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Whether Extremism in E. Libya Will End After Derna Capture Or Not?

Haftar's army could wrench Derna from a coalition of local and Islamist fighters

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A view of destroyed buildings and cars after the street was controlled by forces loyal to Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar in Derna, Libya, June 13, 2018.
A view of destroyed buildings and cars after the street was controlled by forces loyal to Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar in Derna, Libya, June 13, 2018. VOA

Forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar and his self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) are poised to capture the last remaining city outside of their control in eastern Libya, after weeks of heavy fighting, bombardment and airstrikes, and after years of siege.

Haftar’s army could wrench Derna from a coalition of local and Islamist fighters known as the Derna Protection Force, formerly known as the Derna Mujahedeen Shura Council.

“What remains outside the control of our forces is considered a small combat zone, less than just 10 kilometers squared,” LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari told Reuters earlier this week. “The operations are in their final stages and the fighting is very heavy.”

Last month, Haftar’s forces renewed their offensive “to liberate Derna from terrorists.” Few experts, however, believe the city’s capture will be the end for jihadists in Libya.

Libya, Map
Libya, Map, Pixabay

“The fight against extremism is only going to be symbolically won by any LNA [Libyan national Army] takeover of Derna, or any other city for that matter,” said Darine El Hage, regional program officer at U.S. Institute of Peace’s Center for Middle East and Africa.

“Indeed, evidence has shown that grievances stemming from heavy-handed military and security measures might make people more susceptible to joining extremist groups,” she told VOA.

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies based in Washington, said “if the LNA captures Derna and expels jihadists from the city, they will not be finished in Libya.”

“Jihadists already have a presence in the south of the country, among other areas,” he added.

 An armed motorcade belonging to members of Derna's Islamic Youth Council, consisting of former members of militias from the town of Derna, drive along a road in Derna, eastern Libya Oct. 3, 2014.
An armed motorcade belonging to members of Derna’s Islamic Youth Council, consisting of former members of militias from the town of Derna, drive along a road in Derna, eastern Libya Oct. 3, 2014. VOA

‘Escalating humanitarian crisis’

This week, both the United Nations and the human rights group Amnesty International sounded the alarm over the escalating humanitarian crisis in Derna.

“From the people we have spoken to inside Derna, they have explained that the situation is quite dire,” said Marwa Mohammed, Libya researcher with Amnesty International, in an interview with VOA.

“They’ve had very, very limited supplies that had gotten in, and that includes foodstuffs, medical supplies, fuel, cooking gas,” she said.

Amnesty International had earlier in the week issued a statement on the fighting in Derna, in which the human rights watchdog said unnecessary hardships are being inflicted on ordinary men, women and children by the use of “blockade tactics.”

According to Mohammed, people are afraid to flee Derna “because we do know there are people who are being arbitrarily detained, based on their profile” of being male and from Derna. After that, she said they disappear.

“What we are calling for is the protection of civilians, giving them free access to flee without been profiled,” said Mohammed.

‘Permissive environment’

With the Libyan National Army getting set to declare victory in Derna, many observers are pondering whether Haftar is considering something other than his stated goal of freeing Derna from the clutches of terrorists.

Khalifa Haftar (C), the military commander who dominates eastern Libya, leaves after an international conference on Libya in Paris, France, May 29, 2018.
Khalifa Haftar (C), the military commander who dominates eastern Libya, leaves after an international conference on Libya in Paris, France, May 29, 2018. VOA

“It is difficult to identify one single reason behind the timing of the battle,” said El Hage of USIP’s Center for Middle East and Africa.

“The underlying root causes that allow for radicalization in or outside of Derna, are not won by military victories, at least not for the long term,” she said.

Gartenstein-Ross of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, says the best-case scenario, from a humanitarian and strategic point of view, is for the fighting in Derna to end quickly. If it gets drawn out, he said jihadists will be able to regroup and build their networks.

Also read: Sudanese Children of Islamic State (ISIS) Militants Released in Libya

“Libya will remain a permissive environment until a political entity emerges with the will and capability to deny jihadists the ability to operate,” he said.

