Tuesday, 17th July 2018

North Africa

Articles related to North Africa

At least six members of Tunisia’s security forces were killed on Sunday in an ambush in the northwest of the country close to the border with Algeria.

State news agency TAP said nine had died, while the interior ministry put the initial death toll at six. Officials could not immediately be reached for comment, but both tolls were the highest in any attack since 2015.

The police unit from Gar Dimaou in the region of Jendouba was ambushed during a regular patrol, TAP reported.

“The terrorist attackers threw a grenade at the first security car and there were confrontations with firearms,” its report cited a security source as saying. 

One of the Arab world’s most secular nations, Tunisia became a target for militants after being hailed as a beacon of democratic change with an uprising against autocrat Zine Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.

Some militants operate in remote areas near the border with Algeria, which has been fighting the remnants of a major Islamist insurgency in the 1990s.

Tunisia suffered three major attacks in 2015, including two against tourists, one at a museum in Tunis and the second on a beach in Sousse. The third targeted presidential guards in the capital, killing 12. All three attacks were claimed by Islamic State.

Tourism, after collapsing, has since gradually recovered.

The government has maintained a state of emergency, allowing it greater powers in its attempts to dismantle militant networks.


Libya's crucial oil exports from its production heartland ground to a halt on Monday in a financial showdown between the country's rival political administrations.

The crisis has slashed production, previously estimated at one million barrels per day, by 850 000 bpd, said the National Oil Corporation run by the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).

The NOC said all exports have been suspended from the oil crescent in northeast Libya after operations were frozen at the terminals of Al-Hariga and Zweitina.

Exports from the region's two other ports, Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidra - seized from a rival militia by military strongman Khalifa Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) - were already suspended on June 14. 

The NOC declared force majeure on crude oil loadings at the ports, a status that frees parties to a contract from their obligations due to circumstances beyond their control.

The suspension amounts to a $67.4m a day loss in Libya's heavily oil-dependent public revenues, according to the NOC.

Libya has been wracked by chaos since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi, with two rival authorities vying for control.

The LNA recaptured the terminals in June after they were seized by armed groups led by militia leader Ibrahim Jadhran, who had controlled them from 2011 to 2016.

Haftar's forces said they would hand the installations and their revenues to an eastern administration that rivals the UN-backed GNA in the capital.

It warned that "no tanker will be allowed to dock" in the ports without permission from a Benghazi-based rival NOC.

But the GNA last week urged the United Nations to block any "illegal" oil exports, and the NOC in Tripoli said on Monday it was the "only recognised Libyan entity" responsible for oil production and exports.

"Despite our warnings of the consequences and attempts to reason with the LNA general command, two legitimate allocations were blocked from loading at Al-Hariga and Zweitina this weekend," said NOC chairperson Mustafa Sanallah.

"The storage tanks are full and production will now go offline."

 Aim to win concessions 

In the statement, the NOC called on Haftar's forces to lift their blockade, saying losses to the public purse "since the attack on Al-Sidra and Ras Lanuf... by Ibrahim Jadhran is more than $650m".

Libya produced 1.6 million bpd of oil before Gaddafi's ouster in February 2011. Production fell by about 20% after the revolution, before recovering to one million bpd by the end of 2017.

The NOC, under a UN resolution, has been in charge of managing the oil crescent and export revenues, even though Haftar's LNA took over control of the region in 2016.

The revenues are transferred to the GNA-affiliated central bank which is tasked with distributing the funds to "all regions and administrations", including zones under the control of the eastern authorities.

According to sources close to the administration in eastern Libya, its aim is to win political concessions from the GNA, notably to dismiss the bank's governor, Seddik al-Kebir, accused of financing rival forces.

The showdown come barely a month after the rival camps agreed at a meeting in Paris to hold nationwide elections in December and to unify their institutions.


Libyan Ahmed Abu Khattala was sentenced Wednesday in Washington to 22 years in prison for his role in the 2012 Benghazi attack that killed a US ambassador and three others.

