Libyans collect 105 bodies after migrant boat sinks

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Updated 29 August 2015
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Libyans collect 105 bodies after migrant boat sinks

ZUWARA, Libya: Libya recovered 105 bodies after a boat packed with migrants sank in the Mediterranean Sea and said almost 100 more people were missing and feared dead.
The vessel sank on Thursday after leaving Zuwara, a major launchpad for smugglers shipping migrants to Italy by exploiting a security vacuum in Libya where rival governments are fighting for control four years after the ousting of Muammar Qaddafi.
Lacking navy ships, Libyan officials were searching for survivors with fishing boats and inflatables provided by locals. About 198 people had been rescued by noon, officials said.
“The boat was in a bad condition and people died with us,” said Ayman Talaal, a Syrian survivor, standing next to his daughter. “We have been forced into this route. It’s now called the grave of the Mediterranean Sea.”
Local officials and residents were putting bodies into red bags on a beach littered with shoes, trousers and other personal items from drowned migrants. A blue inflatable brought in more bodies.
“We, the Red Crescent, work with nothing. Some fishermen help us with a boat,” said Ibrahim Al-Attoushi, an official at the Red Crescent in Zuwara. “We only have one ambulance car.”
Lawless Libya has turned into a major transit route for migrants fleeing conflict and poverty to make it to Europe. Cross-border smuggler networks exploit the country’s chaos to bring Syrians into Libya via Egypt or nationals of sub-Saharan countries via Niger, Sudan and Chad.
The migrants pay thousands of dollars for the land and sea passage with smugglers often beating and torturing them to press for more money for the final leg of the trip by sea in unseaworthy vessels, rights groups say.

No cooperation
Libyan officials brought 147 survivors to a detention facility for illegal migrants in Sabratha, west of Tripoli, a Libyan security official said, asking not to be named.
“We have not received a request for help,” said a spokesman for the Italian coast guard, which has been coordinating rescue operations with the European Union off the Libyan coast.
About 100 angry Zuwara residents took to the town’s main square on Thursday when news of the sinking spread, demanding that authorities stop human traffickers, witnesses said.
Libya has asked the European Union for help to train and equip its navy which was largely destroyed during the uprising in 2011 that toppled Qaddafi.
But all training and cooperation was frozen in 2014 as the European Union boycotted a self-declared government controlling western Libya, which seized the capital Tripoli a year ago by expelling the official premier to the east.
Western and most Arab powers only deal with the eastern-based government, which has no control of western Libya from were boats are launched due to its proximity to the Italian island of Lampedusa.
The United Nations has been hosting peace talks between the two administrations to form a unity government but a Tripoli based rival parliament, riddled with divisions, refused to sign a preliminary agreement last month.
The number of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe has passed 300,000 this year, up from 219,000 in the whole of 2014, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said on Friday.
More than 2,500 people have died making the crossing this year, not including those feared drowned off Libya in the last 24 hours, it said. That compares with 3,500 who died or went missing in the Mediterranean in 2014.
Libya has been struggling to cope with the influx of migrants, putting them in overcrowded makeshift detention facilities such as schools or military barracks where they live in poor conditions lacking medical care.

(Reporting by Hani Amara and Ahmed Elumami)


Kosovan women returned from Syria face house arrest

Updated 24 April 2019
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Kosovan women returned from Syria face house arrest

  • Four alleged militants, all men, were arrested the moment they were brought to the country
  • The state prosecution said all 32 repatriated women are under investigation

PRISTINA: Kosovo prosecutors have requested the house arrest of 16 women repatriated from Syria, saying they are suspected of joining or taking part as foreign fighters there.

The women appeared on Wednesday in court in Pristina, a day after 10 other women were put under house arrest. None have been charged with a crime.

Four alleged militants, all men, were arrested the moment they were brought to the country.

The women and children were sent to the Foreign Detention Centre in the outskirts of Pristina but were freed to go home after 72 hours.

Ten women were seen entering Pristina Basic Court in a police escort on Tuesday. The court said in a statement later that they had been placed under house arrest on charges of joining foreign armed groups and terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq from 2014 to 2019.

The state prosecution said all 32 repatriated women are under investigation and more of them are expected to appear in front of judges on Wednesday. The prosecution has yet to file charges.

After the collapse of Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq, countries around the world are wrestling with how to handle militants and their families seeking to return to their home countries.

Kosovo's population is nominally 90 percent Muslim, but the country is largely secular in outlook. More than 300 of its citizens travelled to Syria since 2012 and 70 men who fought alongside militant groups were killed.

Police said 30 Kosovan fighters, 49 women and eight children remain in the conflict zones. The government said it plans to bring back those who are still there.

International and local security agencies have previously warned of the risk posed by returning fighters. In 2015, Kosovo adopted a law making fighting in foreign conflicts punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

On Saturday, 110 Kosovar citizens — the four alleged foreign fighters, 32 women and 74 children — were returned to Kosovo with assistance from the United States, the first such move for a European country.

Authorities say there are still 87 Kosovar citizens in Syria.