ICC prosecutor condemns Benghazi mosque attack

Libyans check the aftermath of an explosion in the eastern city of Benghazi on January 24, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 26 January 2018

ICC prosecutor condemns Benghazi mosque attack

THE HAGUE: The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Friday condemned a deadly attack on a Benghazi mosque which left at least 37 dead, and renewed calls for the arrest of a wanted Libyan commander.
“These bombings and executions demand both condemnation and a meaningful response,” chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement.
At least 37 people died and scores were wounded after Tuesday’s two car bombings outside a mosque frequented by militants in Libya’s second city Benghazi.
The attack was followed by video and photographs on social networks Wednesday, appearing to show wanted Libyan commander Mahmoud Al-Werfalli carrying out summary executions in retaliation.
Bensouda said she was “deeply concerned” by the bombings, but also “appalled” at the reports of the executions of 10 people in front of the mosques.
Witnesses said Werfalli, who is wanted for war crimes by the ICC, had carried out the public executions in revenge for the Tuesday mosque attack.
In one video, a uniformed officer, said to be Werfalli, is seen making the blindfolded suspects in blue prison uniforms kneel in front of him before shooting them one after the other in the head.
The ICC has issued an arrest warrant for Werfalli, accusing him of participating in seven similar incidents between 2016 and 2017 in which 33 people were executed.
The UN Support Mission in Libya has also demanded Werfalli’s immediate surrender to the ICC in The Hague.
Bensouda also appealed to military strongman Khalifa Haftar, whose forces control eastern Benghazi and to whom Werfalli is loyal, to work with the Libyan army to arrest the wanted commander.
“The appalling cycle of violence and impunity in Libya cannot be allowed to continue for the sake of the Libyan people,” she added.
The ICC, is the world’s only permanent war crimes court, seeking to prosecute those behind the worst atrocities where national courts cannot or will not investigate.
The latest violence in Libya came as UN envoy Ghassan Salame held talks in the east with Haftar in efforts to end the political chaos that has gripped the country since longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi was ousted and killed in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011.
A UN-backed unity government based in the capital Tripoli has struggled to assert its authority outside western Libya. Haftar supports a rival administration based in the east.


US considering troop boost to counter Iran

Updated 2 min 37 sec ago

US considering troop boost to counter Iran

  • A source has said Defense Secretary Mark Esper was considering plans to move between 5,000 and 7,000 troops to the Middle East
  • Tensions have risen sharply with Iran since Trump last year pulled out of a denuclearization pact and imposed sweeping sanctions

WASHINGTON: The United States said Thursday it was considering deploying fresh forces to counter Iran, with an official saying some 5,000 to 7,000 troops could head to the region.
Testifying before Congress, John Rood, the under secretary of defense for policy, said the United States was “observing Iran’s behavior with concern.”
“We’re continuing to look at that threat picture and have the ability to dynamically adjust our force posture,” Rood told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
A US official told AFP on condition of anonymity that Defense Secretary Mark Esper was considering plans to move between 5,000 and 7,000 troops to the Middle East.
The official did not confirm where the troops would be sent, or in what timeframe, but said that the deployment would be due to frustrations with Iranian-linked groups’ attacks on US assets.
Rood, under questioning, denied a report by The Wall Street Journal the United States was considering sending 14,000 more troops — equivalent to the number sent over the past six months.
Esper also denied the 14,000 figure in a phone call with Senator Jim Inhofe, the chairman of the committee, Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said.
US President Donald Trump later tweeted that: “The story today that we are sending 12,000 troops to Saudi Arabia is false or, to put it more accurately, Fake News!“
It was not immediately clear which report the president was referring to.
Tensions have risen sharply with Iran since Trump last year pulled out of a denuclearization pact and imposed sweeping sanctions, including trying to block all its oil exports.
In September, the United States said Iran was responsible for attacks on the major Abqaiq oil processing center in Saudi Arabia, a close US ally and Iran’s regional rival.
Riyadh then asked Washington for reinforcements, receiving two fighter squadrons, additional missile defense batteries, and bringing the number of US troops stationed in the Kingdom to about 3,000.
The United States has also been alarmed by an uptick in attacks on bases in Iraq, where major demonstrations triggered by economic discontent have also targeted Iran’s clerical regime and its overwhelming influence in its Shiite-majority neighbor.
“We’re lucky no one has been killed. There is a spike in rocket attacks,” another US official said.
“It’s clearly not Daesh. Everything is going in the right direction and it’s the right range,” the official said, contrasting Iranian capabilities with those of the extremist Daesh group.
Among the incidents, five rockets hit the Al-Asad Air Base on Tuesday, just four days after US Vice President Mike Pence visited US troops there.
Iran denied involvement in the September attack in Saudi Arabia, which was claimed by Tehran-backed Houthi militia.
The tensions come as Iran itself has faced major protests set off by a sharp hike in gas prices.