Egypt launches 2nd day of Libyan air strikes after attack on Christians

In this still image taken from video provided by the Egyptian military, an Egyptian fighter jet takes off from an undisclosed location in Egypt to strike militant hideouts in the Libyan city of Darna, on Friday. (AP)
Updated 28 May 2017
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Egypt launches 2nd day of Libyan air strikes after attack on Christians

CAIRO/BENGHAZI: Egypt launched a fresh round of air strikes over Libya on Saturday, Egyptian military sources and an eyewitness told Reuters, targeting militant camps it said were responsible for a shooting spree that killed dozens of Egyptian Christians.
On Friday, Egyptian fighter jets struck eastern Libya just hours after a shooting that killed 29 and wounded 24 in the southern Egyptian province of Minya when masked militants boarded vehicles en route to a monastery and opened fire at close range.
Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest directed at Egypt’s increasingly embattled Christian minority following two church bombings last month that killed more than 45, also claimed by the group.
President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said on Friday he had ordered air raids on militant camps in Libya, where he said the Minya gunmen had trained, though he did not name a specific group responsible.
Sissi, who has presented himself as a bulwark against militants in the region, said Egypt would not hesitate to carry out additional strikes inside and outside the country to quash future threats.
Two military sources told Reuters that three additional air raids on Saturday morning struck the area of Derna, a city where east Libyan forces led by Khalifa Haftar, a close ally of Egypt, have been trying to gain control from militants and other opponents.
A source in Haftar’s Libyan National Army told Reuters that they had coordinated with Egyptian counterparts to strike ammunition stores belonging to the Derna Mujahideen Shoura Council, an Islamist umbrella group that opposes Daesh.
A resident in Derna told Reuters that warplanes were seen striking the Dahr Al-Hamar area in the southern part of Derna on Saturday. Egypt’s military spokesman declined to comment on the second round of strikes.
Egypt’s foreign ministry said it had delivered a letter on Saturday to the United Nations Security Council informing it that the strikes were conducted as an act of legitimate self-defense, according to a ministry statement.
Derna has a history of militancy and is where Daesh set up its first presence in Libya in 2014. However, the jihadist group was later chased from the city by local fighters and rival groups.
The east Libyan air force said Friday the strikes were targeting Al-Qaeda linked forces and did not mention Daesh.
Egypt’s military said in a statement it had “conducted several intensive day and night-time strikes” that successfully destroyed many targets, including training camps responsible for the Minya attack.
A video uploaded to the military’s Facebook page depicted fighter jets being armed with missiles and taking off as well as aerial footage of air strikes.


In Mosul, young students help bring city back to life

Raghad Hammadi, who is a member of a group of students campaigning to help rebuild the Central Library of Mosul University, speaks with Reuters, in Mosul, Iraq on May 14, 2018. (REUTERS/Khalid Al-Mousily)
Updated 28 May 2018
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In Mosul, young students help bring city back to life

  • A group of students who launched a campaign to help rebuild the Central Library of Mosul University found buried under layers of ash some 30,000 books almost intact.
  • Among the books salvaged were some handwritten by Mosul scholars. They included editions written in Moslawi, the distinct dialect of the region once known as a center for scholarly Islam and the pride of many for its ancient mosques, churches and Old City

MOSUL, Iraq: A group of Iraqi university students have found a cause in the ruins of Mosul.

They are salvaging what is left of its rich heritage, clearing rubble and distributing aid in a city crying out for help after the war against Daesh.

The project began when Raghad Hammoudi and a group of students decided to launch a campaign to help rebuild the Central Library of Mosul University, burned and bombed in the war. Its vast contents had been all but lost.

But they found buried under layers of ash some 30,000 books almost intact. Over 40 hot days, with the war still raging on the other side, the students moved the books one by one using holes made by rockets to carry them to safety.

“An entire city with a glorious past and ancient history lost its heritage and culture: The tomb of the Prophet Jonah, the minaret of Al-Hadba which is older than Iraq itself. It is great that we were able to save a part of this heritage,” said Hammoudi, 25, a nursing student. 

Both the leaning minaret of Al-Hadba , part of the 12th century Grand Al-Nuri Mosque, where in 2014 Daesh’s Abu Bakr al Baghdadi declared a caliphate, and the ancient tomb of what is believed to be the Prophet Jonah were destroyed in the military campaign to retake the city.

Hammoudi says among the books salvaged were some handwritten by Mosul scholars. They included editions written in Moslawi, the distinct dialect of the region once known as a center for scholarly Islam and the pride of many for its ancient mosques, churches and Old City architecture.

 

Revolution within

Elsewhere, volunteers cleared rubble and garbage, opened roads, drilled water wells and distributed aid.

“The situation in Mosul is so much better now and this is because of the revolution that happened within Mosul, within its young people,” she said.

After living under Daesh’s strict rule and then the war to retake the city, young women feel as though they have been liberated.

The team that set out to rescue the books was mixed, a rarity in Mosul’s society, where mingling between sexes outside the family or university was limited even before Daesh.

“An unbelievable barrier has been broken, it might be a trivial thing for the rest of the world but for Mosul it is huge,” she said.

Months after Iraq announced full control of the city, life is back in many parts. But much of the Old City, where the last and the bloodiest battles were waged, is still in complete ruin.

Diyaa Al-Taher, a resident who is helping rehabilitate homes, says most people, despite being impoverished, have returned to neighborhoods where the rubble has been cleared. However, there are entire areas that are completely deserted. Corpses fester under debris.

“Poverty can do more harm than Daesh. If the city remains like this and the poor can’t find anything to eat, they will do anything,” said Taher, 30.

Taher says his target is to rehabilitate 1,000 homes and has so far finished rehabilitating 75, relying solely on donations from locals.

Taher is regularly stopped by locals asking for help. He points to a collapsed home where an entire family was killed.

“Their belongings were taken to be sold for charity,” he said, skipping over the stream of sewage that split the road.

 

Miracle escape

Marwa Al-Juburi,25, a divorcee, was one of the first to volunteer as soon as she and her family escaped the fighting.

“It was a miracle that we even made it. From then on I refused to accept to stay at home anymore. I refused to be silenced and I haven’t since,” she said.

She says she had to overcome stigma both as a woman and a divorcee to carry out the work.

She runs activities for children and helps coordinate access to medical care and equipment for families. Her team organized the opening of a park previously used as a military training ground for the fighters who ruled the city for three years.

Al Juburi, who is still haunted by images of the night of their escape, says even if Mosul is rebuilt, people need help to get over the mental toll.

“In the end, the city will be rebuilt, even if it takes 1,000 years. But if the mind is destroyed, then the city will be lost with no hope of resurrection.”