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Africa Aims at Battling Extremism, Ebola and Hunger in 2020

Africa Starts 2020 Battling Extremism, Ebola and Hunger

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Africa Health
A health worker fills a syringe with Ebola vaccine before injecting it to a patient, in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa. VOA

A tragic airline crash with far-reaching consequences, cataclysmic cyclones that may be a harbinger of the future, the death of an African icon and a new leader who won the Nobel Peace Prize. These African stories captured the world’s attention in 2019, and look to influence events on the continent in 2020.

The battles against extremist violence and Ebola will also continue to be major campaigns in Africa in the coming year.

The crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jet shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa in March killed all 157 passengers and crew. The disaster, which claimed the lives of a large number of U.N. officials, involved a Boeing 737 Max jet and came just five months after a similar crash in Indonesia of the same aircraft.

Africa airline
Foreign investigators examine wreckage at the scene where the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed shortly after takeoff killing all 157 on board, near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, south of Addis Ababa, Africa. VOA

Boeing was inundated with questions about the safety of its plane. After initially claiming that it was safe, the company was forced to ground the plane after many countries refused to let it fly in their airspace. In December Boeing announced that it would suspend production of the jet.

The air crash was a trial for Ethiopia’s reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who later in the year won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for achieving peace with neighboring Eritrea. But Abiy is challenged by often violent ethnic rivalries in his country and elections set for May 2020 will be crucial, analysts say.

Cyclone Idai ripped into Mozambique in March, killing more than 1,300 people, making it “one of the worst weather-related disasters ever to hit the southern hemisphere,” according to the U.N. A month later Cyclone Kenneth roared into northern Mozambique, killing more than 50 people.

This was the first time in recorded history that Mozambique had two major cyclones, prompting some to worry that the country, with a 1,000-mile Indian Ocean coastline, may be prone to more storms as a result of climate change.

Africa extremism
A general view shows the scene of a car bomb explosion at a checkpoint in Mogadishu, Somalia, Africa. VOA

Across Mozambique more than 2.5 million people remain in urgent need of assistance, according to the U.N. Mozambique also starts 2020 troubled by ongoing attacks on vehicles in the country’s central area and by Islamic extremist attacks in the country’s north.

Extremist violence continues to vex Africa from the east to the west.

2019 began with extremist violence. In Kenya in January, insurgents launched an assault on a luxury hotel and shopping complex in Nairobi that killed at least 14 people.

The year came to an end with extremist attacks across the continent.

A bomb in Somalia killed 78 people, including many university students, in the capital, Mogadishu, on Dec. 28, the deadliest attack in years. Somalia’s al-Shabab, allied to al-Qaida, claimed responsibility for the bombing.

In Nigeria extremists linked to the Islamic State group circulated a video showing 11 hostages, most of them Christians, being executed. They were thought to be killed on Christmas Day. The extremist group, which calls itself the Islamic State West Africa Province, said the captives were executed as revenge for the killing of Islamic State group leaders in Iraq and Syria in October.

In northern Burkina Faso, jihadists killed 35 civilians, most of them women, and ensuing clashes with security forces left 80 jihadists dead, the West African nation’s president announced Dec. 24. That attack came weeks after an attack on a convoy carrying employees of a Canadian mining company in which at least 37 civilians were killed in the country’s east. Both attacks were by groups numbering close to 100, indicating the presence of relatively large, well-organized extremist groups.

“The startling deterioration of the security situation in Burkina Faso has been a major development in 2019,” said Alex Vines, director of the Africa program at Chatham House, the British think tank. “There’s been a dramatic spike in extremist attacks.”

Frequent attacks in Burkina Faso’s north and east already have displaced more than a half million people, according to the United Nations. While Burkina Faso’s military has received training from both former colonizer France and the United States, it starts 2020 with little progress in halting the surge in extremist violence.

