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Monday, 23rd September 2019
6:47:20am

North Africa

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Italian prosecutors on Monday ordered the arrest of three people suspected of torturing migrants in a detention centre in north-west Libya.

The men, a 22-year-old Guinean and two Egyptians aged 26 and 24, are believed to be part of a group that kidnapped and mistreated dozens of people, the judicial order seen by Reuters said.

Prosecutors collected testimony from several migrants detained in the former military base of Zawyia, who said they recognised their former jailers among residents of a migrant registration centre in Sicily.

“I have been beaten several times. I suffered real torture that left scars on my body... I was whipped with electric wires,” one of the migrants told magistrates, according to the judicial document.

The migrants said the prison was surrounded by high walls and had a blue gate at the entrance. People were separated according to their sex or ethnic group and guarded by armed men.

The head of the centre was described as a short, balding Libyan man called Ossama, who was feared for his brutality.

“Ossama is the most ruthless... due to the torture practised, (he) was responsible for two murders of two migrants,” another migrant told investigators.

Women were systematically raped and prisoners were allowed to call their families to ask for payment in return for their freedom. Those who did not pay were often killed or sold to human smugglers. 

Libyan migrant detention centres are often controlled by armed groups. Aid workers and rights groups have long denounced them for violence and appealed for their closure.

But the centres have continued to operate, receiving new arrivals from boats intercepted by Libya’s EU-backed coastguard.

“This investigation... confirms the inhumane living conditions in Libya’s so-called detention centres, and the need to act, including at international level,” said Luigi Patronaggio, chief prosecutor of the Sicilian city of Agrigento.

-Reuters

Algerian Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui will resign soon to facilitate the holding of elections this year that the army sees as the only way to end a standoff over months of protests, two senior sources told Reuters on Tuesday.

Bedoui’s departure is a major demand of protesters, who in April forced long-time president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to quit, and who have rejected fresh elections until there is a more thorough change of the power structure. 

Army chief Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Saleh said last week that the electoral commission should by Sept. 15 call an election, a move that would trigger a 90-day countdown to the vote.

The mass demonstrations began in February and have continued since Bouteflika’s departure, with the loose-knit movement demanding that all figures associated with him also leave and that the army play a smaller role in state affairs. 

The election had been scheduled for July, but was postponed as a result of the crisis, leaving oil- and gas-exporter Algeria in a constitutional deadlock.

Over the summer the authorities have made concessions by arresting more prominent figures linked to Bouteflika on corruption charges, while increasing the pressure on protesters with tougher policing.

Protests continue on Tuesdays and Fridays but at a smaller level than during the first months of the year, when hundreds of thousands of people regularly marched through central Algiers.

-Reuters

Three suspected jihadists killed in a gun battle with Tunisian forces were wanted Algerian leaders of al-Qaeda, Tunisia's interior ministry said on Tuesday, a day after the shootout.

The Tunisian national guard said one its officers was also killed when fighting broke out Monday during a joint search operation with the army in the mountainous Kasserine region near the Algerian border.

The interior ministry said one of the three alleged jihadists, identified as El Behi Akrouf and nicknamed Abu Salma, could be a top leader of Okba ibn Nafaa - the Tunisian branch of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim).

It named the other two men as Tahar Jijli and El Mahi. 

The three are "among the most dangerous leaders in their group", national guard spokesman Housemeddine Jebabli said.

They are alleged to have participated in a July 2018 attack that killed six policemen near Jendouba in northwestern Tunisia, according to the interior ministry.

That jihadist operation, the bloodiest since a series of attacks in 2015 and early 2016, was claimed by Aqim.

Jijli was the group's head in the northwestern region of Kef while El Mahi ran its operations in Jendouba, the national guard said, adding that both coordinated directly with Aqim.

The apparent gun battle took place on the opening day of campaigning for Tunisia's presidential election, due to take place on September 15.

Since its 2011 revolution, Tunisia has been hit by multiple jihadist attacks that have killed dozens of members of the security forces and foreign tourists.

The country has been under a state of emergency since November 2015, when an IS-claimed suicide bombing in the capital Tunis killed 12 presidential guards.

The Kasserine region remains a hideout for jihadist groups, including AQIM and the Islamic State group-affiliate Jund al-Khalifa.

-AFP

The youngest son of deceased ex-president Mohammed Morsi himself died on Wednesday night of a heart attack in Cairo, a family lawyer said.

Abdallah Morsi, 25, suffered the fatal cardiac arrest while at the wheel of his car, Abdel Moneim Abdel Maqsoud told AFP.

"A friend who was with him was able to stop the car and take him to hospital", said the lawyer, adding that Abdallah Morsi's funeral was set to take place on Thursday.

Mohamed Morsi - who as Egypt's first freely elected president headed an administration loyal to the now banned Muslim Brotherhood until he was deposed by the military in 2013 - died in court on June 17. 

The military overthrow of Morsi was led by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who ascended to the presidency in 2014 polls, before securing an official 97 percent in elections last year.

Mohammed Morsi, 67, collapsed during a court session in Cairo, some six years after his ouster and imprisonment.

He had been sentenced to 45 years in prison for offences including "inciting violence" in late 2012 against protesters and "spying" on behalf of Qatar.

Sisi has stifled opposition, particularly from the Muslim Brotherhood.

Egypt declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation in late 2013.

-AFP

Tunisia’s electoral commission said on Wednesday it had approved 26 candidates including two women for next month’s presidential election, rejecting 71 other applicants.

The Sept. 15 vote follows the death at age 92 last month of Beji Caid Essebsi, the first president to be democratically elected in Tunisia after the popular uprising of 2011.

-Reuters 

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