Libyan coast guard picks up almost 1,000 migrants in one day

Migrants are seen in a rubber dinghy as they are rescued by Libyan coast guards in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya, January 15, 2018. (File Photo: Hani Amara/Reuters)
Updated 25 June 2018
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Libyan coast guard picks up almost 1,000 migrants in one day

  • The western coast of Libya is the main departure point for thousands of migrants fleeing wars and poverty and trying to reach Europe
  • A witness watching the arrival of another coast guard ship at Tripoli’s Abu Sittah naval base said a third group included 490 migrants picked up off Qarabulli town

TRIPOLI: Libyan coast guards picked up 948 African migrants on inflatable boats in several operations and also recovered 10 bodies on Sunday, officials and a witness at a naval base said.
The operations brings the number, since last week, of mainly African migrants trying to head to Italy but brought back to Libya to almost 2,000.
The western coast of Libya is the main departure point for thousands of migrants fleeing wars and poverty and trying to reach Europe.
The number of crossings has dropped sharply since July 2017 when an armed group expelled human traffickers from a smuggling hub after an Italy-backed deal.
“The coast guards picked up illegal migrants in different groups. The first group is 97 on one inflatable boat and the second group is 361 migrants on two inflatable boats,” Naval forces spokesman Ayoub Qassem told Reuters.
“The second group was taken to Khums town,” Qassem said, adding that the two groups included 110 women and 70 children.
A witness watching the arrival of another coast guard ship at Tripoli’s Abu Sittah naval base said a third group included 490 migrants picked up off Qarabulli town. Among them were 75 women and 20 children.
Libya plunged into chaos following the NATO-backed uprising that toppled Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, with many armed groups and two administrations vying for power.
Most migrants try to head across the Mediterranean toward Italy, hoping they will be picked up by ships run by aid groups and taken there, although many drown before they are rescued.
Earlier this month, Italy’s interior minister Matteo Salvini vowed to no longer let charity ships offload rescued migrants in Italy, leaving one ship stranded at sea for several days with more than 600 migrants until Spain offered them safe harbor.
Italy criticized Malta on Sunday over its refusal to take in a Dutch-flagged aid vessel with more than 230 migrants on board.


Truckloads of civilians leave Daesh enclave in Syria

Updated 22 February 2019
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Truckloads of civilians leave Daesh enclave in Syria

  • The village is all that remains for Daesh in the Euphrates valley region that became its final populated stronghold in Iraq and Syria
  • The SDF has steadily driven the militants down the Euphrates after capturing their Syrian capital

NEAR BAGHOU: Trucks loaded with civilians left the last Daesh enclave in eastern Syria on Friday, as US-backed forces waited to inflict final defeat on the surrounded militants.
Reporters near the front line at Baghouz saw dozens of trucks driving out with civilians inside them, but it was not clear if more remained in the tiny pocket.
The village is all that remains for Daesh in the Euphrates valley region that became its final populated stronghold in Iraq and Syria after it lost the major cities of Mosul and Raqqa in 2017.
The SDF has steadily driven the militants down the Euphrates after capturing their Syrian capital, Raqqa, in 2017, but does not want to mount a final attack until all civilians are out.
The US-led coalition which supports the SDF has said Islamic State’s “most hardened fighters” remain holed up in Baghouz, close to the Iraqi frontier.
Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF’s media office, earlier told Reuters that more than 3,000 civilians were estimated to still be inside Baghouz and there would be an attempt to evacuate them on Friday.
“If we succeed in evacuating all the civilians, at any moment we will take the decision to storm Baghouz or force the terrorists to surrender,” he said.
Though the fall of Baghouz marks a milestone in the campaign against Islamic State and the wider conflict in Syria, the militant group is still seen as a major security threat.
It has steadily turned to guerrilla warfare and still holds territory in a remote, sparsely populated area west of the Euphrates River — a part of Syria otherwise controlled by the Syrian government and its Russian and Iranian allies.
The United States will leave “a small peacekeeping group” of 200 American troops in Syria for a period of time after a US pullout, the White House said on Thursday, as President Donald Trump pulled back from a complete withdrawal.
Trump in December ordered a withdrawal of the 2,000 troops, saying they had defeated Daesh militants in Syria.

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