Two Italian workers and a Canadian citizen who had been kidnapped in the southwestern Libyan city of Ghat on September 19, have been freed according to Italian authorities.
Matteo Renzi, the Italian Premier expressed his thanks to Libyan authorities and security forces who were instrumental in freeing the men who were techniciansm working at an airport. Renzi said: "Today is a moment of relief and joy that I would like to share with the families of our technicians."The Italian ministry identified the Italians as Danilo Calonego and Bruno Cacace, while the Canadian of Italian origin was Frank Poccia.
Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said that the two Italians had not been mistreated during their captivity and were in good health but said nothing about the Canadian.
The men were said to have been liberated during the night and brought to Italy on a special flight Saturday morning.
Hassan Ottman, a spokesperson for the municipal council of Ghat said: "The three were released in the early hours of Saturday and were handed over to Italian authorities." The men are being interviewed by Italian authorities before being reunited with their families.
The three men were kidnapped by armed, masked men who had blocked their vehicle in Ghat a southwestern desert city near the border with Algeria. There are numerous criminal and extremist groups operating in the area and it has never been determined for certain who this group were. The three were all technicians working at the airport at Ghat. The two Italians worked for the construction group Conicos.
The men told an investigator that the men were part of a single group and were not jihadists. They drank alcohol and did not pray.
Last week forces of the eastern-based General Khalifa Haftar were able to take over the four main ports of the Libyan Oil Crescent, Ras Lanuf, Brega, Es Sidra, and Zuwetina. There was little resistance from the Petroleum Facilities Guards (PFG) who had control of the ports. The PFG under its leader Ibrahim Jadhran had reached a deal with the GNA to reopen the ports. Jadhran supports the GNA. Jadhran and Haftar, head of the Libyan National Army and loyal to the rival to the GNA the government of the House of Representatives (HoR), are mortal enemies.
When Haftar seized the ports, many, including Martin Kobler UN envoy to Libya and a number of western nations thought that export of oil would be delayed. However, Hafter turned over the ports to the NOC even though he does not recognize the GNA. However, it seems that now the remaining PFG forces loyal to Jadhran have launched a counter-attack on Haftar aimed at retaking the ports.
Mohamed Ibset, spokesperson for Haftar's forces said:"The Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) launched an offensive this morning and (our forces) are fighting them in Ras Lanuf." The PFG said it had launched counterattacks on two of the oil ports. A spokesperson said: "We attacked Al-Sidra and Ras Lanuf, and Haftar's forces are trying to hit us with their warplanes." Muftah al-Muqarief, who is in charge of oil guards loyal to Haftar said the counter-attack was launched from the west by "militias backed by outlaws". He said the attacks had been repelled and the attackers were being chased, with some being captured. However, there is no independent confirmation of these reports. It may take some time before the situation becomes clear. There are reports that the PFG forces were attacked by foreign airplanes. Some reports also suggest the counter-attack was repelled.
The Libyan ambassador from the UK, Peter Millet said in a tweet that the two sides should show restraint. There had been optimism that oil exports and production were about to increase providing badly need revenue to Libya.
On July 22, the United Nations Security Council voted to authorize UN countries to aid Libya to eliminate its stockpile of chemicals that could be used to manufacture toxic weapons.
There are fears that the chemicals could fall into the hands of militants. The global chemical weapons watchdog, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said that the chemicals that were precursors to weapons had been moved to a temporary storage site in the north of the country. The OPCW asked for help destroying the chemicals outside the country.
Gadaffi had agreed to dismantle his program of weapons of mass destruction including chemical weapons as of December 2003. The chemical weapons are already destroyed but precursor chemicals have still to be destroyed: "As of 2013, over 800 tons of chemical weapons ingredients remained to be destroyed. In February 2014, the Libyan government announced that it had finished destroying Libya's entire remaining stockpile of chemical weapons. Full destruction of chemical weapons ingredients is scheduled to be completed by 2016. "
As of now, there are roughly 700 tonnes of precursor chemicals left to destroy. The resolution, drafted by the UK, was unanimously adopted by the 15 members of the Security Council as it determined "that the potential for acquisition by non-State actors of chemical weapons in Libya represents a threat to international peace and security." Boris Johnson the British Foreign Secretary said that destroying the chemicals "reduced the risk of these weapons falling into the hands of terrorists and fanatics."
Vitaly Churkin, Russian ambassador to the UN agreed with Johnson and noted that there had been terrorist groups springing up in Libya. Churkin said: "There was an imminent threat of danger that these things would fall into terrorist hands. The examples of Syria and Iraq have demonstrated the topical nature of the problem of chemical terrorism for the region." Russia and the US agreed on the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons.
The Presidency Council (PC) of the UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord led by PM Faiez Serraj, has condemned the murder of 12 former Gadaffi soldiers. The soldiers were just released last week by a court.
The PC ordered a formal investigation into the murders to find out what exactly happened and who was responsible.
At first, twitter was filled with all sorts of different accounts with some even thinking that it was simply a rumor spread by pro-Gadaffi outlets. However, there are now reports both by the Libya Observer and the Libya Herald that agree on many aspects of what happened including the figure of 12 bodies being found. Earlier accounts were as high as 17.
