Al-Qaeda leader killed in operation in southern Libya

An Al-Qaeda leader named Abu Talha has been killed in an operation in Sabha, southern Libya, the Libyan army said Friday. (File/AFP)
Updated 18 January 2019
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Al-Qaeda leader killed in operation in southern Libya

LONDON: An Al-Qaeda leader known as “Abu Talha Al-Libi” has been killed in an operation near Sabha, southern Libya, the Libyan National Army said Friday. 

“Abu Talha Al-Libi” was killed on Friday morning after a raid on a house he was sharing with other armed men in an area called Al-Qarda Al-Shati, close to Sabha in southern Libya, Al Arabiya reported. 

 Two other militants, among them one Egyptian, were also killed in the operation in southwestern Libya, LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari said.

Abu Talha was arrested in 1996 by the Libyan security services for an attempt to assassinate Muammar Qaddafi.

He left for Syria in 2013 where he was put in charge of a group of foreign extremist fighters who opposed the Assad regime. Abu Talha helped other extremists set up the Al-Nusra Front (now known as Jabhat Fatah Al-Sham), and returned to Libya in 2014, Al Arabiya reported.

Abu Talha was also closely associated with Al-Qaeda leaders in northern Africa. 

Earlier on Wednesday, the forces of Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar announced a military operation to "purge" extremists and criminal gangs from the south of the conflict-hit nation.
A spokesman for the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA) said its fighters had advanced in "several regions in the south" from an airbase some 650 kilometres (400 miles) from the capital Tripoli.
The aim is to "assure security for inhabitants in the south-west from terrorists, be they the Islamic State group or Al-Qaeda, as well as criminal gangs," spokesman Ahmed Al-Mesmari said.
The LNA said it was also looking to secure petroleum facilities and tackle flows of clandestine migrants heading northwards to the Mediterranean coast.
It called on armed groups in the target area, mainly made up of tribal fighters, to withdraw from military and civilian installations.
Military sources told AFP that numerous LNA units had taken up positions in recent days around the region's main city of Sabha.
Libya has been torn between rival administrations and a myriad of militias since the NATO-backed overthrow and killing of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.
Haftar supports an administration in the east of the country that is opposed to the internationally backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli.
The chaos has seen extremists and people traffickers gain a foothold in the south of the country.
Daesh has carried out repeated attacks across the country, targeting both Haftar's forces and the rival Tripoli-based authorities.


For Yazidi survivors of Daesh killings, the nightmares go on

Updated 13 min 48 sec ago
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For Yazidi survivors of Daesh killings, the nightmares go on

  • More than 3,000 other members of their minority sect were killed in 2014 in an onslaught that the United Nations described as genocidal
  • More than four years later, some 2,500 families still live in the tents that are scattered along the hills that weave their way toward the summit

SINJAR, Iraq: Ever since Daesh visited death and destruction on their villages in northern Iraq nearly five years ago, Yazidis Daoud Ibrahim and Kocher Hassan have had trouble sleeping.
For Hassan, 39, who was captured, it is her three missing children, and three years of imprisonment at the hands of the extremist group.
For Ibrahim, 42, who escaped, it is the mass grave that he returned to find on his ravaged land.
“They burnt one house down, blew up the other, they torched the olive trees two three times...There is nothing left,” the father of eight told Reuters.
More than 3,000 other members of their minority sect were killed in 2014 in an onslaught that the United Nations described as genocidal.
Ibrahim and Hassan lived to tell of their suffering, but like other survivors, they have not moved on.
She will never set foot in her village of Rambousi again. “My sons built that house. I can’t go back without them...Their school books are still there, their clothes,” she said.
’They want to be buried’
As US President Donald Trump prepares to announce the demise of the extremist group in Syria and Iraq, UN data suggests many of those it displaced in the latter country have, like Hassan, not returned home.
Meanwhile, Ibrahim and his family live in a barn next to the pile of rubble that was once their home. He grows wheat because the olive trees will need years to grow again. No one is helping him rebuild, so he is doing it himself, brick by brick.
“Life is bad. There is no aid,” he said sitting on the edge of the collapsed roof which he frequently rummages under to find lost belongings. On this day, it was scarves, baby clothes and a photo album.
“Every day that I see this mass grave I get ten more grey hairs,” he said.
The grave, discovered in 2015 just outside nearby Sinjar city, contains the remains of more than 70 elderly women from the village of Kocho, residents say.
“I hear the cries of their spirits at the end of the night. They want to be buried, but the government won’t remove their remains.” They and their kin also want justice, Ibrahim adds.
When the militants came, thousands of Yazidis fled on foot toward Sinjar mountain. More than four years later, some 2,500 families — including Hassan and five of her daughters — still live in the tents that are scattered along the hills that weave their way toward the summit.
The grass is green on the meadows where children run after sheep and the women pick wild herbs.
But the peaceful setting masks deep-seated fears about the past and the future.
Grateful for the sun
Until a year and a half ago, Hassan and five of her children were kept in an underground prison in Raqqa with little food and in constant fear of torture.
She doesn’t know why Islamic State freed her and the girls, then aged one to six, and hasn’t learnt the fate of the three remaining children: two boys Fares and Firas, who would be 23 and 19 now, and Aveen, a girl who would be 13.
There is no electricity or running water in the camp where they live today. She doesn’t remember when her children last ate fruit. “Life here is very difficult but I thank God that we are able to see the sun,” she said.
During the day, her children go to school and are happy, but at night “they are afraid of their own shadow,” and she herself has nightmares.
“Last night, I dreamt they were slaughtering my child,” she said.
Mahmoud Khalaf, her husband, says Islamic State not only destroyed their livelihoods. The group broke the trust between Yazidis and the communities of different faiths and ethnicities they had long lived alongside.
“There is no protection. Those who killed us and held us captive and tormented us have returned to their villages,” Khalaf, 40, said referring to the neighboring Sunni Arab villages who the Yazidis say conspired with the militants.
“We have no choice but to stay here...They are stronger than us.”