Digitized war records of Indian troops killed in WWI Iraq highlight long forgotten Kut Al-Amara siege

Special British and Indian troops traverse a desert during the Mesopotamia campaign of the First World War (1914-1918). (Alamy)
British and Indian troops traverse a desert during the Mesopotamia campaign of the First World War (1914-1918). (Alamy)
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Updated 18 December 2021

Digitized war records of Indian troops killed in WWI Iraq highlight long forgotten Kut Al-Amara siege

Troops in Mesopotamia, British and Indian troops in the desert at the Sakartutan-Baghaz Road on Jibel Hamarin pass (1914-1918). (Alamy)
  • In all the conflicts in which Indian troops fought with barely any recognition, few are as little known as the Mesopotamian campaign in modern-day Iraq
  • The release online of Punjab war records is a timely reminder that the sacrifice of untold thousands has yet to be acknowledged

LONDON: The beautifully handwritten note on the yellowing service record, compiled by the Punjab government in 1919 and now over a century old, is as brief as it is poignant.

In faded ink, the entry for Wasawa Singh, the son of Shera, a Jat from the village of Gaike in northeast Punjab, tells the story of a young life cut short in the service of an alien empire.

There are no dates, merely a rank — havildar, equivalent to sergeant — and the name of a unit, the 30th Punjabis.




Paperwork documenting the military service of more than 300,000 men from Punjab was recently unearthed in the Lahore Museum in Pakistan. (Supplied) 

An infantry regiment first raised by the British Indian Army in 1857, the 30th saw action in the Indian mutiny (1857-58), the Bhutan War (1864-66), the Second Afghan War (1878-80) and, finally, the First World War.

It was in this last conflict, in which over 1 million Indian soldiers fought in almost every theater of the war for the British Empire, that Singh died, along with more than 70,000 of his countrymen.

The surviving paperwork documenting his service, and that of more than 300,000 other men from Punjab, has been unearthed in the depths of Lahore Museum in Pakistan.

Discovered after languishing forgotten for over 100 years, all 26,000 pages have been digitized and can now be searched online, by the name of the soldier, his father, or their village.

Although a priceless treasure trove for both historians and descendants of the old warriors, the documents contain only limited information. They do not reveal, for example, how old Singh was when he was killed, how he met his end, or even when and where he died.

A terse entry in the neat handwriting of some forgotten civil servant does, however, record that after his death, Singh’s nameless and doubtless grief-stricken mother was awarded a small pension.




For four long years, British and Indian soldiers fought side by side to oust the Ottoman Empire from what is now modern-day Iraq. (Alamy)

According to the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, 153 men called Singh died while serving with the 30th Punjabis. Wasawa, service number 3902, fell on Jan. 15, 1917, while fighting the Germans in East Africa. Although fated to perish 5,000 km from his Punjab home, he was, at least, spared the horrors of Gallipoli or the western front in France, where so many Indians fought and suffered in horrendous conditions.

Death was to be his lot, however. He was killed in fierce fighting which saw the Germans finally defeated at Mahenge, near the Rufiji river in modern-day Tanzania.

Wasawa Singh’s final resting place is unknown. His name, and those of more than 1,200 British and Indian officers and men “to whom the fortune of war denied the known and honored burial given to their comrades in death,” is recorded on the British and Indian Memorial wall at Nairobi South Cemetery in Kenya.

FASTFACTS

* The siege of Kut Al-Amara, a town 160 km southeast of Baghdad, lasted four months, ending on April 29, 1916.

* Around 4,000 men died in the siege, while 23,000 more were killed or wounded attempting to relieve the besieged force.

For the hundreds of thousands of families in India and Pakistan today whose grandfathers and great-grandfathers took up arms for the British cause in the 1914-1918 war, the emergence of the Lahore Museum papers is one more step toward a long-overdue recognition of the sacrifices made by so many from the subcontinent.

In Britain, every year, the nation still observes a minute’s silence on Armistice Day: At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the time and date the guns fell silent on the western front in France in 1918.

