Fighting shakes Tripoli as thousands flee homes

A military vehicle of eastern Libyan forces is seen in Ain Zara, south of Tripoli, Libya April 11, 2019. Picture taken April 11, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 12 April 2019
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Fighting shakes Tripoli as thousands flee homes

  • After a week of fighting, 75 people have been killed and 323 wounded, including seven civilians killed and 10 wounded
  • So far 6,000 have fled the fighting but WHO has contingency plans in case “thousands if not hundreds of thousands” are displaced

TRIPOLI: Gunfire and blasts echoed through Libya's capital on Friday as eastern forces fought troops of the internationally recognised government in southern Tripoli suburbs, forcing thousands of civilians to flee their homes.
The Libyan National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Haftar advanced on the coastal city a week ago in the latest conflict of a cycle of anarchy since the 2011 overthrow of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
But armed groups loyal to Prime Minister Fayez Al-Serraj have so far kept them at bay, with fierce fighting round a disused former airport about 11 km (7 miles) from the centre.
A week of battles has killed 75 people - mainly fighters but also 17 civilians - and wounded another 323, according to latest UN tallies. Some 9,500 people have also been forced out of their homes.

About 1,500 refugees and migrants are trapped in detention centres by the Libyan conflict and the risks to their lives are growing by the hour, the head of the UN refugee agency said on Friday.
"These are people in the most vulnerable and dangerous of circumstances," UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement, calling for them to be evacuated.
"They must be urgently brought to safety. Simply put, this is a matter of life or death." 


A war plane belonging to the eastern Libyan forces on Friday attacked a military camp of a force allied to the internationally recognized government near the western town of Zuwara, an eastern military source and residents said.
The air strike is the closest yet to an oil and gas facility since eastern forces started an offensive on the capital Tripoli a week ago.
Zuwara is west of the oil and gas port of Mellitah, co-operated by Italy's ENI and Libyan state oil firm NOC.
As the sound of fighting echoed round their city, residents sought to maintain some normality on Friday.
Some families were having breakfast in cafes next to the fish market where people were stocking up for the weekend.
"We have got used to wars. I fear only in God," said Yamim Ahmed, 20, who works in a fast food restaurant.
As well as the humanitarian cost, the conflict threatens to disrupt oil supplies, increase migration across the Mediterranean to Europe, scupper a UN peace plan, and allow militants to exploit the chaos.
Haftar, 75, a former general in Gaddafi's army who later joined the revolt against him, moved his troops out of their eastern stronghold to take the oil-rich, desert south earlier this year, before sweeping up to Tripoli at the start of April.
But Serraj's government has managed to halt the advance, helped by armed groups with machine-guns on pickups and steel containers across the road into Tripoli.
The United Nations, which had hoped to organise a national conference this month bringing the rival eastern and western administrations together to organise an election, has called for a ceasefire. The United States, G7 bloc and European Union have also urged the LNA to halt its offensive.
"We had hoped there would be a national conference, not fighting," said Sulaiman, a businessman enjoying coffee with friends. "Unfortunately, after 40 years of dictatorship we don’t have the right political way to express ourselves, we don’t want military rule or militia rule."
The UN health agency said it fears outbreaks of tuberculosis, measles and diarrhoea due to poor sanitation, especially among those displaced.
"We are keeping a very strong eye on outbreaks - because of displacement into places, and the water sanitation system is compromised. So there is a huge likelihood of outbreaks," World Health Organisation (WHO) representative Dr Syed Jaffar Hussain told a Geneva news briefing from Tripoli.

After a week of fighting, 75 people have been killed and 323 wounded, including seven civilians killed and 10 wounded, Dr. Syed Jaffar Hussain said. 
Five ambulances have also been hit trying to extract wounded people from the conflict zone, he added.
The WHO said it had only two weeks of medical supplies available for Tripoli's hospitals.
Haftar casts himself as a bulwark against militants who wants to restore order to Libya.
He has so far resisted UN pressure to accept a power-sharing settlement, using his leverage as an ally of the West in attempts to stem extremists in North Africa.
Thousands of migrants, mainly Syrians and other Africans, are trapped in squalid detention centres in Tripoli as the fighting approaches.
Libya is a major transit point for migrants pouring into Europe in recent years, mostly trafficked by smuggling gangs.
"Refugees and migrants trapped in detention centres in #Libya are completely dependent on authorities and the humanitarian actors for basic services," tweeted aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders).
"There are reports that some in detention centres have not eaten in days ... #Libya is not a place of safety. The #EU cannot continue to turn its back on vulnerable individuals fleeing the country."

