Posts Tagged ‘Tunisia’

Tunisian Navy Rescues 78 Migrants Off Coast

September 22, 2017

TUNIS — Tunisia’s navy rescued 78 migrants including two girls after their vessel en route to Europe took on water off the coast of Chebba and was stranded for three days, the defense ministry said on Friday.

Human traffickers increasingly use Tunisia as a launch pad for migrants heading for Europe after Libya’s coastguard aided by armed groups tightened its controls.

“Naval forces rescued 78 illegal Tunisian migrants 70 kilometers east of the coast of Chebba on board a boat that was damaged and leaking water,” the ministry said in statement, adding that nobody died in the incident.

Tunisia has been praised for its democratic progress after a 2011 uprising against autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali but successive governments have failed to create jobs for young people, some of whom head to Europe to seek work.

(Reporting By Tarek Amara; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

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Turkey Looking East For New Alliances, Money — Turkey’s ongoing drift away from its traditional strategic position

September 16, 2017
 SEPTEMBER 16, 2017 09:57


Three factors underlie Turkey’s ongoing drift away from its traditional strategic position in the region as a NATO and US ally.

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan arrive for a joint news

Turkey this week announced its purchase of the S-400 antiaircraft missile system from Russia. The deal, according to Western media reports, is worth $2.5 billion. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Turkish media that the first deposit on the system has already been paid.

The S-400, which has a range of 400 km. and can down 80 targets simultaneously, is widely considered to be the world’s most advanced air defense system at the present time. This surprise development is the latest milestone in Ankara’s ongoing drift in recent years away from its traditional strategic position in the region as a NATO and US ally.

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The recent visit of Iranian Chief of Staff Mohammad Hossein Bagheri to Ankara, accompanied by a large military delegation, was an additional recent indicator of the direction of events. This was the first such visit since the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

Turkey’s close involvement in the Russian-brokered Astana diplomatic process regarding Syria reflects this trend, as does the signing in Moscow in mid-August of a contract between the Turkish Unit International company, Russia’s state-owned Zarubezhneft and the Iranian Ghadir Investment Holding for the joint development of three oil fields and a large natural gas field in Iran.

© TURKISH PRESIDENT PRESS OFFICE/AFP | Iranian armed forces chief of staff General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on August 16, 2017

So what are the factors underlying Turkey’s repositioning away from the West and toward its enemies and adversaries? The explanation lies in three areas: Turkey’s perceived immediate interests, the eclipse of its hopes for the region in recent years, and the long-term internal direction of Turkish society and politics.

Regarding the first issue, Turkish concerns at the growing Kurdish power in Syria and Iraq bring it closer to Iran’s agenda and further from that of the West. Ankara has anxiously watched the rise of the Syrian Kurdish PYD (Democratic Union Party) in recent years in northern Syria. The party is an affiliate of the same Kurdish movement as the PKK (Kurdish Workers’ Party), which has been engaged in an insurgency against Turkey and for greater Kurdish rights since 1984. The Syrian Kurds are now ruling over the greater part of the 911-km. border between Syria and Turkey. Only a Turkish military intervention in August 2016 prevented their probable acquisition of the entirety of the border.

Yet more disconcertingly from the Turkish point of view, the Syrian Kurds are today engaged in a flourishing military alliance with the United States and the Western coalition in the war against Islamic State in Syria. From tentative beginnings in the urgent days of late 2014, the Pentagon-organized cooperation between the Kurdish YPG and US air power and special forces has turned into a doggedly effective military blunt instrument, which is currently destroying ISIS in the capital of its dying “caliphate” in Raqqa city.

The Turks have looked on helplessly as this alliance has grown. Their own attempts in early 2017 to propose an alternative partnership between the US and Turkey’s Syrian rebel clients foundered on the low military abilities of the latter and the lack of a clear dividing line between the rebels and Sunni jihadi extremists in northern Syria.