But although in recent years efforts have been made to ensure that the Armistice Day commemorations are inclusive of all the nations of the British Empire whose young men lost their lives, it was not until 2002 —  84 years after the end of the war — that a solemn memorial dedicated “In memory of the 5 million volunteers from the Indian subcontinent, Africa and the Caribbean who fought with Britain in the two world wars” was unveiled on Constitution Hill in London.




One of the Indian soldiers after being held by the Turks in a Mesopotamian prison following the fall of Kut. June 28, 1917. (Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)

It was almost as if, for all those years, the sacrifices made by the subcontinent’s soldiers on behalf of the empire had been taken for granted.

That, certainly, was the only conclusion that could be drawn from a report by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which in 2019 set up a committee “to probe the early history of the Imperial War Graves Commission to identify inequalities in the way the organization commemorated the dead of the British Empire.”

Founded over a century ago as the Imperial War Graves Commission, initially to commemorate the empire’s First World War dead, the organization was charged at the outset with treating all the fallen with equal dignity. In a paper prepared for the commission in 1918, Lt. Col. Sir Frederic Kenyon, director of the British Museum, wrote that “no less honor should be paid to the last resting places of Indian and other non-Christian members of the empire than to those of our British soldiers.”

In its report, published earlier this year, the committee concluded that, “although the organization upheld its promise of equality of treatment in Europe, this was not always the case for certain ethnic groups elsewhere.”

It found that, “in conflict with the organization’s founding principles,” between 45,000 and 54,000 casualties — predominantly Indian, East African, West African, Egyptian and Somali — “were commemorated unequally.”




Memorial Gates at the end of Constitution Hill in London. (Shutterstock)

Even more shocking, as many as 350,000 others “were not commemorated by name or possibly not commemorated at all.”

In all the conflicts in which Indian troops fought and died with barely any recognition, few are as little known, certainly in Britain, as the Mesopotamian campaign, to which India made its greatest contribution in the First World War. As British Col. Patrick Cowley, a veteran of a later conflict in Iraq, wrote in his 2009 book “Kut 1916: Courage and Failure,” the “campaign in Mesopotamia is a ‘forgotten war’ and the Kut story was overshadowed by events elsewhere.”

For four long years, British and Indian soldiers fought side by side to oust the Ottoman Empire from what is now Iraq. It was a brutal, bloody affair, ultimately successful, but marred by the disaster of the siege of Kut Al-Amara, a town nestled in a bend in the Tigris, 160 km southeast of Baghdad.

The siege lasted four months. It ended on April 29, 1916, with the surrender of 12,000 mainly Indian troops. Outnumbered, outgunned and poorly led, after four desperate months they were starving, weakened by illness and cut off from any hope of relief.

The day before the surrender, one British officer wrote in his journal: “We are a sick army, a skeleton army rocking with cholera and disease.”

In all, about 4,000 men were killed during the siege. Astonishingly, 23,000 more soldiers — again, mainly Indian — were killed or wounded during attempts to relieve the besieged force.




 British casualty being brought down the gangway from a steamer by Indian Army orderlies at Falariyeh, Mesopotamia. The Indian Expeditionary Force, consisting of both British and Indian units, advanced along the Tigris towards Baghdad in Summer 1915. (Alamy)

Among the defenders were men of the 22nd, 24th, 66th, 67th and 76th Punjabis. Several other Indian units suffered alongside them, including the 117th Mahrattas, the 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry, the 120th Rajputana Infantry and a squadron of the 7th Hariana Lancers.

More Punjabi regiments, including the 28th and 92nd, were part of the relief force that failed to fight its way through to Kut in time, suffering a high percentage of casualties, alongside other Indian units, including the 51st and 53rd Sikhs and the 9th Bhopal Infantry.

Of the 12,000 men marched into captivity in Anatolia, Turkey, at least one-third died. Some succumbed to disease and starvation, while others were shot or beaten to death for falling behind on the march, or simply left to die where they fell after collapsing, exhausted, by the roadside. At one point on the march, bodies were thrown into a ravine, where skulls were found later in the war.

Ottoman cruelty extended to the local Arabs who had helped the British. About 250 were shot after the surrender, while a number of interpreters were hanged in Kut’s town square.

Today, the siege remains virtually unknown, certainly in Britain. It is, however, acknowledged as one of the greatest catastrophes ever to befall a British army. To this day Kut is studied by military strategists around the world as an example of the danger to an invading army of overstretching its supply lines.