A press conference was held by a spokesperson for the Attorney General's office. He confirmed that 12 bodies were discovered yesterday. Six in Wadi Rabie near Ain Zara. Three had been thrown from a moving vehicle near the morgue at Tripoli Central Hospital, and a final three thrown in the same way near the morgue at the Tripoli Medical Center.
All 12 had been shot in the head according to a forensic doctor. The bodies showed signs of torture. There were another seven soldiers who were also ordered released but their whereabouts are not known.
The killings are worsening the political situation for the GNA and presidential council as it has legitimized a number of militia. It is believed militia were involved. Ali Gatrani a member of the PC also blamed the PC for creating the conditions for the murders to happen but claimed that he should not be blamed since he has been boycotting the PC. He suggested that the soldiers were killed in jail.
However, Ali Al-Saadi who is head of the prison where most of the soldiers were incarcerated claims that after the court decision the prisoners were released into their families' care and had left the prison with them. Strange that there are as yet no reports as to what family members of those murdered have to say about what might have happened. The prisoners were killed the same day they were released. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General(SRSG), Martin Kobler, also condemned the killings.
The former soldiers killed and seven others had been accused of killing demonstrators in February of 2011. Families of the protesters who had been killed filed a lawsuit against the soldiers who were part of the Revolutionary Work Team. The suit accused them of murder and torture. The case went to court in 2014 and took two years to adjudicate. A judge issued a resolution that all be released although their passports were to be handed over to the AG's office which the families did upon which the AG ordered them released. It remains unclear exactly what happened after that.
Supporters of commander in chief of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Khalifa Haftar, will no doubt claim that the killings show that Haftar is correct that the militia need to be disbanded and that the GNA is at the mercy of the various militia it supports. He wants to remain commander in chief of the army within the GNA, but the Libyan Political Agreement gives the role of commander in chief to the PC until a new commander is appointed.
There is continuing confusion and contradictory statements about the status of newly arrived banknotes printed in Russia for the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) government. At first the Presidential Council of the UN-brokered Government of National Accord rejected the bills and the US Embassy issued a statement saying the bills were counterfeit.
However, after a meeting between GNA authorities and those of the HoR, the GNA reversed its position claiming that the notes would actually help solve the cash shortage in Libya. However, the head of the Tripoli based Libyan Central Bank (LCB) still rejects them, apparently.
As TunisiaLive puts it: " At the time of writing, Libya’s GNA controlled Central Bank appears to have rejected the legitimacy of the Eastern Dinars, though the GNA itself has accepted the notes as an alternative to their own. It is not currently clear if Tunisia will recognise one or both currencies." The UN position and that of many countries is that there is only the one LCB based in Tripoli and supporting the GNA. However, declaring illegitimate, banknotes that the GNA recognizes is a strange way to show support.
The Tripoli-based CBL announced that it had received 112.5 million dinars worth of new banknotes yesterday. It posted a photo of a plane being unloaded. The banknotes are printed in the UK by De LaRue. However, none of the notes seem to have been distributed as yet. The CBL also claimed that another 250 million banknotes should arrive by the middle of the month.
However, critics say that a complete list of cargo planes arriving at Mitiga airport at Tripoli showed no cargo planes had arrived. The critics say that the money must have arrived earlier and being hoarded or else it did not arrive at all. A recent tweet notes: "#Tripoli sources: despite CBL announcement that currency was delivered, still no cash in the banks today. #Libya". The Tripoli CBL has made no more statements about the issue and denied that the Governor of the bank would hold a press conference on the issue. The new banknotes are to be distributed throughout Libya.
The critical shortage of cash has prompted new demonstrations in Tripoli. They are described in the Libya Observer and also the Libya Herald. The PM of the GNA Faiez Serraj has called for an urgent meeting between the two rival central banks and the HoR Finance Committee to help solve problems. The black market rate of Libyan dinars required to buy a US dollar is going up, reflecting the uncertainty being created.
The situation is not being improved by the recent arrival of the GNA in Tripoli. Protesters against the cash crisis also complained about low living standards and poweroutages since the new GNA took power. The GNA and the UN are calling for unity with the GNA but the eastern part of the country is still being governed by the HoR and so far it has not voted confidence in the GNA as required by the Libyan Political Agreement(LPA). The LPA requires that the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) would relinquish his position to the Presidential Council(PC) of the GNA. General Khalifa Haftar and his supporters reject this and want him to remain in his position.
The eastern banknotes are already being put into circulation. A tweet reads:"New bank notes from #Libya Central Bank Al-Bayda arrive to the cities of Jalu, Awjila and Jakharrah, a total of 5mil" More are expected to be distributed this week end. The eastern notes should also be distributed in the west in areas controlled by the GNA but it is not yet clear whether this will happen.
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Ken is a retired philosophy professor living in the boondocks of Manitoba, Canada, with his Filipina wife. He enjoys reading the news and writing articles. Politically Ken is on the far left of the political spectrum on many issues.