So Turkish prioritization of the need to contain and turn back Kurdish achievements in Syria, as well as its staunch opposition to the emergence of a Kurdish state in northern Iraq, bring it into line with Iran’s agenda in these countries, and against that of the West. The West, too, does not support Iraqi Kurdish moves toward independence, but its level of hostility to this and its determination to prevent it fall short of those of Tehran.

In the past, Ankara and Tehran’s joint opposition to Kurdish aspirations did not lead to improved relations between them, because they found themselves on opposite sides of the war between the Assad regime and the Sunni Arab rebellion against it. Similarly, this placed Ankara at loggerheads with Moscow.

But this restraining factor no longer applies. The Sunni Islamist regional project that placed Turkey on a collision course with Iran and Russia has, for the moment at least, largely been eclipsed. Once, it was common among Israeli strategists to count among the region’s alliances a group of countries and movements broadly aligned with Muslim Brotherhood-style Sunni political Islam. This emergent power bloc was a product of the Arab Spring revolts of the post-2010 period. At its high point in 2012, the crystallizing alliance consisted of Turkey, Qatar, Egypt, Tunisia and Hamas-controlled Gaza. Ankara and the others hoped that the Sunni Arab rebels would swiftly destroy the Assad regime and create an additional conservative Sunni Islamist regime.

This didn’t happen. The Sunni Islamic revolutionary energies of 2010-2012 are now largely spent. There is little to show for them. Egypt is back in the hands of its army. Tunisia is ruled by a coalition government dominated by non-Islamists. Hamas is trying to rebuild its alliance with Iran. Qatar is facing a counterattack from the UAE and Saudi Arabia, because of its stances. And the Syrian Sunni Arab rebels have no further chance of victory and are currently fighting for survival.

Turkey emerges from all this as a major loser. It had hoped to ride the wave of Sunni grassroots revolt to a position of regional dominance. (It also, in the initial phase, flirted with the more radical jihadists of Nusra and ISIS in Syria.) But the wave has spent itself. There is nothing to be gained from further support for the destruction of Assad, which will not happen. This clears the way for rapprochement between Iran, Turkey and Russia, through which Ankara will hope to thwart or contain Kurdish gains.

At the same time, the latest evidence suggests that Turkey will seek to use Russian mediation to prevent the total defeat and eclipse of the Sunni rebels. This is a matter both of Turkey’s Sunni identity and of a simple desire to avoid the humiliation of witnessing the destruction of its clients.

The final element underlying Turkey’s drift away from the West relates to internal matters. Erdogan is in the process of dismantling much of Turkey’s republican societal model, and is building in its place an Islamist society. Forty-thousand people have been jailed since the failed coup of July 15, 2016. A state of emergency remains in place. The free media has been silenced, legal immunity for members of parliament removed, journalists and academics arrested.

This new Islamic Turkey will not find its natural home in alliance with the United States and the West, still less with Israel, of course. So there should be no surprise at the sea changes under way in Ankara’s regional and global orientation.

Turkey is too big and too Sunni to ever become a charter member of the Iran-led regional bloc. There remain sharp differences with Tehran over the future of Sunni communities in Syria and Iraq. But all those still entertaining hopes for a return to Turkey’s status as a bulwark of Western security in the Middle East should revise their analysis. The emergent evidence points in a single direction. The Second Turkish Republic is on its way – and its face will be turned toward the East.


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Accused of funding terrorism and being too cozy with Iran, Qatar says it has done no wrong

August 28, 2017

The Los Angeles Times

The tiny gas-rich nation of Qatar has been ostracized by its regional Arab neighbors, which accuse it of funding terrorism and being too cozy with Iran.

In June, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic and trade ties, closed their air routes to Qatari aircraft and served the government with a host of demands aimed at fighting terrorism and extremism. Mauritius, Mauritania, Yemen, the Maldives and one of Libya’s two warring governments also suspended diplomatic relations.

Qatar did little to quell the conflict last week when it announced it was restoring full diplomatic relations with Iran, more than a year after it pulled its ambassador in a show of solidarity with Saudi Arabia, whose embassy and diplomatic missions in Iran were attacked.