According to the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, 153 men called Singh died while serving with the 30th Punjabis. (Alamy)

Most of the Indians who fell at Kut or died in captivity have no known grave. Many are recorded on the Basra Memorial, which was constructed in 1929 and originally was located at Maqil, on the west bank of the Shatt-al-Arab. In 1997, by order of Saddam Hussein, it was taken apart and reconstructed 32 km along the road to Nasiriyah, in the middle of what was a major battleground during the Gulf War.

Today, the memorial is in poor repair. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission said that “while the current climate of political instability persists, it is extremely challenging for it to manage or maintain its cemeteries and memorials located within Iraq.”

But when it does finally feel able to renovate the Basra Memorial, the CWGC will have more than mere masonry and marble to repair.

As the report of the Special Committee to Review Historical Inequalities in Commemoration noted, “known issues with memorials to the missing include 38,696 Indian casualties who were or are still commemorated (only) numerically on memorials,” with their names missing.

Subsequently, names have been added to the Port Tewfik memorial in Egypt and the combined British and Indian memorials at Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. But “a decision is yet to be made regarding the Basra Memorial, primarily due to ongoing instability in Iraq.”

On the panels of the memorial can be found the names of the 7,385 British personnel and the Indian officers who lost their lives in Mesopotamia.

But for the 33,256 noncommissioned officers and other ranks of the British Indian army who remain numbered but unnamed on the Basra Memorial, the insult of anonymity has yet to be expunged.


Turkey shelves Syrian offensive after Russian objection

Turkey shelves Syrian offensive after Russian objection
Updated 02 July 2022

Turkey shelves Syrian offensive after Russian objection

Turkey shelves Syrian offensive after Russian objection
  • Regional actors voice concerns over potential military operation in Tal Rifaat and Manbij 
  • “No need for hurry. We don’t need to do that,” Turkish President Erdogan told journalists in Madrid

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that Turkey is in no rush to stage a new military operation against armed Kurdish militants.

But regional actors have voiced their concerns over the potential Turkish offensive against the towns of Tal Rifaat and Manbij.

“No need for hurry. We don’t need to do that,” Erdogan told journalists in Madrid, where he met with US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the NATO summit. Erdogan offered no timeline for the planned operation.

The stakes are high. Experts believe that Turkey still lacks Russian backing for a military intervention against Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara considers to be a terror group with direct links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Oytun Orhan, coordinator of Syria studies at the ORSAM think tank in Ankara, said that Russia’s failure to back the operation remains its major obstacle.

“Ankara decided to launch a military offensive on Syria while the world’s attention is focused on the war in Ukraine — and after thousands of Russian troops withdrew from Ukraine. However, Russia cannot risk looking weak in both Ukraine or Syria by giving the greenlight to a Turkish operation now,” he told Arab News.

Orhan noted that Turkey only hit targets along the Turkish-Syrian border as retaliation against attacks by the YPG.

“I don’t expect a larger-scale operation in which the Syrian National Army would serve as ground forces and the Turkish military would give aerial support,” he said.

Ankara has previously conducted three military operations in the area: Euphrates Shield in 2016, Olive Branch in 2018, and Peace Spring in 2019.

Troop numbers from both Russia and the Syrian regime have been increasing in northern Syria since early June ahead of a potential Turkish operation.

Iran has also been very vocal in its opposition of any Turkish military operation in the area.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saaed Khatibzadeh recently said: “The Syria file is a matter of dispute between us and Turkey.”

On Saturday, Iran’s foreign minister paid a visit to Damascus following Turkey’s threats to launch the new offensive.

“Both from an ideological and strategic perspective, Iran accords importance to protecting Shiite settlements — especially the two Shiite towns of Nubl and Al-Zahra. And there are also some Shiite militia fighting along with the YPG in Tal Rifaat,” Orhan said.

“However, at this point, Russia’s position is much more (important to Turkey) than Iran’s concerns, because Russia controls the airspace in northern Syria and it would have to withdraw Russian forces before approving any Turkish operation,” he added.

