Call for repatriation of Tunisian children of Daesh militants

Call for repatriation of Tunisian children of Daesh militants
Women and children fleeing from the last Daesh group's tiny pocket in Syria sit in the back of a truck near Baghuz, eastern Syria, on Feb. 11, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 12 February 2019

Call for repatriation of Tunisian children of Daesh militants

Call for repatriation of Tunisian children of Daesh militants
  • HRW said officials in Tunisia have been helping to repatriate Tunisian children of Daesh camps in Syria, Iraq and Libya
  • Their return has been a cause of concern in Tunisia

TUNIS: Officials in Tunisia have been “dragging their feet” on efforts to repatriate Tunisian children of Daesh group members from camps in Syria, Iraq and Libya, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.

The rights group, quoting Tunisia’s Ministry of Women and Children, said about 200 children and 100 women claiming Tunisian nationality were being held in “squalid” camps abroad.

Many of the children are six-year-olds or younger, the rights groups said, adding that most were being held with their mothers while at least six were orphans.

Around 2,000 children and 1,000 women of 46 nationalities are being detained in prisons in Iraq and Libya and three camps in northeast Syria for ties to Daesh, HRW said, and Tunisia has “one of the largest contingents.”

“Tunisian officials are dragging their feet on helping bring (them) home.”

Hundreds of civilians, including Daesh-linked family members, have been fleeing a US-backed offensive against the militant group’s last holdout in eastern Syria.

HRW said it has interviewed family members of women and children detained in Libya and Syria, as well as government officials, human rights activists, lawyers, UN representatives and Western diplomats for its report.

The watchdog had also visited three camps in northeast Syria controlled by US-backed Kurdish forces and cited what is said were “rare calls and letters” to family members by mothers of some children.

“Legitimate security concerns are no license for governments to abandon young children and other nationals held without charge in squalid camps and prisons abroad,” said Letta Tayler, senior terrorism and counterterrorism researcher at HRW.

“Tunisian children are stuck in these camps with no education, no future, and no way out while their government seems to barely lift a finger to help them,” Tayler said.

In response Tunisia’s Foreign Ministry said it was “strongly attached to the values of human rights” and that authorities would not turn back Tunisians seeking to return home.

According to authorities in Tunis, 3,000 Tunisians have gone abroad to join militant organizations, while the UN puts the figure as high as 5,000.

Their return has been a cause of concern in Tunisia, which has been under a state of emergency following a string of Daesh-claimed attacks in 2015 and 2016.

In 2017, hundreds of Tunisians took to the streets to protest against the repatriation of Daesh-linked citizens.


Italy FM tells Libya: ‘We are at your side’

“Italy is at your side, we will continue to support you,” Luigi Di Maio (pictured) told Libyan Prime Minister Abdel Hamid Dbeibah during his fifth visit to Tripoli since the beginning of the year. (AFP/File Photo)
“Italy is at your side, we will continue to support you,” Luigi Di Maio (pictured) told Libyan Prime Minister Abdel Hamid Dbeibah during his fifth visit to Tripoli since the beginning of the year. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 54 sec ago

Italy FM tells Libya: ‘We are at your side’

“Italy is at your side, we will continue to support you,” Luigi Di Maio (pictured) told Libyan Prime Minister Abdel Hamid Dbeibah during his fifth visit to Tripoli since the beginning of the year. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Di Maio’s fifth visit to country in 2021 sees talks in Tripoli, Benghazi and Tobruk
  • Reveals donation of 240k coronavirus vaccines and urges stability, cooperation

ROME: Italy will continue its support for Libya, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio has told top Government of National Unity officials during meetings in Tripoli, Benghazi and Tobruk.

“Italy is at your side, we will continue to support you,” Di Maio told Libyan Prime Minister Abdel Hamid Dbeibah during his fifth visit to Tripoli since the beginning of the year.