Qatari officials say their country has done no wrong and that a statement by the country’s emir that became a pretext for the row — he was quoted on Qatar news sites as praising Iran and the fundamentalist group Hamas — was fabricated in a hacking attack. Qatar blamed the Emirates, which has denied it.

“Qatar does not fund terrorism whatsoever — no groups, no individuals. Not from afar or from a close distance,” Sheik Saif bin Ahmed al Thani, director of the government communications office, said in an interview with The Times’ editorial board and reporters.

His comments have been edited for length and clarity.

President Trump and Qatar's Emir Sheik Tamim bin Hamad al Thani during a bilateral meeting at a hotel in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, in May 2017.
President Trump and Qatar’s Emir Sheik Tamim bin Hamad al Thani during a bilateral meeting at a hotel in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, in May 2017. (Mandel Ngan / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images)

Why do these countries want to pick a fight with Qatar and why now?

I can answer what we think it is. We have differences in opinion. That is the main issue. Differences of opinion. We do not support parties or individuals or get involved in [the] domestic affairs [of other countries].

So when we get involved in Tunisia, or Syria … or Libya, we do not go around and pick a party or [an] individual.… We usually focus our attention on the public and try our best not to pick sides.

They accuse us of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. For example in Tunisia, after the Arab Spring, the government that came into office was from the Muslim Brotherhood. We worked with them once they became the government. We didn’t work with them as a party. We worked with them as a government, to support them.

After that, the opposition party won…. [And] we are the ones working with them. We did a conference last year in support of Tunisia, supporting investment. We established a fund for small and medium businesses.

How do you characterize your relationship with Hamas?

The Bush administration supported the elections in Palestine. They wanted to ensure the participation of all different entities in the election. And it was requested of us that Hamas participates.

Arab countries did not support the idea of elections. The U.S. wanted all Arabic countries to support the elections. So we took the lead on that. And other countries came in afterward.

So Hamas won the election. Hamas keeps a fraction of a political office in [the Qatari capital] Doha. Our funding to Palestine is all done through the United Nations and it is done for certain projects. [It’s] funding for building the infrastructure. We have a commitment of about $1.2 billion dollars for rebuilding Gaza. In a few cases we have given salaries to the government in Gaza. The few times that happened, it happened through the U.N. in coordination with Israel.

So whether it’s money, or whether it’s building materials, it all goes through the U.N. and through our governmental structure, except the three or four times when we paid salaries and that was paid through the Palestinian Authority with the U.N.

In June, Qatar's National Human Rights Committee reported that it had been receiving a hundred complaints a day since the blockade by four Arab nations started June 5.
In June, Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee reported that it had been receiving a hundred complaints a day since the blockade by four Arab nations started June 5. (Molly Hennessy-Fiske / Los Angeles Times)

Does Qatar have any relationship now with the Muslim Brotherhood?

We don’t have a relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood. All of these accusations came because of Egypt. You know, when the Arab Spring happened, when the military was in control, we started supporting Egypt economically.

We had cash placed in their central bank. We committed to five shipments of gas free of charge, and other things. These commitments started before [President Mohamed] Morsi came into power and they continued after he left. The last shipment of gas was at the end of 2016.

We didn’t stop [them] because these commitments were from us to the people of Egypt. So we don’t really care who’s in office. Other than that, we do not support the Muslim Brotherhood.

Morsi lost power in a coup. So it sounds like your government doesn’t care how a government changes.

We deal with what the people choose.

A coup isn’t the people’s choice.

Yes, but we will not get involved internally.

But by dealing with an illegitimate government that came to power via coup aren’t you de facto getting involved?

I get your point. But in the end, we won’t deal with domestic matters. To us, what’s happening in Egypt is a domestic matter. The people chose not to do anything about it. So … we’ll go with their choice.

So if the Muslim Brotherhood rose and took power back your policies would be the same toward Egypt?