Some experts have suggested that Turkey used its potential Syria operation as a bargaining chip during its recent negotiations with Washington. When Erdogan met Biden on June 29, they discussed the importance of maintaining stability in Syria, according to the White House readout.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), mainly led by the YPG, still holds large areas of northeast Syria. Syrian Kurds are regarded by Washington as an important ally against Daesh.

Although the Biden administration has repeatedly said that it acknowledges Turkey’s security concerns, it has also warned that any Turkish operation in northern Syria could put US troops at risk, and undermine the fight against Daesh.

Hamidreza Azizi, CATS fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, thinks that, given the course of events, the Turkish operation is inevitable.

“It (will) happen sooner or later. Because Turkish leaders have been maneuvering on what they see as threats Turkey is facing from northern Syria, we should expect some kind of military operation,” he told Arab News.

“But the scope of the operation has been a matter of speculation because, in the beginning, Turkish officials were talking about a vast area from Tal Rifaat and Manbij to east of the Euphrates, but they reconsidered after US opposition to the expansion of the operation east of the Euphrates,” Azizi said.

Azizi expects a limited operation to happen, the main aim of which would be to expand Turkey’s zone of influence in the area.

Turkey’s original plan had been to establish a 30 kilometer-deep security zone along its southern border both to push back the YPG and to repatriate around 1 million Syrian refugees in a wider safe zone.

President Erdogan recently announced a reconstruction plan to enable Syrians to return to their homeland.

Azizi believes that “the main friction” over this potential operation would be between Iran and Turkey.

“Iran is worried because if Turkey — or Turkish-backed troops — control Tal Rifaat, they have access to Aleppo, where Iran is present, which will give them further access to central Syria.”

Iran is still a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, but also an important trade partner for Turkey.

Unless Turkey is able to come up with a new plan that alleviates Iran’s concerns, Azizi expects a response from the Iranian side — albeit an indirect one via proxy forces.

“Such a move could push Turkey to further strengthen ties with Arab states and cooperate further with Israel,” he said.

-ENDS-


Arab foreign ministers pledge support for Lebanon’s IMF negotiations and reform process

Arab foreign ministers pledge support for Lebanon’s IMF negotiations and reform process
Updated 02 July 2022

Arab foreign ministers pledge support for Lebanon’s IMF negotiations and reform process

Arab foreign ministers pledge support for Lebanon’s IMF negotiations and reform process
  • Arab League representatives also discussed the Ukrainian war, food and energy
  • The meeting will prepare for the Arab summit to be held in Algeria in October

BEIRUT: Arab foreign ministers on Saturday pledged their support for Lebanon’s IMF negotiations and reform process, following an Arab League meeting held in Beirut.

They said their presence in Lebanon amid its “significantly difficult” economic and political circumstances signaled that Arab countries supported stability and stood by the country’s negotiations with the IMF and the reform process.

Arab League secretary-general Ahmed Aboul Gheit said: “We came to say that there’s a problem and you must seek to resolve it.”

He told a press conference that the meeting had discussed the preparations, timing, and attendees of the upcoming Arab League summit.

“We just held some discussions and exchanged views to be decided upon in the appropriate place. We also went over the Ukrainian war, food, energy, and the topic of Somalia, where millions of Somalis might be at risk of starvation.

“We also discussed the Palestinian cause amid the American-Israeli moves and how we react to these events. We did not agree on anything because they are mere discussions that we will not reveal.

“Everyone supports ending the pressure of Syrian refugees. The Lebanese state provides them with care but, when decisions similar to agreeing on their return to their country are taken, some specific circumstances should be present.”

He said there was a civil war going on in Syria and “huge” destruction.

“At least $500 million is needed to rehabilitate the Syrian infrastructure,” he added. “These are very complex issues that cannot be resolved with a simple decision. But the international community has the will to end the Syrian war and is still exerting pressure when it comes to the matter of refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, and other countries.”

Lebanon, which was represented by caretaker Foreign Affairs Minister Abdallah Bou Habib, chaired the ministerial meeting.

Algeria will host the Arab League summit in early November after it was postponed in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 lockdowns.