President of South Africa
President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa speaks during a state funeral of Zimbabwe’s longtime ruler Robert Mugabe, at the national sports stadium in Harare, Zimbabwe. VOA

Congo starts the year waging a different kind of war, a campaign against Ebola, which has killed more than 2,200 people since August 2018. The medical effort to control the second deadliest Ebola outbreak in history has been severely hampered since the start by the presence of several armed groups in eastern Congo, the epicenter of the epidemic. It was hoped that new vaccines would help control the outbreak more quickly, but the violence has hampered those efforts.

Congo’s President Felix Tshisekedi, elected in 2019, said in November that he was optimistic that the Ebola outbreak would be ended before 2020, but the epidemic continues throughout eastern Congo.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, re-elected in 2019, said in a New Year’s statement that the need to boost his country’s ailing economy and create jobs is his biggest challenge for 2020. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, also re-elected, has said that his government has controlled the rebellion by Boko Haram extremists, but violence continues to plague the country’s northeast.

Zimbabwe’s longtime ruler, Robert Mugabe, died at age 95 in September. Mugabe, the guerrilla leader who fought to end white-minority rule in Rhodesia and then ruled independent Zimbabwe from 1980 until 2017, left a mixed legacy of liberation, repression and economic ruin.

Also Read- HPV Vaccinations may Reduce Cervical Cancer Rate in Kenya

Zimbabwe begins the new year with severe economic problems including inflation estimated at more than 300% and widespread hunger. In an emergency appeal at the end of December, the U.N.’s World Food Program said that even though the southern African country had suffered a drought, Zimbabwe’s food shortages are a ‘man-made” disaster, laying the blame squarely with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.

The once-prosperous country staggered to 2020 with power shortages lasting up to 19 hours per day and large parts of the capital, Harare, a city of some 2 million people, going without running water. (VOA)

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WHO: Medicines Provided To Libya With Italian Govt’s Support

The World Health Organization (WHO) said that medicines have been provided to Libyan hospitals, with the support of the Italian government

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Libya, Italy, Who, Health, Medicines
Deliveries arrived today at Tripoli hospitals and clinics and were generously supported by the Italian government. VOA

The World Health Organization (WHO) said that medicines have been provided to Libyan hospitals, with the support of the Italian government.

“This week, the World Health Organization is providing medicines and supplies to treat thousands of patients across Libya,” WHO tweeted on Friday, Xinhua news agency reported.

“Deliveries arrived today at Tripoli hospitals and clinics and were generously supported by the Italian government,” the organization said.

Libya, Italy, Who, Health, Medicines
World Health Organization (WHO) said that medicines have been provided to Libyan hospitals. Wikimedia Commons

On Thursday, WHO said it provided essential medicines to Libyan hospitals, with the support of the German government and the US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance.

ALSO READ: Tiny Bubbles In Body Better Than Chemotherapy, Research Suggests

Due to years of armed conflicts and economic instability, Libyan authorities have been struggling to provide proper healthcare and education and other basic services for the people. (IANS)

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Turkey Backs Peaceful Settlement of Libya Crisis

The Turkish and Libyan top diplomats visited Sudan to attend the signing ceremony of a power-sharing deal between rival parties there

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Turkey, Libya, Peaceful
Cavusoglu emphasized the importance of a peaceful settlement of the dispute in Libya, adding that "international community should display a united and principled stance to stop the clashes in Libya," according to a statement. Pixabay

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu voiced his country’s support for a peaceful settlement of the Libya crisis, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

Cavusoglu emphasized the importance of a peaceful settlement of the dispute in Libya, adding that “international community should display a united and principled stance to stop the clashes in Libya,” according to a statement on his Twitter after he met with his Libyan counterpart Mohamed Taher Siala in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan on Saturday, Xinhua reported.

Turkey, Libya, Peaceful
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu voiced his country’s support for a peaceful settlement of the Libya crisis, state-run Anadolu Agency reported. Pixabay

The Turkish and Libyan top diplomats visited Sudan to attend the signing ceremony of a power-sharing deal between rival parties there.

Also Read- India: Last Surviving Narrow Gauge Line to Become a Part of World Rail History

During his visit, Cavusoglu will also meet with Sudanese officials and representatives from other countries participating in the signing ceremony. (IANS)