What about claims Qatar paid billions of dollars to Iran and Al Qaeda-linked affiliates to secure the release of Qatari hostages that were held in Iraq?

The money was not given to any terrorist groups. While we were trying to get [the hostages] out, we did approach Iran. We approached any government that could help influence these groups to get them out.

Everything was done with the knowledge, and in partnership with, the Iraqi government, with the Iraqi intelligence and security.

What’s it going to take to resolve the crisis?

What it’s going to take is first to remove the blockade. This is not a way of bullying a country into taking a certain position.

And secondly we’re willing to sit and negotiate and sit in a dialogue environment and discuss all these things. Of course anything that will affect our sovereignty and independence, we will not consider, even slightly. We will not sit at the table unless we have a sort of level playing field. But we’re willing to discuss. At the end of the day most of these things are differences of opinion and we can discuss them.

What’s Qatar’s relationship with the Trump administration?

Broadly, the relationship between the U.S. and Qatar is a very strategic, strong relationship. It has always been strong. After Sept. 11, the U.S. military left Saudi Arabia for domestic reasons. They just moved everything to Qatar and we gave them our main and only airport as a base, until the current base was ready.

So our relationship with the U.S. is very institutional. We have a good relationship with the Trump administration, as we did with the Obama administration, and the Bush administration, and so on.

So you don’t take offense that President Trump sometimes comes across as being anti-Muslim?

I do not know if it’s correct to put it that way. The U.S.-Riyadh summit [in Saudi Arabia last May] was indeed successful. It had all the Muslim Arab countries there. We are the only country that has taken further steps with the counter-terrorism [agreement] we signed. It’s the first of its kind for the region. So I don’t really agree with your point [that Trump is anti-Muslim].

FOR THE RECORD, Aug. 27 2 p.m: An earlier version of this article incorrectly phrased a question as saying that Mohamed Morsi gained power in a coup. He lost power in a coup.

For more on global development news, see our Global Development Watch page, and follow me @AMSimmons1 on Twitter

Popular sites targeted in string of Africa attacks

August 14, 2017

© AFP | Burkina Faso gendarmes and troops launch an operation after gunmen attacked a Turkish restaurant in the capital Ouagadougou

PARIS (AFP) – The attack on a Turkish restaurant in Burkina Faso’s capital on Sunday was the latest in a series of assaults in Africa targeting spots popular with foreigners and locals alike.Here is an overview of the worst such attacks in recent years, most of which have been claimed by jihadist groups:

– 2017 –

– August 13: Three gunmen open fire at a Turkish restaurant in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou, killing at least 18 people and injuring dozens.

– June 18: At least two people are killed when suspected jihadists stormed the Kangaba tourist resort popular with foreigners on the edge of Mali’s capital Bamako. More than 30 hostages are freed.

– June 14: At least six people are killed when a suicide car bomber targets the popular Posh Treats restaurant in the Somali capital Mogadishu. Al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab claims responsibility.

– 2016 –

– March 13: Fourteen civilians, including foreigners, and two special forces troops are killed when gunmen storm the Ivorian beach resort of Grand-Bassam. Al-Qaeda’s North African affiliate, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), claims responsibility.

– January 15: Thirty people are killed, including many foreigners, in an attack on a top Burkina Faso hotel and a nearby restaurant in Ouagadougou. AQIM claims the assault, saying the gunmen were from the Al-Murabitoun group of Algerian extremist Mokhtar Belmokhtar.

– 2015 –

– November 20: Gunmen take guests and staff hostage at the luxury Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako in a siege that leaves at least 20 dead, including 14 foreigners. The attack is claimed by AQIM, which says it was a joint operation with the Al-Murabitoun group. Another jihadist group from central Mali, the Macina Liberation Front, also claims responsibility.

– October 31: A Russian passenger jet is downed en route from Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh resort to Saint Petersburg, killing all 224 on board. The Egyptian branch of the Islamic State group claims responsibility. Russia confirms the crash was caused by a bomb.