Di Maio also met President of the Presidential Council Mohamed Yunus Al-Menfi, his deputies Abdullah Al-Lafi and Musa Al-Kuni, President of the High Council of State Khalid Al-Mishri and Minister of Foreign Affairs Najla El-Mangush.

A spokesman in the Italian foreign ministry told Arab News that Di Maio visited Libya “to discuss key topics, such as furthering the dialogue on the UN-led stabilization and institutional transition process, which Italy supports with determination, to encourage the renewed commitment of all Libyan parties to concrete progress toward achieving several key objectives, including the holding of elections on Dec. 24, the implementation of the ceasefire, the adoption of the unified budget and national reconciliation and, last but not least, promoting the many initiatives underway for the broad-based strengthening of the bilateral partnership.”

The spokesman added that the minister’s visit was “clear confirmation of Italy’s steadfast commitment to stabilizing Libya, which has taken an important step forward with the reopening of the Sirte-Misurata coastal road announced on the eve of the visit.”

Di Maio’s visit comes just weeks after the reopening of the Italian Consulate General in Benghazi.

No details were disclosed concerning the recent intra-Libyan talks — held in Rome in the last week of July — on adopting a legal framework for the country’s next general elections, scheduled for Dec. 24 this year.

However, an Italian diplomatic source said: “The issue was certainly one of those that was covered during today’s meetings.”

The talks also focused on joint efforts to revive economic cooperation between the two countries across key sectors, including infrastructure, energy and transport.

“This was also in light of the positive results of the Business Forum hosted at the foreign ministry on May 31, in the presence of Dbeibah,” an Italian source said.

The visit also covered proposals for cooperation in the fields of migration, health and culture.

At the end of a meeting with Dbeibah, Di Maio announced an Italian donation to Libya of 240,000 doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine.

The delivery will “help the strategy set by the Libyan government to fight the pandemic, which is hitting hard here as well,” the minister said.

Since the pandemic began, Libya has recorded 256,328 coronavirus cases and a death toll of 3,579. The country has seen a recent increase in cases of several thousand per day, partly because of increased testing.


Wildfires blaze on in drought-hit Turkey as criticism grows

Wildfires blaze on in drought-hit Turkey as criticism grows
Updated 13 min 33 sec ago

Wildfires blaze on in drought-hit Turkey as criticism grows

Wildfires blaze on in drought-hit Turkey as criticism grows
  • Seven fires were still burning, fanned by temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius, strong winds and low humidity, Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said
  • Meteorology maps show areas affected by fires have suffered severe drought in recent months

MARMARIS, Turkey: Firefighters using planes and helicopters, and locals with buckets of water, battled wildfires raging for a sixth day near southern coastal resorts in drought-hit Turkey on Monday.
Meanwhile the government faced fresh criticism of its handling the disaster.
Seven fires were still burning, fanned by temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (104°F), strong winds and low humidity, Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said.
Meteorology maps show areas affected by fires have suffered severe drought in recent months.
Drone footage filmed by Reuters showed grey hillsides near the resort of Marmaris where fires left smoldering buildings and blackened tree trunks.
While 16 planes and 51 helicopters tackled blazes across a swathe of southwest Turkey, villagers carrying water containers up a hill to fight a fire near Marmaris said the government was not doing enough to help them.
“We are here as the entire village, from the locals to others. We didn’t run or anything, so the government must see this and also not run away. It must send some of its planes here,” a woman called Gulhan told Reuters.
Engin Ozkoc, a senior figure in the main opposition CHP, called on Pakdemirli to resign for failing to adequately prepare.
“You don’t deserve that ministry. You didn’t foresee this and buy firefighting planes,” he said, criticizing the amount of aerial resources available.
The European Union said it had helped mobilize three fire-fighting planes on Sunday. One from Croatia and two from Spain joined teams from Russia, Iran, Ukraine and Azerbaijan.
President Tayyip Erdogan’s communications director, Fahrettin Altun, rejected criticism of the government’s handling of the fires and condemned a social media campaign calling for foreign help.
“Our Turkey is strong. Our state is standing tall,” Altun said on Twitter, describing most information about the fires on social media as “fake news.” “All our losses will be compensated for.”
Eight people have been killed in the wildfires, but there were no reports of further casualties on Monday.
Since Wednesday, thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes and some tourists have left their hotels, although Tourism Minister Mehmet Ersoy said holidaymakers had returned within hours.
The wildfires are another blow to Turkey’s tourism industry following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bulent Bulbuloglu, head of the South Aegean Hoteliers Association, said 10 percent of reservations had been canceled in Bodrum and Marmaris. Others had cut their visits short.