Saturday’s meeting was attended by the foreign ministers of Kuwait, Yemen, Jordan, Qatar, Tunisia, Algeria, the Comoro Islands, Sudan, Somalia, Palestine, the deputy foreign minister of Egypt, and the league’s permanent representatives from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Djibouti, Iraq, Morocco, Oman, Libya, a representative from Mauritania, and the Bahraini ambassador to Syria.

The Arab ministerial delegation met Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who expressed the importance of regional relations in the “critical circumstances the Arab world is going through, the challenges it is facing, and that requires the utmost consultation and cooperation.”

He talked about the crises facing Lebanon and the burden of Syrian refugees in the country which, he said, was “no longer capable of handling this reality.”

“We seek to reach an agreement with the IMF. There’s an American mediation to demarcate the southern maritime borders of Lebanon,” he said, adding that Lebanon retained its water, oil, and gas resources.

Responding to media questions about revoking the suspension of Syria’s Arab League membership, Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra said: “We didn’t support its membership suspension because Syria is a founding member of the league. The Syrian foreign minister will visit Algeria and we will go over this point with a high sense of responsibility.”

The Arab ministerial delegation also met Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who said Lebanon was now requesting that its “Arab brothers come and get to the core of its suffering.”

He told his guests that the indirect negotiations between Lebanon and Israel, with US mediation, to demarcate the maritime borders in preparation for gas extraction were advancing.

Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati met the delegations on Friday night.

He reiterated Lebanon’s commitment to implementing all the resolutions from the UN Security Council and the Arab League in a way that reinforced the dissociation policy toward any Arab dispute, extending the state’s sovereignty over all its territory, and preventing offense to any Arab state and threats to its security.

Aboul Gheit received a political letter from the Sovereign Front for Lebanon opposing Hezbollah and Iran’s role in Lebanon.

The letter demanded “the activation of Lebanon’s right to be free from the Iranian dominance that uses Lebanon and its territories as a platform to conduct hostilities, putting the country in danger and exposing it to attacks from all sides.”   

It highlighted “the persistence of illegal weaponry represented by Hezbollah’s organized armed militia, which receives support, orders, and funding from Iran.”


Houthis criticized over refusal to open main roads in Yemeni city of Taiz

Houthis criticized over refusal to open main roads in Yemeni city of Taiz
Updated 02 July 2022

Houthis criticized over refusal to open main roads in Yemeni city of Taiz

Houthis criticized over refusal to open main roads in Yemeni city of Taiz
  • Last month on June 6, UN Yemen envoy Hans Grundberg proposed opening a main road linking Taiz with other provinces
  • The government previously insisted on a complete lifting of the siege

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen will not begin discussing other issues with the Houthis under a UN-brokered truce until the militia accepts a proposal to open roads in Taiz, a government official has told Arab News.
Last month on June 6, UN Yemen envoy Hans Grundberg proposed opening a main road linking Taiz with other provinces that would partially ease the Houthi siege on the city, with the aim of resolving stalled negotiations between the two sides.
The government previously insisted on a complete lifting of the siege but accepted the proposal as long as other roads opened during subsequent rounds of talks.
But the Houthis rejected Grundberg’s proposal, dealing a blow to the talks and the truce that has by and large been holding since April 2.
“We will not accept discussing other issues or offer more concessions before they agree to the UN envoy’s proposal,” the Yemeni government official said anonymously because he was not authorized to brief reporters. “We have not received any invitation (from the UN envoy) to take part in a new round of discussion on the Taiz file.”
The Houthis alternatively proposed opening an old, rough road connecting Taiz with the countryside.
Taiz residents and local government officials told Arab News that the proposed road was narrow, unpaved, and had been abandoned for over six decades.
The head of the Houthi delegation to the talks, Yahiya Abdullah Al-Razami, said on Friday that the movement would unilaterally open the old road, claiming it had not pledged to open main roads in Taiz when it signed the truce.
“This is not true. The Houthis signed the elements of the truce that include Sanaa airport, Hodeidah port, and opening roads in Taiz,” the government official said.
The Yemeni army has accused the Houthis of breaking the truce more than 100 times last week in Hodeidah, Taiz, Hajjah, Saada, Jouf, and Marib, and killing a soldier and wounding four more.
In Taiz, the army on Saturday said it had shot down a small explosives-rigged drone sent by the Houthis to government-controlled areas north of the city.
The Houthis have been laying siege to Taiz for the past seven years, having failed to take control of it due to resistance from government troops.
Yemeni and Western diplomats have criticized the Houthis for refusing to lift their siege and called on the movement to respond positively to peace efforts.
“The UN calls for access around Yemen’s third-largest city, Taiz. The Houthis must find a way to compromise on the UN proposal so we can move forward to broader issues important to Yemenis,” US Yemen envoy Tim Lenderking told France 24 Arabic TV on Friday.
Yemeni Foreign Minister Ahmed Awadh bin Mubarak warned that the Houthis’ unwillingness and delays in opening roads in Taiz would jeopardize the truce.
He said his government had accepted the UN proposal on Taiz as it was a test of the militia’s motivations for making peace and ending the war.
“Lifting the siege is one of the main elements of the truce. We affirm our keenness to respect the truce and treat it as a space of hope and a window for peace. But the continued intransigence of the Houthi militia threatens the truce very seriously,” he told Lebanon’s Annahar Al-Arabi news website.