– August 8: Malian armed forces storm the Byblos hotel in the centre of the country, ending a hostage-taking by gunmen that leaves at least 12 people dead including four UN foreign contractors.

– June 26: Thirty Britons are among 38 foreign holidaymakers killed in a gun and grenade attack on a beach resort near the Tunisian city of Sousse. The attack is claimed by the Islamic State group.

– March 18: Gunmen kill 21 tourists and a policeman at the Bardo Museum in Tunis in another attack claimed by IS.

– March 7: A grenade and gun attack on the popular La Terrasse nightclub in Bamako kills five people — three Malians, a Belgian and a Frenchman. The attack is claimed by Al-Murabitoun.


Mediterranean Migrant Mess: Italy, Malta keep migrant vessel in limbo

August 8, 2017


© AFP | While a Spanish vessel with Libyan migrants aboard was denied entry to Italy or Malta, the C-Star chartered by far-right activists opposed to migrants was moored off Tunisia as fishermen and a powerful union prevented them from loading supplies

ROME (AFP) – A Spanish vessel with three Libyan migrants aboard was kept in international waters on Tuesday after Italy and Malta refused to let it to dock.

The three aboard the ship Golfo Azzurro, chartered by Spain’s Proactiva Open Arms NGO and rescued Sunday, were in limbo, illustrating policy confusion a week after Rome introduced a controversial code of conduct for charity boats rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean.

A Proactiva spokesman said the vessel was some 100 nautical miles (180 kilometres) off the Libyan coast as the NGO attempted a rescue operation normally coordinated with the Italian coast guard.

When the Golfo Azzurro approached the Italian island of Lampedusa, the closest to the Libyan coast, Italian authorities denied it passage.

Proactiva’s mission head Gerard Canals told AFP that Malta had said Italy was responsible for the rescue and should take the migrants.

“The rescue on Sunday happened under the coordination of the Italian MRCC (coastguards headquarters) in Rome but in the Maltese SAR (search and rescue zone).

“We asked to disembark in Lampedusa because it was closer but the Italian authorities told us to see with Malta.

“We cannot take them back to Libya because it’s against maritime law” with Libya not considered as a safe port “so we have to take them to a European port.”

Proactiva is one of four NGOs which have signed up to the code — the group formally did so Tuesday at the Italian interior ministry — whereas five counterparts operating search-and-rescue activities off Libya have rejected the new rules.

Having been denied entry to Italy and Malta to change crew and load supplies, the Golfo Azzurro was stuck between Malta and Sicily midday Tuesday.

Italian authorities last Saturday did allow 127 migrants to disembark on Lampedusa after their rescue by Prudence, a vessel chartered by Doctors without Borders (MSF), which has not signed up to the new code.

Also Tuesday, C-Star, a vessel chartered by a group of European far-right activists opposed to migrants, was still moored off the Tunisian coast as fishermen and a powerful union prevented them from loading supplies.

Two weeks ago, Turkish Cypriot authorities released the C-Star’s captain and crew after detaining them over accusations of using false documentation.

The activists’ “Defend Europe” scheme was launched by anti-immigration campaigners from France, Italy and Germany who raised 170,000 euros ($200,000) via crowd-funding to hire the vessel.

In a separate development, UN’s new envoy to Libya on Tuesday endorsed an Italy drive to strengthen the Libyan coastguard to ensure boatloads of migrants are intercepted before reaching international waters.

Human rights campaigners fear the approach could place thousands of people with a right to asylum at serious risk.

But Ghassam Salame, a former Lebanese culture minister appointed in June to head UN operations in Libya, described the cooperation between Tripoli and Rome as a “very constructive” way of dealing with an acute problem.

“It would be absolutely unrealistic to ignore the seriousness of the challenge of irregular migration,” Salame said after meeting Italian Foreign Minister Angelo Alfano in Rome.

“There are hundreds of millions of them across the world. This is very serious problem.”

