French minister holds Tunisia talks on return of extremists

French minister holds Tunisia talks on return of extremists
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Tunisian Interior Minister Taoufik Charfeddine , right, and his French counterpart Gerald Darmanin give a joint press conference in Tunis, Tunisia, Friday, Nov. 6, 2020. (AP)
French minister holds Tunisia talks on return of extremists
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Tunisia's Interior Minister Taoufik Charfeddine (R) receives his French counterpart Gerald Darmanin upon his arrival in the capital Tunis on November 6, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 06 November 2020

French minister holds Tunisia talks on return of extremists

French minister holds Tunisia talks on return of extremists
  • Tunisians have constituted a significant proportion of foreign terrorists in Syria, Iraq and Libya over the past decade
  • Public opinion in Tunisia is hostile toward the return of suspected militants

TUNIS: Tunisia said Friday it would take back from France its citizens suspected of being extremists, after last week’s deadly attack in Nice allegedly carried out by a Tunisian terrorist.
But Interior Minister Taoufik Charfeddine, following talks with his visiting French counterpart Gerald Darmanin, said their return would be conditional.
The former French colony is “prepared to receive any Tunisian,” Charfeddine said.
“But this must be done in line with conditions and regulations” under international laws and in “preserving the dignity of the Tunisian” being returned, Charfeddine told reporters.
Sources close to Darmanin said ahead of the talks that he would submit to authorities a list of some 20 Tunisians who France wants to expel, on the basis that they had been convicted on terrorism charges or were suspected of extremist inclinations.
The French interior minister is due to visit Algeria on Sunday on a similar mission.
Public opinion in Tunisia is hostile toward the return of suspected militants, and authorities have refused the return of their citizens from France on the basis of travel restrictions linked to the coronavirus pandemic.
Tunisian nationals have constituted a significant proportion of foreign terrorists in Syria, Iraq and Libya over the past decade.
In 2015, the United Nations said that some 5,000 Tunisians had flocked mainly to Syria and Libya to join Daesh, while authorities in Tunis gave a lower figure of 3,000.
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.
Darmanin’s visit to Tunis was scheduled some time ago but it took on new urgency following the October 29 killing of three people at a church in the southern French city of Nice.
The alleged perpetrator of that attack, 21-year-old Brahim Aouissaoui, who arrived illegally in Europe in late September, is not the first Tunisian suspected of carrying out a deadly extremist attack in Europe.
In 2016, 31-year-old Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel plowed a truck into a Bastille Day crowd on the Nice seafront, killing 86 people.
Later that year fellow Tunisian citizen Anis Amri, 24, carried out a similar attack at a Berlin Christmas market, killing 12 people.
Daesh claimed both men as its followers.
Darmanin also met Tunisian President Kais Saied who stressed that his country would seek to find a “solution to obstacles that may arise” in the face of expulsions from France.
Several non-governmental organizations released a petition charging that European governments were “pressuring” Tunisia to take back its citizens.
The groups, including the Tunisian League of Human Rights, said European countries are “taking advantage of the fear sparked by the crimes committed by terrorists to get rid of illegal migrants.”
Darmanin is expected to discuss illegal migration in Algeria and also in a later visit to Malta.
Illegal sea crossings to Europe from Tunisia have been on the rise, largely driven by economic woes after a 2011 popular revolution that many hoped would bring change.
Sources close to Darmanin said the expulsions from France will also target common law criminals and would take into account “hygiene protocols” due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the sources, 70 percent of over 230 foreigners illegally in France and suspected of radicalism are from the Maghreb region, which includes Tunisia and Algeria, and from Russia.


