary potential outcome,” he said in a video published Thursday morning.

AFP

At Least 52 Killed In Brazil Prison Riot

 

 

At least 52 inmates were killed in a prison riot in northern Brazil on Monday as rival gang factions fought each other, an official said.

Sixteen of the dead were decapitated in the second major eruption of violence to rock the country’s severely overpopulated and deadly prison system in as many months.

Fighting broke out in the Altamira Regional Recovery Center at around 7:00 am (1000 GMT), an official from the Para state government’s penitentiary department told AFP.

Two guards were taken hostage during the hours-long clashes, which were brought under control at around midday. They were eventually freed.

Brazilian TV stations showed footage of thick black smoke rising from the prison compound and people sitting on the roof of a building.

Other images showed flames inside a building that almost reached the ceiling and people, apparently prisoners, sitting on the ground outside.

“It is likely that many detainees died from asphyxiation (from smoke),” the government official said, adding the death toll could rise.

Around 300 prisoners were being held at the jail, the official said, which reportedly has a capacity for 200.

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An outbreak of violence in the same prison in September 2018 left at least seven inmates dead, local media reported previously. Guards had apparently foiled an attempted prison escape.

In May this year, at least 55 prisoners were killed in several jails in the neighboring state of Amazonas in violence also blamed on an apparent drug trafficking gang dispute.

Most of the victims were killed by asphyxiation, the state government said at the time.

The federal government dispatched reinforcements to boost security in the jails.

Overcrowded prisons

Brazil has the world’s third largest prison population after the United States and China, with 726,712 inmates as of June 2016, according to official statistics.

The population is roughly double the capacity of the nation’s jails, which in the same year was estimated to be 368,049 inmates.

The federal government had been expected to add another 115,000 inmates by the end of 2018, Human Rights Watch said in a recent report.

Around 40 percent of the prison population is made up of pretrial detainees.

Along with severe overcrowding and gang violence, riots and breakout attempts in Brazil’s prisons are not uncommon.

Experts have described conditions in the country’s jails as inhuman, with most inmates poor, black and with little formal education.

Clashes In Four Brazil Prisons Leave 40 Dead

Map of Brazil Credit: Google Maps

 

At least 40 inmates were killed in four jails in northern Brazil on Monday over an apparent gang dispute, authorities said, in the latest wave of violence to rock the country’s overpopulated and deadly prison system.

The victims appeared to have been killed by “asphyxiation,” the Amazonas state government said in a statement, a day after 15 people were killed in one of the prisons.

Officials had initially put the number of dead at 42, but later revised the number to 40.

At least 25 of the victims were found in the Antonio Trindade Penal Institute near Manaus, the capital of Amazonas, where all four prisons are located.

No guns or knives were used in the killings, which prison officials said appeared to have been sparked by a “rift between prisoners who belonged to the same criminal group and were involved in drug trafficking in the state.”

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The federal government has dispatched reinforcements to boost security in the jails.

“I just spoke with (Justice) Minister Sergio Moro, who is sending a prison intervention team to Amazonas so that he can help us in this moment of crisis,” state Governor Wilson Lima said.

An investigation launched into Sunday’s mass killing at the Anisio Jobim Penal Complex, in which some of the prisoners were stabbed with sharpened toothbrushes during visiting hours, has been widened to include Monday’s deaths.

Four of those killed in the latest violence were found at the Anisio Jobim jail, which was also the scene of a prison rebellion that lasted almost 20 hours and left 56 people dead in January 2017.

Another five were killed at the Provisional Detention Center for Men and six died at the Puraquequara Prison Unit.

“The fact that the killings were coordinated across four separate prisons… suggests that this was a settling of scores,” Robert Muggah, research director at the Igarape Institute think tank in Rio de Janeiro, told AFP.

The latest violence in Amazonas, one of Brazil’s most violent states, was “almost guaranteed to inspire retribution inside and outside the prison walls.”

 

 ‘Appalling’ conditions

Outbreaks of deadly violence are a recurring problem in Brazil’s jails due to the lack of structural changes, experts said.

“Prisons continue to be places of serious violations of human rights,” said Juliana Melo, a professor at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte.

“The conditions are appalling, with a majority of prisoners poor, black, badly schooled and marginalized.”