Muslim imams march against terrorism in Europe — “March of Muslims against Terrorism”

July 8, 2017

Around 60 imams from several European countries are on a bus tour of cities hit by Islamic terrorism in order to condemn extremism committed in the name of religion. Their message is that Islam is a religion of peace.

Imams from countries including France, Belgium, Britain and Tunisia were joined by representatives of other religious communities at the spot where French policeman Xavier Jugele was shot dead in April.

The “March of Muslims against Terrorism” kicked off on Saturday in Paris with a prayer at the site on the Champs-Elysees where a policeman was murdered by an Islamist militant in April.

It is about sending a “message of humanity and brotherhood against terrorism,” said Imam Houcine Drouiche from the French city of Nimes.

From Paris, some 60 imams will head by bus on Sunday to Berlin’s Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, the scene of December’s terror ramming of a Christmas market that killed 12 people and wounded dozens more.

The imams, including six from Germany, will then travel by bus to other cities hit by major terror attacks over the past several years, including Brussels, Toulouse and Nice. The action will end in Paris on July 14 to mark Bastille Day.

Along the tour the imams want to pray for the victims of terrorism and show that Islam can co-exist with other religions and cultures. Organizers want to show that for the vast majority of believers Islam is a religion of peace.

At stops along the way, the imams are expected to be met by political, religious and civil society figures in communities touched by terrorism.

The organizers of the peace march are Imam Hassen Chalghoumi of the Parisian suburb of Drancy and the French Jewish writer Marek Halter.

Chalghoumi told French broadcaster France Inter on Sunday that violent groups like “Islamic State” are trying to take Islam “hostage.”

“It is important that Muslims can express themselves to say that my religion has nothing to do with these barbarians,” Chalghoumi said.
Muslim leaders launch European tour to protest against terror
© FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP | The Imam of Drancy, Hassen Chalghoumi (L), Lebanese Imam Mohammad Ali Al-Husseini (2L) Egyptian Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb (C) and writer Marek Halter (2R) at The Muslim March Against Terrorism in Paris


Latest update : 2017-07-08

Dozens of religious leaders boarded a bus on the Champs Élysées in Paris on Saturday to kick off a European tour of the sites of recent Islamist attacks to remember the victims and condemn violence.


Imams from countries including France, Belgium, Britain and Tunisia were joined by representatives of other religious communities at the spot where French policeman Xavier Jugele was shot dead in April.

Tour stops will include Berlin — where organisers say they hope to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel — Brussels and Nice, with a return to Paris for July 14, the first anniversary of the Nice truck attack.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Nice attack when a truck killed 86 people celebrating Bastille Day on the seafront and a truck attack on a Christmas market in Berlin last December that killed 12.

The Imam of Drancy and French writer Marek Halter were behind the initiative of the current tour.

“We are here to say that our religion and the values of Islam are opposed to those assassins,” Hassen Chalghoumi, the imam de Drancy, told France Inter radio on Saturday.

Some 30 people boarded the bus on Saturday with more expected to join on the way, bringing the total number of participants to 60.



Tunisian protesters demanding jobs have closed down a second oil pumping station

May 21, 2017

TUNIS — Tunisian protesters demanding jobs have closed down a second oil pumping station in the south in defiance of government attempts to protect oil and gasfields with troops and negotiate an end to unrest, two local radios reported on Sunday.

Protesters peacefully shut a pumping station at Faouar in southern Kebili province, where French oil company Perenco operates, according to one local witness and Mosaique FM and Shems FM radio stations.

“We shut down the pumping station for Perenco, where we are carrying out our sit-in protest. We had no problem with the army. We are just demanding jobs,” said Faker Ajmi, one of the protesters told Reuters by telephone.