 


Wit and grit: Algeria's sizeable youth lead fight for change

Updated 23 April 2019
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Wit and grit: Algeria's sizeable youth lead fight for change

  • More than half of Algeria’s population are under 30
  • Young protesters say they are able to receive diplomas but unable to find jobs

ALGIERS: They’re on the peaceful front line of the protest movement that toppled Algeria’s longtime ruler, facing down water cannons with attitude, memes — and fearless calls for shampoo.
Oil-rich Algeria is one of the most youthful countries in the world with two-thirds of the population under 30.
They are politically engaged, educated, on social media and funny. And they initiated nationwide protests in mid-February that toppled the only leader they’ve ever known — former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in power since 1999.
“Only Chanel does No. 5,” read the placard of a young Algerian protesting against Bouteflika’s failed bid for a fifth term. “Love the Way You Lie,” read another, referencing Rihanna’s hit song. Yet another, featuring the “Ghostbusters” movie poster, was a humorous rebuke to the infirm 82-year-old who’s rarely been seen since a 2013 stroke. And when police unfurl the water cannons, they start to sing in rhyming Arabic: “Bring me some shampoo and I’ll feel good!“
A quarter of these under-30s are out of work, creating a deep well of frustration against the North African country’s veteran rulers and the policies that have left them behind.
“I came to protest against this power structure because we, the young people, we are the main victims,” said Belkacem Canna, who just turned 30, and works for the local water company on what he described as a miserable salary. “We get diplomas but can’t get jobs.”
For two decades, Algeria has been ruled by Bouteflika and other survivors of the 1954-1962 War of Independence against colonial power France.
“Algeria’s leaders have one foot in the War of Independence and the other foot in the post-colonial period. This is a generational problem. Algeria is a gerontocracy that can’t represent the country’s majority,” said Rachid Tlemcani, political scientist at Algiers University.
Bouteflika had for years used Algeria’s oil and gas wealth to fund affordable homes and handouts. The country escaped the Arab Spring uprisings that began in Tunisia in 2010. But tensions began simmering after oil prices slumped in 2014, exposing a country blighted by youth unemployment where more than one person in four aged under 30 doesn’t have a job.
Over a decade ago, Bouteflika’s government made a half-baked attempt at helping the country’s youth by creating a funding initiative for young entrepreneurs. However, it only stoked further anger amid perceptions it was a handout scheme, after borrowers who didn’t repay debts faced no consequences.
“Mentalities have to change,” said Imad Touji, a 22-year-old geology student at Bab Ezzouar University. “It’s not just about going out and shouting. We really need to change things in a concrete way.”
In February, it was clear that many Algerians were aghast at their plight.
Many trapped at home with their parents and with seemingly little to lose, took to the streets some ten days after Bouteflika announced he would seek a fifth term. Students and professionals such as doctors, lawyers and magistrates all joined in.
Bouteflika’s replacement, the 77-year-old Abdelkader Bensalah, is yet another veteran of the War of Independence. It’s an open question if fresh presidential elections announced for July 4, will appease the vociferous movement.
“We are raising awareness, all the youth is,” said Sofiane Smain, a 23-year-old computing student. “We are trying to make all the Algerian people follow us so we can be unified to make a better Algeria, God willing.”
Social media instructions told protesters to come equipped only with “love, faith, Algerian flags and roses,” and to remove trash. In a poignant detail, many of them were observed cleaning up.
“Algeria’s youth are an example to the world of what a smiling and peaceful protest movement can achieve,” Tlemcani said.
Though the protests have been largely judged to have been peaceful, they have claimed their first casualty. On Friday, an unemployed 19-year-old from a town south of Algiers was buried. Police say he died after falling from a truck, while his friends say he was beaten by police with truncheons.