Brazil has the world’s third largest prison population after the United States and China, with 726,712 inmates as of June 2016, according to official statistics.

The population is double the capacity of the nation’s jails, which in the same year was estimated to be 368,049 inmates.

The federal government had been expected to add another 115,000 inmates by the end of 2018, Human Rights Watch said in a recent report.

Along with severe overcrowding and gang violence, riots and breakout attempts in Brazil’s prisons are not uncommon.

“Deaths in Brazil’s prison system are shamefully recurrent,” said Julita Lemgruber, a former director of Rio de Janeiro’s penitentiary system and professor at Candido Mendes University.

“They are recurrent because those who die are originally from the poorest sections of the population and are people who are not clear about their rights.”

While Muggah said there was no quick fix available for the system, the government needed to start by “drastically” reducing the number of pretrial detainees who currently make up 40 percent of the prison population.

“Rather than imposing harsher sentencing laws and building new prisons, the public authorities need to enforce existing legislation — including ensuring suspects are provided with hearings within 24 hours of their arrest,” he said.

AFP

Six Killed In Libya As UN Debates Ceasefire Demand

The UN Security Council meeting at United Nations Headquarters in New York, on April 13, 2018.
HECTOR RETAMAL / AFP

 

Rocket fire on the Libyan capital Tripoli, which the UN-recognised government blamed on military strongman Khalifa Haftar, killed six people ahead of a Security Council meeting on Wednesday over a ceasefire.

Diplomats have long complained that Libyan peace efforts have been stymied by major powers backing the rival sides, with Haftar ally Russia quibbling over the proposed wording of the ceasefire demand even as the bombardment of Tripoli intensifies.

Three of the six killed in the rocket fire on the south Tripoli neighbourhoods of Abu Salim and Al-Antisar late on Tuesday were women, said the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA.

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Abu Salim mayor Abdelrahman al-Hamdi confirmed the death toll and said 35 other people were wounded.

AFP journalists heard seven loud explosions as rockets also hit the city centre, the first since Haftar’s Libyan National Army militia launched an offensive on April 4 to capture the capital from the government and its militia allies.

The LNA blamed the rocket fire on the “terrorist militias” whose grip on the capital it says it is fighting to end.

The bombardment came as diplomats at the UN Security Council began negotiations on a British-drafted resolution that would demand an immediate ceasefire in Libya.

The proposed text seen by AFP warns that the offensive by Haftar’s LNA “threatens the stability of Libya and prospects for a United Nations-facilitated political dialogue and a comprehensive political solution to the crisis.”

 No Haftar criticism 

After Britain circulated the text late Monday, the first round of negotiations was held during which Russia raised objections to references criticising Haftar, diplomats said.

“They were very clear. No reference anywhere,” a council diplomat said.

During a tour of the Tripoli neighbourhoods worst hit by the rocket fire on Tuesday night, unity government head Fayez al-Sarraj said the Security Council must hold Haftar to account for his forces’ “savagery and barbarism”.

“It’s the legal and humanitarian responsibility of the Security Council and the international community to hold this criminal responsible for his actions,” Sarraj said in footage of the tour released by his office.

He said his government would seek Haftar’s prosecution for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

“We are going to hand all the documentation to the ICC tomorrow (Wednesday) for prosecution for war crimes and crimes against humanity,” he said.

At least 189 people have been killed, 816 wounded and more than 18,000 displaced since Haftar ordered his forces to march on Tripoli, according to the World Health Organization.

Britain was hoping to bring the ceasefire resolution to a vote at the Security Council before Friday, but diplomats pointed to Russia’s objections as a hurdle.

The proposed measure echoed a call by UN chief Antonio Guterres, who was in Libya to advance prospects for a political solution when Haftar launched his offensive.

 Proxy war 

Haftar, seen by his allies Egypt and the United Arab Emirates as a bulwark against Islamists, has declared he wants to seize the capital.

He backs a rival administration based in eastern Libya that is refusing to recognise the authority of the Tripoli government.

The draft resolution calls on all sides in Libya “immediately to recommit” to UN peace efforts and urges all member states “to use their influence over the parties” to see that the resolution is respected.

Resolutions adopted by the council are legally binding.

Diplomats have long complained that foreign powers backing rival sides in Libya threatened to turn the conflict into a proxy war.