The energy ministry did not reply to a request for comment. A spokesman for Perenco also did not immediately reply to an email asking about the status of their operations. Officials said earlier this month Perenco’s production halted at Baguel and Tarfa fields, which are for gas and condensate output.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; writing by Patrick Markey)



Tunisia southern gas protests tense as negotiations falter

Reuters , Thursday 18 May 2017

A picture taken on May 16, 2017 shows a general view of tents at a sit-in outside el-Kamour petroleum pumping station in Tunisia’s southern state of Tatatouine (Photo: AFP)

Tunisian protesters threatening to blockade gas production in the south of the country on Thursday rejected a government offer of jobs and investment and moved their protest closer to a pipeline and pumping station.The protests in southern Tatatouine are testing Prime Minister Youssef Chahed’s government and have already forced two foreign energy companies to halt production or remove staff as a precaution because of threats of disruption.

Six years after Tunisia’s revolution ended Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali’s autocratic rule, the North African state is still struggling to deliver economic opportunities to economic  opportunities to unemployed youths in marginalized regions like Tatatouine.

Around 1,000 protesters have been camped out for weeks in the Sahara near a gas pipeline in a region where Italy’s ENI and Austria’s OMV have operations. But government attempts to broker a deal with job offers have so far failed.

“We will not accept the offers of the government because these jobs are not immediate. These unemployed youths can not wait,” said Tarek Haddad, one of the protest leaders, in a video message on Facebook.

He said the protest would move to Vana, closer to a nearby pumping station, warning protesters would not retreat. Soldiers have recently moved into the area around the pumping station.

President Beji Caid Essebsi a week ago ordered the army into the area to protect strategic energy and phosphate production.

The government has already offered 1,500 jobs with energy companies, including 1,000 immediately and 500 next year. Officials have also offered 2,000 jobs in horticulture and environmental projects as well as $20 million to develop projects in the region.

“We want seriously to find solutions for the expectations of the protesters, but sometimes there are more demands than the possibilities,” said Marbouk Korchid a senior official in the government said. “There are some exaggerated demands.”

ENI says the protests have not affected production. But OMV has removed 700 non-essential staff as a precaution. Perenco halted production at its Targa and Baguel fields, while protests closed Canada-based Serinus Energy’s Chouech Essaida field.

The protests are another challenge for Chahed whose government is struggling to push through sensitive subsidy and public spending reforms demanded by the IMF and other lenders to help stabilize economic growth.

Tunisia is a small oil and gas player with production at around 44,000 barrels per day, but its economy is just recovering from 2015 Islamist militant attacks on foreign visitors that hit the vital tourist industry hard.

Tunisia Protesters Shut Oil Transport Pumping Station

May 20, 2017

TUNIS — Tunisian protesters on Saturday shut down an oil pumping station in southern Tatatouine province that feeds a coastal shipping terminal as part of their protests to demand jobs, local state radio and two witnesses said.

Image result for tunisia, Tataouine, map

The army has been protecting facilities in south Tunisia, but after troops twice fired in the air to disperse the crowd, a local engineer was allowed to close the Vana pumping station to avoid clashes with protesters, the witness said.

Tunisia is a small oil producer at around 44,000 barrels per day total. But weeks of protest in southern provinces already forced two foreign companies to stop production or close fields and another removed staff as a precaution.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; writing by Patrick Markey)

‘Defeat ISIS and go home’: Trump rejects US role in Libya nation-building — While Mediterranean is awash with refugees

April 21, 2017

Russia Today (RT)

'Defeat ISIS and go home': Trump rejects US role in Libya nation-building
President Donald Trump does not see a US role in helping its European allies build a government in Libya. Instead, he told reporters, he wants to defeat Islamic State, after which the US can focus on domestic issues.

Speaking to reporters in Washington, DC on Thursday, following a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, Trump contradicted his guest’s assessment that the US role in stabilizing Libya would be critical, arguing the US has “enough roles… everywhere.”

“I do not see a role in Libya,” Trump said. “I do see a role in getting rid of ISIS. We’re being very effective in that regard.”

‘US has enough roles’: not interested in nation-building

Read more: 

“We are effectively ridding the world of ISIS. I see that as the primary role, and that’s what we’re going to do – whether it’s in Iraq, or in Libya, or anywhere else.  And that role will come to an end at a certain point, and we’ll be able to go back home and rebuild our country, which is what I want to do,” Trump concluded.

