Human traffickers kill 26 Bangladeshis in Libya

Migrants resting on the floor of a detention center, amidst concerns over the spread of COVID-19 in the city of Zawiya, Libya. (Reuters)
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Updated 30 May 2020

Human traffickers kill 26 Bangladeshis in Libya

  • Migrants were trying to reach Europe
  • Injured receiving medical help from migration body

DHAKA: Bangladeshi authorities are struggling to recover the bodies of 26 nationals after they were killed in a gunfight by human traffickers in Libya on Thursday.
A group of 42 migrants, including 38 Bangladeshis, was held captive by traffickers in Mizdah, around 180 kilometers from the capital Tripoli, the Bangladesh Embassy in Libya said, quoting one of the survivors.
The survivor said that they had paid between $8,000 and $10,000 to the traffickers to reach Europe through Libya, but that suddenly more money was demanded. As the hostages attacked and killed the leader of the Libyan traffickers, his associates started to shoot at them, killing 26 Bangladeshis and injuring another 12. The remaining four hostages were reportedly from Africa and also died during the gunfight.
“The injured people have bullet wounds and one of them is in critical condition, currently in a hospital in Tripoli with a severe brain injury,” A.S.M. Ashraful Islam, labor counselor at the Bangladesh Embassy to Libya, told Arab News on Friday. “The others are out of danger.”
The embassy said the International Organization for Migration (IOM) had helped by providing expert doctors and medical equipment for the injured, but that there were problems with recovering the dead.

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According to the UNHCR, more than 2 million illegal migrants from different Asian and African countries have entered Europe through the Mediterranean Sea since 2014.

“We have some difficulty in receiving the dead bodies of the Bangladeshi nationals from the town of Mizdah as the UN-recognized Libyan government of National Accord (GNA) doesn’t have enough control in that area,” Islam said. “Preservation of dead bodies for a long period is also tough as there is a huge scarcity of refrigerators and electricity supply in the war-torn country. Once the flight operations are restored we will repatriate the survivors and dead bodies.”
He said the embassy had filed a court appeal for the dead not to be buried in Libya.
“There are some active human trafficking groups in Bangladesh,” Foreign Minister Dr. A. K. Abdul Momen said in a video message on Friday afternoon. “We arrested many of them last year and expected the human traffickers’ gang would stop their activities.”
But a joint international effort was required to stop trafficking, according to Shariful Hasan from the Bangladesh-based international development agency BRAC.
“No one can handle this problem alone,” he told Arab News.  “Since it’s a racket involving traffickers from many countries, the Bangladeshi government should initiate a joint effort with some other countries where the traffickers are operating.”
Several thousand Bangladeshi migrants live in Libya, according to embassy data. The country has long been a major staging post for migrants trying to reach Europe.
According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, more than 2 million illegal migrants from different Asian and African countries have entered Europe through the Mediterranean Sea since 2014. Bangladesh is one of the top 10 countries where people risk their lives to cross the sea on small boats.
In the first four months of this year 693 Bangladeshis were arrested by border and coast guard authorities while trying to enter Europe illegally.


Militant attack on Afghan prison frees hundreds

Afghan security personnel in front of a prison gate after an attack by Daesh that had freed hundreds in Jalalabad, east of Kabul, on Monday. (AP)
Updated 04 August 2020

Militant attack on Afghan prison frees hundreds

  • The attack, reportedly by Daesh, took place hours before end of cease-fire

KABUL: Militants affiliated with the Daesh group stormed a prison in eastern Afghanistan in a daylong siege that left at least 39 people dead, including the assailants, and freed nearly 400 of their fighters before security forces restored order, a government official said Monday.

The attack on the main prison in Jalalabad, in Nangarhar province, where several hundred Daesh fighters have been detained, began on Sunday afternoon with a car bomb detonated at the entrance to the jail.

The attack came hours before the end of a three-day ceasefire between the Afghan government and the Taliban, who immediately denied any involvement in the assault. Several Western media outlets reported that the Daesh had claimed responsibility.

The Nangarhar governor’s spokesman, Attaullah Khogyani, told Arab News that there was still gunfire on Monday morning, and that more than 20 civilians and personnel and three attackers have died in the fighting.

Two local security sources speaking on condition of anonymity said that nearly half of the prison’s 1,500 inmates managed to flee.

They said 20 assailants made their way into the prison and a number of explosions were heard from inside the jail.Residents said one group of attackers was firing on the jail from a nearby building and they reported heavy and sustained exchanges of small fire.

According to Khogyani, most of the escapees have been caught. He gave no further details about the attack.

The assault comes amid official claims that Daesh leaders have been arrested or killed in recent months, notably in Nangarhar, which used to be the group’s bastion.

“This is a major embarrassment for the government, which every now and then claims to have wiped out or paralyzed the Daesh. The government needs to answer why such a high security lapse has happened,” analyst Shafiq Haqpal said.

The Eid Al-Adha ceasefire between the Taliban and Afghan government forces was a part of efforts to begin long-awaited peace talks following a US-Taliban agreement signed in Qatar in late February.

In accordance with the deal, the Taliban is releasing 1,000 Afghan troops in exchange for 5,000 militants held by President Ashraf Ghani’s government.

The process is near completion, but Kabul is refusing to free 400 remaining Taliban inmates, saying they have been behind “heinous crimes.”

After Eid prayers on Sunday, Ghani announced he would summon a traditional grand assembly, Loya Jirga, to help him decide whether the rest of Taliban prisoners should be freed.

The assembly is scheduled to start on Aug. 7. Loya Jirga has deep roots in Afghan history and tradition and is usually summoned during times of crisis or emergency.

The Taliban have voiced their opposition to the convocation of the jirga. Their Qatar-based spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, told TOLO News that Kabul’s decision would only complicate the peace process.

Afghan politicians are divided on the jirga announcement. Hamidullah Tokhi, a member of parliament from southern Zabul province, said: “The nation and parliament have deep doubts about Ghani’s goal for summoning the jirga to decide over the fate of 400 Taliban.

“All of the 4,500 Taliban already freed were involved in some sort of bloody attacks. Why did the government not ask for the jirga on the overall release of the Taliban?”

“Summoning the jirga now is a treason to this country and a clear blocking of the peace process,” he said.
Torek Farhadi, who served in the previous government as an adviser, said Ghani hopes that the victory of Democrats in the upcoming US elections, would sideline Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy for Afghanistan who struck the Qatar deal with the Taliban, allowing Kabul to be in charge of the peace process.
“We should have one Loya Jirga to discuss substantive matters on peace with the Taliban and the type of future regime,” Farhadi said, adding that the Taliban, too, should participate in the assembly. “This meeting would be like a half-baked national dialogue (if it is) conducted by only one side of the conflict.”