Protesters against Sudan peace deal block roads, close key port

Updated 12 sec ago

Protesters against Sudan peace deal block roads, close key port

Protesters against Sudan peace deal block roads, close key port
KHARTOUM: Dozens of demonstrators in Sudan have blocked key roads and a crucial port in the country’s east in protest at parts of a peace deal with rebel groups, a protest leader said Monday.
Last year, several rebel groups signed a landmark accord with the transitional government which came to power shortly after the April 2019 ouster of long-time autocrat Omar Al-Bashir.
“We’ve blocked the (main) road connecting Port Sudan with the rest of the country since Friday as well as the main container and oil export terminals,” protest leader Sayed Abuamnah told AFP.
Beja tribes people in eastern Sudan have criticized the fragile peace deal saying it does not represent them.
Port Sudan in the Red Sea state is the country’s main seaport and a vital trade hub for its crippled economy dependent on exports.
The protests come as Sudan grapples with deep economic woes left in the wake of Bashir’s ouster, whose three-decade iron-fisted rule was marked by prolonged US sanctions.
“The closure will not be lifted until our demands to nullify the parts about east Sudan in the peace deal are met,” Abuamnah added.
Aboud Sherbini, a port worker, confirmed the “port has completely shut down and the flow of imports and exports has stopped.”
Other witnesses from the restive eastern Qedaref state also told AFP that roads were blocked.
Abuamnah said protesters have called for the government’s dissolution and the formation of a non-partisan administration to lead the transition.
Similar protests in and around the port broke out last year over the October 2020 peace deal.
The government has yet to make a comment on the latest closure.

Pfizer COVID-19 jab safe for children aged 5-11, clinical trial results show

Pfizer COVID-19 jab safe for children aged 5-11, clinical trial results show
Updated 20 September 2021

Pfizer COVID-19 jab safe for children aged 5-11, clinical trial results show

Pfizer COVID-19 jab safe for children aged 5-11, clinical trial results show
  • The vaccine would be administered at a lower dosage than for people 12 and over

FRANKFURT: Pfizer and BioNTech on Monday said clinical trial results showed their coronavirus vaccine was “safe, well tolerated” and produced a “robust” immune response in children aged five to 11, adding that they would seek regulatory approval shortly.
The vaccine would be administered at a lower dosage than for people 12 and over, the companies said in a statement. They said they would submit their data to regulatory bodies in the European Union, the United States and around the world “as soon as possible.”


Lebanese lawmakers convene to approve Cabinet after power delay

Lebanese lawmakers convene to approve Cabinet after power delay
Updated 20 September 2021

Lebanese lawmakers convene to approve Cabinet after power delay

Lebanese lawmakers convene to approve Cabinet after power delay
  • Lebanon’s worsening fuel shortages translating into few or any hours of state-backed power a day

BEIRUT: Lebanese lawmakers convened Monday to confirm the country’s new government following a power outage and a broken generator that briefly delayed the start of the parliament session.
It took some 40 minutes before electricity came back on. The incident, which underscored the deep crisis roiling the small Mediterranean country amid an unprecedented economic meltdown, was derided on social media.
Lebanese have been suffering electricity blackouts and severe shortages in fuel, diesel and medicine for months, threatening to shut down hospitals, bakeries and schools. Lines stretching several kilometers (miles) of people waiting to fill up their tanks are a daily occurrence at gas stations across the country.
The economic crisis, unfolding since 2019, has been described by the World Bank as one of the worst in the world in the last 150 years. Within months, it had impoverished more than half of the population and left the national currency in freefall, driving inflation and unemployment to previously unseen levels.
A new government headed by billionaire businessman Najib Mikati was finally formed earlier this month after a 13-month delay, as politicians bickered about government portfolios at a time when the country was sliding deeper into financial chaos and poverty.
The new government is expected to undertake critically needed reforms, as well as manage public anger and tensions resulting from the planned lifting of fuel subsidies by the end of the month. Lebanon’s foreign reserves have been running dangerously low, and the central bank in the import-dependent country has said it was no longer able to support its $6 billion subsidy program.
The government is also expected to oversee a financial audit of the Central Bank and resume negotiations with the International Monetary Fund for a rescue package.
Few believe that can be done with a government that leaves power in the hands of the same political parties that the public blames for corruption and mismanagement of Lebanon’s resources.
Lawmakers are to debate the new government’s policy statement before a vote of confidence is held on Monday evening — a vote which Mikati's proposed Cabinet expects to win with the support from majority legislators.
Mikati, one of Lebanon’s richest businessmen who is returning to the post of prime minister for the third time, pledged to get to work immediately to ease the day-to-day suffering of the Lebanese.
“What happened here today with the electricity outage pales in comparison to what the Lebanese people have been suffering for months,” Mikati told lawmakers after power returned and the session got underway.
The session is being held at a Beirut theater known as the UNESCO palace so that parliament members could observe social distancing measures imposed over the coronavirus pandemic.
“What can I say, it’s a farce,” lawmaker Taymour Jumblatt, the son of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, said when asked about the electricity outage.
“It is not a good sign,” said lawmaker Faisal Sayegh. “We need to light up this hall, to say to people that we can light up the country.”