Saudi Arabia is also seen as a key Haftar supporter, while Qatar — which has tense relations with Riyadh and Abu Dhabi — has called for stronger enforcement of the UN arms embargo to keep weapons out of Haftar’s hands.

Russia and France, two veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council, have praised Haftar’s battlefield successes in defeating Libyan militias aligned with the Islamic State group in the south of the country.

Haftar’s offensive on the capital forced the United Nations to postpone a national conference that was to draw up a roadmap to elections, meant to turn the page on years of chaos since the 2011 ouster of Moamer Kadhafi.

Guterres has said serious negotiations on Libya’s future cannot resume without a ceasefire.

AFP

Air Strike Disrupts Flights As Thousands Flee Libya Clashes

 

Fighting raged around Tripoli and an air strike closed its only functioning airport Monday, as Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar defied international calls to halt his advance on the capital.

Thousands were also reported by the United Nations to be fleeing the capital city in the face of Haftar’s surprise assault which has left dozens dead.

The EU’s foreign policy chief on Monday added her voice to those urging the eastern strongman to stop his offensive, in the wake of calls for restraint by the UN Security Council and the United States.

“I make a very strong appeal to Libyan leaders and in particular to Haftar to stop all military activities … and to return to the negotiation table”, Federica Mogherini said after talks with EU foreign ministers.

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A security source at Mitiga airport, east of the capital, said no side had yet claimed responsibility for Monday’s air raid, which hit a runway without causing casualties.

But the UN’s envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame, blamed Haftar’s forces.

“Salame condemns the aerial attack today by LNA aircraft”, his office said in a statement, referring to Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army.

Mohammed Gniwa, a spokesman for national carrier Libyan Airlines, said the civil aviation authority decided “to suspend aerial traffic until further notice”.

An airport source, who did want to be named, confirmed the suspension.

 ‘Immediate halt’ 

The oil-rich north African country has been rocked by violent power struggles between an array of armed groups since the NATO-backed overthrow of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

Haftar, a former Kadhafi military chief, has emerged as a major player.

His LNA backs an administration in the country’s east in opposition to the UN-backed Government of National Accord.

Having seized control of much of eastern Libya — and buoyed by a series of victories in the desert south — Haftar turned his sights on Tripoli, vowing to “cleanse” it of “terrorists and mercenaries”.

After a pause overnight, fighting resumed Monday morning around the capital’s destroyed main airport, some 30 kilometres (18 miles) south of Tripoli, and the rural area of Wadi Rabi further east.

World powers have expressed alarm at the violence, saying it threatens to further destabilise Libya and derail UN-led efforts to find a political solution to the country’s woes.

The US has appealed for an “immediate halt” to combat operations and the UN Security Council has called on Haftar’s forces to stop their advance.

On Sunday Russia blocked proposals for the council to adopt a formal statement, instead insisting that all Libyan forces be urged to stop fighting, diplomats said.

Moscow is a key supporter of Haftar, along with Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

But the Kremlin on Monday urged “all sides to reject actions that could provoke bloodshed in battle and the deaths of civilians”.

Fierce clashes Sunday near Tripoli saw Haftar’s fighters and other powerful western Libyan armed groups exchanging fire including air strikes.

Forces backing the Tripoli-based GNA on Sunday announced a counteroffensive dubbed “Volcano of Anger”.

Spokesman Colonel Mohamed Gnounou said it was aimed at “purging all Libyan cities of aggressor and illegitimate forces”, in reference to Haftar’s fighters.

Civil war fears 

Unity government health minister A’hmid Omar told Libya’s Al-Ahrar television station late Sunday that around 50 people had been wounded along with those killed.

His ministry on Monday put the death toll at 35.

Haftar’s forces have said 14 of their fighters have died.

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Libya, Maria Ribeiro, said Monday the fighting had displaced more than 2,800 people, blocked rescuers from reaching casualties and damaged electricity lines.

She again urged the warring parties to implement a temporary humanitarian ceasefire.

The previous day, fighting raged throughout a two-hour window set by the UN for a pause in hostilities for civilians and the wounded to flee.

Haftar’s offensive has threatened to plunge the country into a full-blown civil war and once again thwart diplomatic efforts to find a solution to Libya’s woes.

