Indonesian crew returns home after Benghazi abduction

Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi (in white) had a chat with families of six Indonesian sailors released from six-month captivity by militants in Benghazi.
Updated 06 April 2018
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Indonesian crew returns home after Benghazi abduction

  • Crew members reunite with their families in Jakarta after being held hostage by militants in Libya for six months.
  • In December, the Indonesian Embassy in Tripoli finally secured direct access to the militia in Benghazi
JAKARTA: Embun Diarsih had been used to being in touch once a week with her husband Ronny William, a sailor for 35 years.
But in September 2017, after William did not contact her for two weeks, her worries were confirmed when one of his fellow sailors told her that the Malta-flagged fishing vessel on which William was working had been hijacked near Benghazi, Libya.
“I hadn’t heard from my husband for two weeks, then I had a call from his friend, an Indonesian sailor who was also working on a fishing vessel in Europe, he told me that the boat in which my husband was working on had been hijacked near Benghazi,” Embun told Arab News at the foreign ministry on Monday where Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi officially handed over William and five other crew members to their families.
Diarsih told Arab News that she immediately told Indonesian authorities about the abduction.
William told Arab News that he and his fellow crew members sailed from Malta to look for fishing grounds.
The Salvatur VI vessel was seized by a Benghazi-based militia on Sept. 23 last year about 23 miles off the Libyan coast.
The militiamen seized everything, including communication devices and the crew’s personal belongings.
“Since the vessel didn’t have any means of communication, the Indonesian government only found out about the hijacking on Sept. 28 from the vessel’s owner, who contacted the Indonesian Embassy in Rome,” said the Foreign Ministry’s director for the protection of Indonesians abroad, Lalu Muhammad Iqbal.
Indonesian authorities, including officials from the state intelligence agency BIN, tried to contact the militia to gain access to the crew.
In December, the Indonesian Embassy in Tripoli finally secured direct access to the militia in Benghazi, which gave approval for communication with the crew. That “enabled us to get proof of life and to monitor their condition,” Iqbal said.
Diarsih said that was when she was finally able to talk to her husband again, after waiting for three months.
“I just waited and waited. I understand it’s a conflict area and the process was difficult,” she added.
Following months of intensive communication with various parties in Benghazi, Indonesian officials reached an understanding with them on how to extract the hostages.
“On March 27… the six crew were handed over to us at the port of Benghazi,” Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said, adding that the whole process was delicate given the complex political situation in Libya.
William said they survived on the run-down boat by fishing, and they asked one of the militiamen assigned to guard them to sell some of the fish they caught in the market, and to use the money to buy rice and other provisions.
“Until December, we witnessed clashes between the militia… and Daesh militants. A bomb fell not far from the boat where we were held captive,” he added.
“The port and the city are in ruins. It’s like a dead town. There were decayed boats and damaged buildings everywhere.”
Marsudi said the Foreign Ministry is continuing to communicate with the boat’s owner in Malta, adding: “We will make sure that the crewmen’s rights are fulfilled.”


 


Iraq lifts nearly 30 km of blast walls from Baghdad: official

Updated 17 June 2019
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Iraq lifts nearly 30 km of blast walls from Baghdad: official

BAGHDAD: Iraqi authorities have removed nearly 30 kilometers of concrete blast walls across Baghdad in the last six months, mostly around the capital’s high-security Green Zone, a senior official told AFP.
Since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, T-walls — thick barriers about six meters tall and one meter wide — have surrounded potential targets of car bombs or other attacks.
When premier Adel Abdel Mahdi came to power last year, he promised to remove barriers, checkpoints and other security measures to make Baghdad easier to navigate.
“Over the last six months, we removed 18,000 T-walls in Baghdad, including 14,000 in the Green Zone alone,” said Staff Lt. Gen. Mohammed Al-Bayati, the PM’s top military adviser.
Hundreds of the security checkpoints that contributed to Baghdad’s notorious traffic jams have also been removed.
And according to the Baghdad municipality, 600 streets that had been closed off to public access have been opened in the last six months.
Among them are key routes crossing through Baghdad’s Green Zone, the enclave where government buildings, UN agencies and embassies including the US and UK missions are based.
It was long inaccessible to most Iraqis until an order from Abdel Mahdi last year, and families can now be seen picking their way across its manicured parks for sunset pictures.
Iraq is living a rare period of calm after consecutive decades of violence, which for Baghdad peaked during the sectarian battles from 2006 to 2008.
It was followed, in 2014, by Daesh’s sweep across a third of the country and a three-year battle to oust the militants from their urban strongholds.
The group still wages hit-and-run attacks against Iraqi security forces and government targets, and Baghdad’s authorities are on high alert.
Thousands of the removed T-walls have been placed on Baghdad’s outskirts to prevent infiltration by Daesh sleeper cells, according to Bayati.