East African migrants escape from captors in Libyan smuggling hub

Photo showing a group of migrants transferred, off Libya coast on May 12, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 25 May 2018
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East African migrants escape from captors in Libyan smuggling hub

  • About 140 East African migrants escaped from smugglers holding them captive near the Libyan town of Bani Walid.
  • The UN agencies said hundreds more were reportedly still being held by smugglers in the area.

TRIPOLI, May 25 : About 140 East African migrants escaped from smugglers holding them captive near the Libyan town of Bani Walid earlier this week, according to a local source and a UN report.
The migrants, numbering about 140 and of Eritrean, Ethiopian and Somali nationality, were being held by “notorious trafficker Mousa Diab,” according to a statement by the UN migration and refugee agencies. Most sought refuge in a local mosque but about two dozen were brought to Bani Walid’s hospital with severe injuries, either from torture during captivity or efforts by smugglers to recapture them, the agencies said.
A Libyan source in Bani Walid said the smugglers opened fire on the migrants to try to prevent their escape. About 10 of them were injured, the source said, asking not to be named for fear of retribution.
The UN agencies said hundreds more were reportedly still being held by smugglers in the area.
Bani Walid, about 145 km (90 miles) south of Tripoli, has become a major hub for the smuggling and trafficking of migrants who arrive from sub-Saharan African countries trying to reach Libya’s Mediterranean coast.
From there, many seek to travel on toward Italy by boat, though crossings have been sharply reduced since last July when a major smuggling group in the Libyan coastal city of Sabratha struck a deal to halt departures under Italian pressure and was then forced out in clashes.
Libya’s EU-backed coast guard has also returned more migrants to Libya after intercepting them at sea.
Migrant community representatives have said smugglers are now operating further inland, especially around Bani Walid, and that migrants who are frequently tortured or raped in order to extort money from them or their families are being held for longer. (Reporting by Ahmed Elumami and Aidan Lewis Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)


Libya’s Haftar says to fight until Tripoli ‘militias’ defeated

Updated 30 min 47 sec ago
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Libya’s Haftar says to fight until Tripoli ‘militias’ defeated

  • Haftar had justified the offensive last month by saying he was fighting against “private militias and extremist groups”
  • 100,000 people are feared trapped by the clashes raging on the outskirts of Tripoli

PARIS: Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar, who is leading a military offensive against the UN-recognized government in Tripoli, said in an interview published Sunday he will continue fighting until militias in the city laid down their arms.
Haftar had justified the offensive last month by saying he was fighting against “private militias and extremist groups” who he said were gaining influence in the capital under Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj.
“Of course a political solution is the objective,” Haftar told the Journal de Dimanche newspaper in France. “But to return to politics, we need to finish with the militias.
“The problem in Tripoli is a security one.”
He offered an amnesty to fighters in Tripoli who laid down their arms, saying they would be allowed to “return home safe and sound.”
He also took aim at UN mediator Ghassan Salame, who has warned the country is “committing suicide” due to a conflict that 6-10 foreign states are involved in.
“Salame is making irresponsible statements,” Haftar said. “He wasn’t like that before, he has changed. From an impartial and honest mediator, he has become a biased one.”
Salame has warned that Haftar’s offensive is “just the start of a long and bloody war.”
More than 75,000 people have been driven from their homes in the latest fighting and 510 have been killed, according to the World Health Organization.
More than 2,400 have also been wounded, while 100,000 people are feared trapped by the clashes raging on the outskirts of Tripoli.