Prosecutors were unable to convince a jury that Khattala, leader of a militant group who had been photographed watching the attack on September 11, 2012, was directly to blame for the deaths of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens, a second State Department official, and two CIA contractor guards at the consulate and a CIA annex.

He was convicted of only four of 18 charges he faced: supporting terrorists, conspiracy to provide support to terrorists, carrying a semi-automatic weapon during a violent crime, and damaging US property.

That was far weaker than the picture prosecutors had presented of Khattala as the person who plotted and directed the deadly assault. 

The death of Stevens stunned Americans and became the focus of a politically charged investigation by congressional Republicans of then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who was accused of not protecting the diplomats.

Khattala was captured in 2014 in a raid by US special forces, who then placed him aboard a navy ship where he was interrogated for a week before being delivered to the United States.

In November 2017, a second Libyan accused of involvement in the Benghazi attack, Mustafa al-Imam, was put on trial in the same Washington court, days after being captured and brought to the United States.

Al-Imam was accused of being one of the men who attacked the consulate.


A humanitarian boat carrying 59 migrants rescued off Libya was heading for Barcelona on Sunday after Italy and Malta, both much closer to the place of rescue, had refused to let it dock in their ports. 

The boat Open Arms, run by the Spanish Proactiva Open Arms charity, said late on Saturday it was “going home” after receiving an offer of a safe port from Barcelona’s mayor Ada Colau.

In a tweet, it denounced the “inhuman policies and closed ports in Italy and Malta” and said the boat would arrive in Barcelona on Wednesday.

In a similar episode on June 11, Spain offered to take in another charity rescue boat, Aquarius, with 629 migrants aboard, after Italy and Malta had barred its ports.

The travails of the Aquarius, which finally docked in Valencia, triggered a barrage of insults and accusations among European Union Countries over who should take responsibility for migrants picked up in the Mediterranean.

EU leaders on Friday came to a hard-fought agreement over migration which Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said was positive for Italy, the European nation that has borne the brunt of migrant arrivals by sea in recent years.

However, the agreement does not oblige other EU states to share the burden of rescues in the Mediterranean.

“Thank you for doing the most difficult part, saving lives, and thank you for not giving up in the face of cruel and inhuman European policies,” Colau tweeted. “Barcelona awaits you with open arms.”

Proactiva Open Arms said the migrants on board the boat, who it picked up early on Saturday, included five women and four children, and were of various nationalities including Palestinians, Syrians and Guineans.

More than 650,000 migrants have come ashore in Italy since 2014, mostly after being rescued at sea off the Libyan coast by private and public groups. Italy is sheltering about 170,000, but the number of arrivals has plummeted this year.

Despite the decline in arrivals, there are still daily stories of disasters as migrants make the perilous crossing from Africa to Europe. The Libyan coastguard said around 100 were thought to have drowned off Tripoli on Friday.


Africa is home to more than 10 000 jihadists from the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Morocco's foreign minister told a meeting of the US-led coalition on Tuesday.

"Within the framework of the evolution of the strategy of Daesh (ISIS), Africa is among the most targeted zones" whose vulnerabilities are "exploited by the terrorists", Nasser Bourita said.

The minister called for cooperation between African countries and the global coalition to defeat ISIS, whose political representatives met on Tuesday in Skhirat near the Moroccan capital Rabat.

Excluding Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, the African continent suffers the most jihadist attacks and "the number of victims is greater than for Europe", Bourita said during a briefing with Brett McGurk, US President Donald Trump's special envoy for the coalition. 

McGurk said the gathering allowed coalition members "to share information to enable a network to protect our homeland", prevent fighters from crossing borders and combat terrorism financing.

The US envoy hailed the "very successful meeting" whose focus was "on trying to finish the job in Syria".

The coalition has put forward nearly $90 million for reconstruction programmes in Syria and Iraq, he told a press briefing.

The regional meeting bringing together around 50 delegations, including 20 from the African continent, was the first of its kind, according to Morocco's foreign ministry.

"African countries have much to learn from the global coalition against Daesh, formed in 2014 around the United States to intervene in Iraq and Syria," Bourita said at the briefing.


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