It was launched just days ahead of a planned UN conference aimed at uniting Libya’s rivals and paving the way for elections.

The UN’s Salame has insisted the international community is “determined” to go ahead with the April 14-16 conference.

The UN mission in Libya said on Twitter that Salame met Monday with unity government head Fayez al-Sarraj in Tripoli to discuss how to “assist at this critical and difficult juncture”.

AFP

Five Dead In Burkina Clashes After Shooting

Burkina Faso on the map.

 

Five people have been killed in Burkina Faso in a clash between police and angry youths who went on the rampage at a police station after a young man was shot dead, the security ministry said Saturday.

A crowd of about 100 youths stormed the police station in the western town of Orodara on Friday after the alleged gunman took shelter there following the deadly shooting of the young man earlier Friday.

Five people were killed and eight wounded in the clash, the ministry said in a statement, without giving details about the victims.

“Gendarmerie and police reinforcements have been deployed in Orodara where calm has returned,” a security source said.

A dusk-to-dawn curfew has been imposed in the town, where the market and other public venues were closed and gatherings banned, according to provincial commissioner Abdallah Sangare.

Last week, two policemen were lynched Nafona, another town in the west of the country, by a crowd opposed to an arrest they were making.

Burkina Faso lies in the heart of the vast Sahel region, which is struggling with a bloody Islamist insurgency.

The region turned into a hotbed of violent extremism and lawlessness after chaos engulfed Libya in 2011.

AFP

Two Days Of Clashes Near Libya Capital Leave 10 Dead

 

Two days of clashes between rival militias near Libya’s capital Tripoli have left 10 people dead and 41 wounded, the health ministry said Thursday.

Fighting between armed groups erupted Wednesday despite a truce deal four months ago that had halted deadly battles in the city.

A medical source told AFP that fierce clashes hit an area some 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Tripoli on Thursday, after fighting around an airport 25 kilometers from the capital the previous day.

The violence has pitted the Tripoli Protection Force, an alliance of militias from the city, against the Seventh Brigade group from the town of Tarhuna.

The health ministry said that there were women and children among the wounded.

Tripoli was plagued by militia clashes that killed at least 117 people and wounded more than 400 between late August and late September.

The United Nations mission in Libya on Wednesday condemned a “military mobilisation” in southern Tripoli and warned groups not to break a ceasefire agreement it brokered in September.

The Seventh Brigade has maintained its positions around Tripoli since the accord was reached, a move that has angered rival militias.

Libya has been torn between rival administrations and a myriad of militias since the overthrow and killing of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

The main armed groups in Tripoli say they are loyal to the internationally backed Government of National Accord (GNA), but officials have struggled to exert real control over the fighters.

The GNA announced security reforms in the wake of the bloodshed last year, aimed at curbing the power of militias in the capital.

A rival administration in the east of Libya is backed by strongman Khalifa Haftar and his self-proclaimed Libyan National Army.

AFP

30 Killed In Clashes In Chad’s Gold-Rush Region

Chad

 

More than 30 people have died in northern Chad after Arab fighters, crossing from neighbouring Libya, attacked miners in a region in the grip of a gold rush, rights activists said Sunday.

The clashes broke out on Thursday in the Kouri Bougoudi area of the Tibesti border region, the Chadian Convention for the Defence of Human Rights (CTDDH) said in a statement.

At least 30 gold miners were killed and more than 200 wounded, it said.

Abdul Aziz Youssouf Mustapha, a Chadian with the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), said the fighters attacked all “non-Arabs” who had come to Kouri Bougoudi in search of gold.

All miners were forced off the gold-mining area on Saturday, he said.

A military source confirmed that there had been fighting but did not give further details.

Many of the miners hailed from the Ouaddai region in central-eastern Chad. Sources among the Ouaddai community also confirmed there had been clashes in Kouri Bougoudi.

Kouri Bougoudi has been a theatre of violence since discoveries of gold were made there in 2012 and 2013.

Miners have rushed in from around Chad and abroad, leading to friction over access to lucrative sites.

The CTDDH accuses the government of orchestrating a takeover of the area by using Arab fighters.

The government has given authorisation to several mining companies to exploit the deposits.

In August, it carried out a military operation in the far north aimed at “clearing out” illegal miners and stopping cross-border incursions from Chadian rebels holed up in Libya.

AFP