UN condemns protesters’ storming of Libya’s parliament

UN condemns protesters’ storming of Libya’s parliament
Updated 03 July 2022

UN condemns protesters’ storming of Libya’s parliament

UN condemns protesters’ storming of Libya’s parliament
  • The UN’s top Libya envoy Stephanie Williams says ‘riots and acts of vandalism’ were ‘totally unacceptable’
  • Libyan protesters say they will keep demonstrating until all the ruling elites quit power

CAIRO/TRIPOLI: A senior UN official for Libya on Saturday condemned the storming of the parliament’s headquarters by angry demonstrators as part of protests in several cities against the political class and deteriorating economic conditions.
Hundreds of protesters marched in the streets of the capital, Tripoli, and other Libyan cities on Friday, with many attacking and setting fire to government buildings, including the House of Representatives in the eastern city of Tobruk.
“The people’s right to peacefully protest should be respected and protected but riots and acts of vandalism such as the storming of the House of Representatives headquarters late yesterday in Tobruk are totally unacceptable,” said Stephanie Williams, the UN special adviser on Libya, on Twitter.


Libyans, many impoverished after a decade of turmoil and sweltering in the soaring summer heat, have been enduring power cuts of up to 18 hours a day, fuel shortages, and crumbling services and infrastructure, even as their country sits atop Africa’s largest proven oil reserves.
In both the main eastern city of Benghazi — the cradle of the 2011 uprising — and the capital Tripoli, thousands took to the streets to chants of “We want the lights to work.”
Friday’s protests came a day after the leaders of the parliament and another legislative chamber based in Tripoli failed to reach an agreement on elections during UN-mediated talks in Geneva. The dispute now centers on the eligibility requirements for candidates, according to the UN.
Libya failed to hold elections in December, following challenges such as legal disputes, controversial presidential hopefuls and the presence of rogue militias and foreign fighters in the country.
The failure to hold the vote was a major below to international efforts to bring peace to the Mediterranean nation. It has opened a new chapter in its long-running political impasse, with two rival governments now claiming power after tentative steps toward unity in the past year.
The protesters, frustrated from years of chaos and division, have called for the removal of the current political class and elections to be held. They also rallied against dire economic conditions in the oil-rich nation, where prices have risen for fuel and bread and power outages are a regular occurrence.
There were fears that militias across the country could quash the protests as they did in 2020 demonstrations when they opened fire on people protesting dire economic conditions.
Sabadell Jose, the European Union envoy in Libya, called on protesters to “avoid any type of violence.” He said Friday’s demonstrations demonstrated that people want “change through elections and their voices should be heard.”
Libya has been wrecked by conflict since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. The country was then for years split between rival administrations in the east and west, each supported by different militias and foreign governments.
Libya’s energy sector, which during the Qaddafi era financed a generous welfare state, has also fallen victim to political divisions, with a wave of forced closures of oil facilities since April.
Supporters of the eastern-based administration have shut off the oil taps as leverage in their efforts to secure a transfer of power to Bashagha, whose attempt to take up office in Tripoli in May ended in a swift withdrawal.
Libya’s National Oil Corporation has announced losses of more than $3.5 billion from the closures and a drop in gas output, which has a knock-on effect on the power grid.
(With AP and AFP)


