Car bomb wounds minister among 13 in Libya’s Benghazi

Libyan boys walk near the wreckage of a school bombed by NATO forces in this file photo. (Reuters)
Updated 21 January 2017

Car bomb wounds minister among 13 in Libya’s Benghazi

BENGHAZI/WASHINGTON: A car bomb exploded on Friday near a mosque in Libya’s second city of Benghazi, killing one person and wounding 13 people including a former interior minister, medical and security sources said.
Ashour Shwayel, who served as interior minister in the government of former Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, and his son were seriously hurt in the blast, said the spokeswoman of Al-Jala hospital, Fadia Al-Barghati.
A security source said the blast was caused by an explosive device placed inside a car parked near Abu Houraira mosque in the central Al-Majouri neighborhood of the eastern coastal city.
Benghazi was the cradle of the 2011 revolution that toppled and killed veteran dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
Libya has since fallen into chaos, with the UN-backed Government of National Accord based in Tripoli failing to assert its authority over the country. The GNA is opposed by a rival administration that is based in Libya’s far east and backed by military strongman Marshal Khalifa Haftar, whose forces are battling militants in Benghazi.
The powerful explosion outside the mosque after Friday prayers wrecked a number of cars and charred nearby buildings.
The attack came as Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) appears close to forcing Islamist-led opponents from their last holdouts after a military campaign that began in 2014.
It was not clear who staged Friday’s bombing, but the LNA’s rivals have carried out such attacks in Benghazi in the past. In November, a similar blast wounded a prominent tribal leader who had helped the LNA negotiate the takeover of several major oil ports.
Shuwail, who served as police chief in Benghazi after Libya’s 2011 uprising, was interior minister between 2012 and 2013.
Meanwhile, a US airstrike on Thursday targeting an Al-Qaeda training camp in Syria killed more than 100 militants, a US defense official said on Friday.
The strike took place just a day before the end of President Barack Obama’s presidency and a day after more than 80 Daesh militants were killed in US airstrikes in Libya.
The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the airstrike was primarily carried out by a B-52 bomber and dropped 14 munitions.
The official added that the strike against the camp took place in Idlib province, west of Aleppo, and there was a high level of confidence that there were no civilian casualties. A US-led coalition has been carrying out airstrikes and supporting local forces in Syria to oust Daesh militants. However, there is concern that the defeat of Daesh could open the door for Al-Qaeda to take territory in ungoverned parts of the country.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Friday that an airstrike killed more than 40 members of the militant group Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham in northwestern Syria. It was not immediately clear if this strike was the same one the defense official was referring to.


UN agency for Palestinian refugees on tenterhooks over probe

A Palestinian refugee holds a placard at a school belonging to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in the town of Sebline east of the southern Lebanese port of Saida, on March 12, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 26 min 57 sec ago

UN agency for Palestinian refugees on tenterhooks over probe

  • UNRWA’s budget for this year is $1.2 billion, with around 90 percent of that being linked to paying for the 30,000 staff it employees, most of them teachers, doctors and nurses

BRUSSELS: The UN agency for Palestinian refugees is waiting anxiously on the outcome this month of a probe into alleged mismanagement that has dented its already severely depleted funding, one of its top officials said Monday.
The UN Relief and Works Agency hopes the results of the investigation will enable it to get past the scandal that has worsened a cash crunch threatening the school and health services it provides to 5 million Palestinians.
UNRWA’s director for West Bank operations Gwyn Lewis told AFP in Brussels: “We’re waiting with bated breath because it obviously has financial implications.”
She said the conclusions of the probe are expected to be delivered “around the end of October” to UN chief Antonio Guterres, who would then issue public and internal “follow-up steps.”
The timing is crucial as the agency’s three-year mandate is up for renewal this month, and money is tight.
UNRWA has been skating on very thin financial ice since last year, after US President Donald Trump decided to suspend, then yank entirely his country’s contribution to the agency’s budget, robbing it of its top donor.
Those woes were compounded by the allegations of abuse by the agency’s management, leading other key donors — the Netherlands and Switzerland — to snap shut their purses.
That has left the agency struggling to provide the schooling, medical and sanitary programs it runs for Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza.
According to a copy of an internal UN report obtained by AFP in July, senior management at UNRWA engaged in “sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority, for personal gain.”

FASTFACT

The UN Relief and Works Agency hopes the results of the investigation will enable it to get past the scandal that has worsened a cash crunch threatening the school and health services it provides to 5 million Palestinians.

Lewis did not confirm those allegations, noting only “rumors” and leaks to the media.
“None of us have actually seen it,” she said of the report, adding: “Our sense is that it’s not about financial misappropriation or corruption, it’s linked to management and human resources issues.”
She did note that the agency’s deputy chief, Sandra Mitchell, had been replaced in August by an acting deputy commissioner-general tasked with strengthening human resources and financial oversight.
Lewis said she was in Brussels for two days of meetings with European Commission officials to shore up UNRWA’s mandate renewal and, importantly, to maintain funding.
Despite program cutbacks, the agency faces an $89 million shortfall for the rest of this year, she said, and “financial uncertainty” beyond that.
UNRWA’s budget for this year is $1.2 billion, with around 90 percent of that being linked to paying for the 30,000 staff it employees, most of them teachers, doctors and nurses. Making up for the pulled US funding was a “challenge,” she said.