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."

 


Dead body business attracts medics, drug dealers in Egypt

Egyptian Christians stand outside St. Markos Church in Minya, south of Cairo, Egypt, in this Jan. 6, 2015 file photo. (AP)
Updated 48 min 56 sec ago
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Dead body business attracts medics, drug dealers in Egypt

  • Some of the gravediggers remove tissues and grease from the bones by boiling them to remove their odor before selling them to students

CAIRO: The Egyptian Orthodox Church has issued a statement condemning the theft of the body of the Patriarch Gerges, son of priest Ibrahim Al-Basit, from his family’s burial place in the Minya governorate.
Last Saturday, the cemetery was opened and Al-Basit’s body was stolen. The crime of stealing the bodies of the dead has recently spread across Egypt, especially while the sanctity of the body remains preserved. It is also common for the remains to be collected two years after the burial.
Last October, a gang was arrested after stealing bodies from their graves. An investigation has revealed that the main defendant sold the bodies to medical students for practical learning.
Some of the gravediggers remove tissues and grease from the bones by boiling them to remove their odor before selling them to students.
The investigation found that the defendant had put a price on various limbs. The leg and the arm were priced at 3,000 Egyptian pounds ($180), the skull cost 5,000 pounds and the whole body was worth 20,000 pounds.
Ashraf Farahat, a legal expert and lawyer, said that Egyptian law demands up to five years of imprisonment and a fine of 100-500 pounds for criminals who violate the sanctity of graves.
Yasser Sayed Ahmed, a legal expert and lawyer, said he knew of many cases where cemetery guards and assistants help people access graves for superstitious reasons in exchange for large sums of money.
The majority of these cases are happening with the help of the guards of the tombs. They exhume graves at night to extract the bodies and separate the organs to sell bones and skulls. They often sell them to drug dealers by grinding and mixing some materials for sale at high prices.