UN told: Mali radicals may head for Libya
UN told: Mali radicals may head for Libya
UN officials including peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous have said that the Islamist occupation of northern Mali was partly triggered by the downfall of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, as well-trained militiamen fled into Mali with looted heavy weapons, driving back the Malian army.
UN special representative for Libya Tarek Mitri told the Security Council that “the opposition of armed radical groups to the military intervention in Mali may exacerbate the situation (in Libya) given ideological and/or ethnic affiliations as well as porous borders in Libya.”
French and African land forces are battling Al-Qaeda-linked Islamists in northern Mali, while a renewed bout of unrest has gripped Egypt following the two-year anniversary of the revolution that toppled strongman Hosni Mubarak.
In addition, a Jan. 16 terror attack on Algeria’s Ain Amenas natural gas plant in the Sahara ignited a four-day siege with Algerian forces in which at least 37 hostages and 29 militants were killed. An Al-Qaeda-affiliated group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Mitri said that he was also concerned about the continued detention of several thousand people as result of the Libyan conflict.
He told reporters that some 7,000 detainees are held in Libya, most of them in cells run by the anti-Qaddafi revolutionary brigades.
“There have been cases of torture in the past,” but conditions are improving as more prisoners are transferred to state-controlled prisons. “There are still a few cases of torture, but only a few,” Mitri added.
Although about 20,000 revolutionary brigade members have joined the new Libyan army or police forces, about 200,000 armed men “are not ready to get absorbed” into the new Libyan institutions, adding to the instability, Mitri told reporters.
Civilians flee fighting in Syrian southwest
- Opposition fighters have vowed not surrender “an inch” of the territory to Assad, one of their commanders said earlier this week
- Fighting in the southwest has been contained since last year by a “de-escalation” deal agreed by the US and Russia, Bashar Assad’s most powerful ally
MOSCOW, BEIRUT: Thousands of people have fled opposition-held areas of southwestern Syria being targeted by regime bombardment, a war monitor said on Thursday, as Damascus steps up attacks on an area near the border with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said some 12,500 people had fled opposition-held areas of northeastern Daraa province in the past 48 hours.
The war has pivoted toward the southwest since the Syrian regime and its allies crushed the last remaining pockets of opposition-held territory near Damascus and the city of Homs.
Fighting in the southwest has been contained since last year by a “de-escalation” deal agreed by the US and Russia, Bashar Assad’s most powerful ally.
A major Syrian regime offensive in the area would risk an escalation of the seven-year-old war. The area is of strategic importance to Israel, which is deeply alarmed by Iranian influence in Syria.
Washington has warned it will take “firm and appropriate measures” in response to violations of the “de-escalation” deal.
Assad said earlier this month the regime, at Russia’s suggestion, was seeking to strike a deal in the southwest similar to agreements that have restored its control of other areas through withdrawals of opposition forces.
But he also said there had been no results yet and blamed “Israeli and American interference.” He said the territory would be recovered by force if necessary. Opposition fighters have vowed not surrender “an inch” of the territory to Assad, one of their commanders said earlier this week.
Russia ‘skeptical’ over UN report
Meanwhile, the Russian foreign minister on Thursday said he was “skeptical” about a UN report accusing the Syrian regime of committing crimes against humanity during the siege of Eastern Ghouta. The report published on Wednesday said forces loyal to the Syrian regime had deliberately starved civilians during the siege between February and April, among other crimes.
“We are in principle very skeptical toward the methods of this sort of work, whether it comes to war crimes or the use of chemical weapons,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a press conference in Moscow with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. When
questioned by journalists, Lavrov confirmed he had not seen the
He said it was “based on data obtained through social networks, video that was filmed by witnesses,” rather than being put together on the ground.
The five-year siege, on the outskirts of the capital, ended in April when Damascus regained control of the rebel enclave.
As pro-government forces dramatically escalated their campaign to recapture the besieged enclave, they used tactics that were “largely unlawful in nature,” the UN-commissioned report said.
The tactics, it said, “aimed at punishing the inhabitants of eastern Ghouta and forcing the population, collectively, to surrender or starve.”
Russia has been involved in Syria’s civil war since September 2015. Its military support of the regime changed the course of the war, allowing government troops to retake more than half the country from rebels and the Daesh group.
More than 350,000 people have been killed in Syria’s war since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.