Palestinians hand bullet that killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh to US

Palestinians hand bullet that killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh to US
Updated 02 July 2022

Palestinians hand bullet that killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh to US

Palestinians hand bullet that killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh to US
  • Palestinian attorney general says authorities agreed to allow the US side to conduct ballistic works on the bullet
  • Abu Akleh was killed while covering an Israeli military raid in Jenin in the occupied West Bank

RAMALLAH/JERUSALEM: The Palestinian Authority handed the bullet that killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh to US forensic experts on Saturday as it seeks to prove conclusively that it was fired by an Israel soldier.
The announcement came just over a week before President Joe Biden is to visit Israel and the occupied West Bank for meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. It signaled that both sides may be working to find a solution to the deadlock.
The Palestinian Authority was assured that no modifications would be made to the bullet that killed Abu Akleh during an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank, and that it would be returned as soon as the assessment was complete, Palestinian Attorney General Akram Al-Khatib told AFP.
The Palestinian Authority gave the green light to hand over the bullet to the United States, the Palestinians’ official Wafa news agency reported.
Israel says it has identified the rifle that may have shot her, but that it cannot draw any conclusions unless it is compared to the bullet. The Palestinians have refused to turn over the bullet, saying they don’t trust Israel. Rights groups say Israel has a poor record investigating shootings of Palestinians by its troops, with probes languishing for months or years before they are quietly closed.
Al-Khatib reiterated the Palestinian refusal to share the bullet with the Israelis but said the Palestinians welcome the participation of any international bodies to “help us confirm the truth.”
“We are confident and certain of our investigations and the results we have reached,” he said.
It was not immediately clear what the American experts could discover without also studying the Israeli weapon. It also was not clear whether Israel would turn over the rifle to the Americans. The Israeli military declined comment, and US Embassy’s Office of Palestinian Affairs said it had “no new information to offer.”
The Palestinian-American journalist, who was wearing a vest marked “Press” and a helmet, was killed on May 11 while covering an Israeli army operation in Jenin camp in the northern West Bank.
The official Palestinian investigation found that the Qatar-based television channel’s star reporter was killed after being hit by a bullet just below her helmet.
It found that Abu Akleh was killed with a 5.56 millimeter armor-piercing round fired from a Ruger Mini-14 rifle.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had promised last month to pursue accountability over the killing of Abu Akleh wherever the facts might lead.
“We are looking for an independent, credible investigation. When that investigation happens, we will follow the facts, wherever they lead. It’s as straightforward as that,” said Blinken.
A Palestinian official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing a diplomatic matter, said the issue was raised in a phone call between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Secretary of State Antony Blinken and that both sides hope to resolve the issue before Biden’s arrival on July 13.
Investigations by the UN, as well as several journalistic probes, have found that the shot that killed Abu Akleh was fired by Israeli forces.
“We find that the shots that killed Abu Akleh came from Israeli security forces,” UN Human Rights Office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva.
“It is deeply disturbing that Israeli authorities have not conducted a criminal investigation,” she said.
The UN rights office inspected photo, video and audio material, visited the scene, consulted experts, reviewed official communications and interviewed witnesses.
The probe examined submissions from the Israeli army and the Palestinian attorney general.
However, the Israeli army branded the UN’s findings unfounded, insisting it was “not possible” to determine how Abu Akleh was killed.
“The IDF (Israel Defense Force) investigation clearly concludes that Ms. Abu Akleh was not intentionally shot by an IDF soldier and that it is not possible to determine whether she was killed by a Palestinian gunman shooting indiscriminately... or inadvertently by an IDF soldier,” the military said.
Israel has repeatedly called on the Palestinian Authority to give it the bullet but the Palestinians have refused to do so and have rejected any collaboration with Israel in the investigation.
Abu Akleh, who was 51, was a widely known and respected on-air correspondent who rose to fame two decades ago during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, against Israeli rule. She documented the harsh realities of life under Israeli military rule — now well into its sixth decade with no end in sight — for viewers across the Arab world.
(With AFP and AP)