Guilt-riven Lebanon expats ship aid as crisis bites at home

Guilt-riven Lebanon expats ship aid as crisis bites at home
Updated 20 September 2021

Guilt-riven Lebanon expats ship aid as crisis bites at home

Guilt-riven Lebanon expats ship aid as crisis bites at home
  • Lebanon’s economy has collapsed under a long-running political class accused of incompetence and corruption
  • Lebanon is running out of fuel and gas to medicine and bread

DUBAI: Lebanese expats in the wealthy UAE, many of them riven with guilt, are scrambling to ship essential goods and medicine to family and friends in their crisis-stricken home country.
“How can I sit in the comfort of my home in air-conditioning and a full fridge knowing that my people, my friends and family, are struggling back home?” asked Jennifer Houchaime.
“Oh, the guilt is very, very real,” said the 33-year-old resident of Dubai, a member of the United Arab Emirates which is home to tens of thousands of Lebanese.
“It’s guilt, shame and nostalgia.”
Lebanon’s economy has collapsed under a long-running political class accused of incompetence and corruption.
Its currency has plunged to an all-time low, sparking inflation and eroding the purchasing power of a population denied free access to their own savings by stringent banking controls.
Lebanon is running out of everything, from fuel and gas to medicine and bread, and more than three-quarters of its population is now considered to be living under the poverty line.
Social media platforms are filled with posts by Lebanese appealing for contacts abroad to send basic goods such as baby formula, diapers, painkillers, coffee and sanitary pads.

Aya Majzoub, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, said trust in the Lebanese government is at an all-time low.
“It is unsurprising that local and grassroots initiatives have sprung up to fill this gap while bypassing the government that they view as corrupt, inefficient and incompetent,” she told AFP.
With no faith in the Lebanese authorities, expats have taken it upon themselves to transport aid.
Houchaime and a number of her Lebanese friends fill their bags with over-the-counter medication and food items every time they travel home.
The Dubai-based airline Emirates is allowing an extra 10 kilos (22 pounds) of baggage for passengers to Beirut from certain destinations until the end of this month.
For Dima Hage Hassan, 33, a trip to Lebanon opened her eyes to the unfolding disaster.
“I was in Lebanon, and I had money, and I had a car with fuel, and I went around from pharmacy to pharmacy unable to find medicine for my mother’s ear infection,” she said.

A fellow Lebanese, Sarah Hassan, packed for her second trip home in less than two months, taking only a few personal items while the rest was supplies for family and friends.
This time, the 26-year-old was taking a couple of battery-operated fans, painkillers, sanitary pads, skin creams, and cold and flu medication.
“A couple of my friends are going as well to Lebanon, so all of us are doing our part.”
It’s the same story in other parts of the Gulf, where Lebanese have long resided, fleeing from decades of conflict and instability in their own country.
“It’s hard not to feel guilty. When I went to Lebanon a month ago, I hadn’t been for two years. When I stepped out into the city, I was so shocked,” said Hassan.
“Then you come back here to the comfort of your home and everything is at your fingertips... it’s such an overwhelming feeling of guilt.”

 


East Libya forces say 2 helicopters crashed, killing 2

East Libya forces say 2 helicopters crashed, killing 2
Updated 20 September 2021

East Libya forces say 2 helicopters crashed, killing 2

East Libya forces say 2 helicopters crashed, killing 2
  • The self-styled Libyan Arab Armed Forces said the helicopters collided in the air over the village of Msus
  • The crash came as they have been battling Chadian fighters in Libya’s southern areas on the border with Chad

CAIRO: Forces loyal to a powerful Libyan commander said two military planes crashed on Sunday over a village in eastern Libya, killing at least two officers.
The self-styled Libyan Arab Armed Forces, led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar, said the helicopters collided in the air over the village of Msus, 130 kilometers (81 miles) southeast of the city of Benghazi.
A two-officer crew, including Brig. Gen. Bouzied Al-Barrasi, was killed in the crash, while the second helicopter crew survived, the forces said in a brief statement. It did not give the cause of the crash and said the helicopters were on a military mission.
Mohammad Younes Menfi, head of Libya’s Presidential Council, mourned the two officers.
Haftar’s forces control eastern and most of southern Libya. The crash came as they have been battling Chadian fighters in Libya’s southern areas on the border with Chad.
The clashes erupted last week and could further destabilize the wider Sahel region, after Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno was killed in April in battels between his government and Chadian rebels.