Lebanese army detains man after deadly funeral attack

Lebanese army detains man after deadly funeral attack
Updated 02 August 2021

Lebanese army detains man after deadly funeral attack

Lebanese army detains man after deadly funeral attack
  • Shooting in Khaldeh, where tensions between Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims have long simmered, prompted leaders to warn against an escalation
  • Attack targeted the funeral of Hezbollah member Ali Shibli who was shot dead on Saturday during a wedding

BEIRUT: The Lebanese army said on Monday it had detained a man wanted over an attack on Shiite Muslim mourners at a funeral where three people were killed, after the powerful Shiite group Hezbollah demanded the perpetrators be detained.
The shooting in Khaldeh, a town south of Beirut where tensions between Shiite and Sunni Muslims have long simmered, has prompted leaders to warn against an escalation as Lebanon grapples with political and financial crises.
The attack targeted the funeral of Hezbollah member Ali Shibli who was shot dead on Saturday during a wedding.
Sunni Arab tribes claimed responsibility for that shooting, saying they had taken revenge for the killing of one of their members last year in Khaldeh.
Army intelligence stormed the homes of a number of wanted people and detained a man who was involved in the funeral attack, the army said.
Hezbollah, an armed group backed by Iran, has said it is seeking to maintain calm but said the attackers must be handed over. The group has called it a planned ambush.
“You don’t want strife, then come and surrender those killers to the state,” Hassan Fadlallah, a Hezbollah MP, said in an interview with Al-Jadeed TV late on Sunday.
People were “boiling” and the group could not control them all, he said.
Shibli’s coffin was draped in a Hezbollah flag at his funeral in the town of Kunin in southern Lebanon.
Clerics prayed over the casket and Hezbollah fighters wearing camouflage and red berets were in attendance, footage broadcast by Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV showed.
“What happened in Khaldeh confirms the blatant absence of the logic of the state and that the language of uncontrolled and illegitimate arms is the one prevailing,” Fouad Makhzoumi, an independent Sunni MP, wrote on Twitter.
“We are afraid of the country being dragged to strife.”
Lebanon’s financial and economic meltdown marks the biggest crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.
“Strife awakens on the eve of Aug. 4,” declared the front page headline of an-Nahar newspaper, referring to the first anniversary of the Beirut port explosion that devastated swathes of the capital and killed more than 200 people.


Tunisia reiterates commitment to combating illegal migration

 After being identified, migrants are sent to the temporary accommodation centers on the mainland or on the quarantine ferry ships moored in the waters in front of Lampedusa’s port. (AFP)
After being identified, migrants are sent to the temporary accommodation centers on the mainland or on the quarantine ferry ships moored in the waters in front of Lampedusa’s port. (AFP)
Updated 02 August 2021

Tunisia reiterates commitment to combating illegal migration

 After being identified, migrants are sent to the temporary accommodation centers on the mainland or on the quarantine ferry ships moored in the waters in front of Lampedusa’s port. (AFP)
  • Arrival of migrants to Lampedusa taxes accommodation facility on small Italian island
  • Italian politician says information from Tunisian security forces regarding operations to counter illegal migration ‘seems to contradict increasing number of landings’

ROME: Tunisian President Kais Saied reiterated his country’s commitment to combating illegal migration and has thanked Italy for its donation of some 1.5 million coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine doses, in addition to five containers of equipment to help the country fight the pandemic.

On Sunday night, Saied symbolically received the vaccine donation in a ceremony he attended with the Ambassador of Italy to Tunisia Lorenzo Fanara, in which he hailed bilateral relations and renewed Tunisia’s commitment against illegal migration in the Mediterranean.

A communiqué from the Tunisian presidency said that the president expressed his eagerness to “protect rights and liberties and bolster the pillars of security and stability” and affirmed his country’s stance against illegal migration, human trafficking and smuggling. He also warned against politically exploiting this issue during such a “delicate” time as the country is currently experiencing.

Sources in the Embassy of Italy in Tunisia told Arab News that Saied “remains keen to continue bilateral cooperation in accordance with all the agreements made on both sides regarding the issue of migration in the past years.”

The arrival of migrants to the island of Lampedusa continues, meanwhile, due to good sea conditions.

On Monday, the Tunisian Coast Guard informed that 11 operations to counter illegal migration were carried out over the weekend, with 188 migrants aboard various boats stopped in different regions of the country.

The Tunisian Ministry of Interior said in a communiqué issued after the ceremony with President Saied and the Italian ambassador that 56 of the people stopped came from African countries but did not specify their nationalities.

Eleven of them were already wanted for repeatedly trying to reach Italian and European shores illegally.

“They can say what they want, but most of them are Tunisians from Tunisia,” Rev. Michele Giordano from Caritas in Sicily told Arab News.

“The activity of the Tunisian security forces to counter migration from that country probably comes as a response to the interview Ennahda party leader and Speaker of Parliament Rached Ghannouchi gave on Saturday to Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera. In that interview, Ghannouchi warned that European countries would face an unprecedented wave of migration if they did not help his movement,” Andrea Delmastro Delle Vedove, member of the foreign affairs committee in the Italian Chamber of Deputies, told Arab News.

“I do not see any other reason why they should let everyone know that in recent days the Tunisian National Guard prevented hundreds from crossing the Mediterranean illegally. This kind of information seems to contradict the increasing number of landings from Tunisia in Lampedusa and on the southern shores of Sardinia,” he added.

Only on Sunday, around 200 people arrived in Lampedusa. After being identified, migrants are sent to the temporary accommodation centers on the mainland or on the quarantine ferry ships moored in the waters in front of the tiny island’s port. Over 1,200 migrants are still staying in the facility, however, which is designed to accommodate no more than 250.


Lebanon’s Mikati says hoped for faster pace towards government

Lebanon’s Mikati says hoped for faster pace towards government
Updated 02 August 2021

Lebanon’s Mikati says hoped for faster pace towards government

Lebanon’s Mikati says hoped for faster pace towards government
  • Government formation ‘is a bit slot’, said Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati on Monday

BEIRUT: Lebanon's newly designated prime minister Najib Mikati said Monday that a cabinet lineup would not be announced by mid-week to coincide with the anniversary of the deadly Beirut port blast.

“Frankly, with regard to the government, I was hoping the pace would be faster,” he said after meeting President Michel Aoun, whom he said he would now see again on Thursday.

The government of Hassan Diab, who is still caretaker prime minister, resigned en masse days after the August 4 explosion that killed more than 200 people last year.

Mikati, who has already been prime minister twice in the past and is also the country's richest man, was designated on July 26 to form a government after Saad Hariri threw in the towel.

He said he had hoped to clinch a deal before the anniversary of the explosion, but media reports said Lebanon's political parties are still bickering over portfolios in much the same way that has blocked a new government over the past year.

The institutional vacuum is holding up a potential financial rescue plan for Lebanon, which defaulted on its debt last year and has since sunk into what the World Bank has described as one of the world's worst crises since the mid-19th century.

The designation last month of 65-year-old Mikati, seen by many as a symbol of Lebanon's corrupt oligarchy, was met with scepticism both at home and abroad.