Gentiloni had just finished making a case for US involvement in stabilizing Libya by helping the internationally recognized government in Tripoli establish control over the country’s entire territory.

READ MORE: Chaos unrelenting: 6 years since Arab Spring started, no democracy in sight for Libya

“We need a stable and unified Libya,” the Italian PM said, noting that US Special Forces had taken part in defeating Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in the port city of Sirte, but that solving the problem of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Italy and beyond would require nation-building. “The US role in this is critical.”

Read more

© Reuters

Trump’s rejection of that role is at odds with his recent actions – launching a missile strike in Syria, escalating tensions with North Korea, and authorizing a review of the nuclear deal with Iran – but in line with his promise during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“We’re getting out of the nation-building business,” Trump announced on April 27 of last year, describing his foreign policy as “America first.”

Libya collapsed into chaos and anarchy in 2011, after the Obama administration backed a rebellion in Benghazi against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the country’s leader since 1969. Using UN Security Council resolution 1973, authorizing a no-fly zone in the north of the country, NATO began air strikes in support of the rebels. In October 2011, one such strike hit a convoy carrying Gaddafi, who was then captured and killed by the rebels.

As Libya collapsed, neighboring countries of Tunisia, Egypt and Mali had to deal with a surge in terrorist attacks. Meanwhile, human traffickers exploited tens of thousands of African migrants, who try to reach Italian shores in rickety boats. In a recent report, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) spoke of slave markets in the south of Libya, where Africans are traded for as little as $200.


More than 8,000 migrants rescued in Mediterranean and brought to Italy over Easter long weekend

Migrants try to stay afloat after falling off their rubber dinghy during a rescue operation by the Malta-based NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) ship in the central Mediterranean 

Migrants try to stay afloat after falling off their rubber dinghy during a rescue operation by the Malta-based NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) ship in the central Mediterranean  CREDIT: DARRIN ZAMMIT LUPI/REUTERS

More than 8,000 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean and brought to Italy in the space of just three days over Easter, as Italian politicians denounced the exodus as a racket that should be stopped as quickly as possible.

Nearly 8,500 asylum seekers were saved from dinghies and ex-fishing boats by the Italian coast guard, Frontex, the EU’s border patrol agency, and humanitarian NGOs operating rescue vessels.

It was a huge number, even by the standards of the relentless flow of migrants and refugees who regularly depart from the coast of Libyawith the hope of reaching Europe.

The bodies of 13 migrants were recovered, including that of an eight-year-old boy who drowned. The spate of operations boosted the total number of rescues in the central Mediterranean so far this year to nearly 36,000.

Migrants on a wooden boat are rescued by the Malta-based NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) in the central Mediterranean
Migrants on a wooden boat are rescued by the Malta-based NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) in the central Mediterranean CREDIT: DARRIN ZAMMIT LUPI/REUTERS

The departure of so many boats was prompted in part by calm weather conditions, but also by concern among smugglers that EU efforts to beef up the Libyan coast guard may soon make it harder for them to operate.

“When 8,500 illegal immigrants arrive in three days, it’s clear that it is all organised,” said Matteo Salvini, the leader of the Right-wing Northern League political party.

Mr Salvini said he intended to sue the Italian government, as well as NGOs which rescue migrants at sea, for “favouring clandestine immigration”.  The Northern League leader said: “It is quite clear that clandestine immigration is being organised. So we’ve decided to sue the government and the commanders of the navy and coast guard”.

If arrivals continue at this pace, 2017 could be a record year for migrants reaching Italy, outstripping even last year, when 181,000 were rescued and brought to Italian shores. Rescuing, processing and accommodating the asylum seekers is likely to cost the government 4.6 billion euros – a billion euros more than in 2016.

Migrants in a rubber dinghy hang on to ropes beneath the bow of the Panama-registered ship Tuna 1, after some migrants on another rubber dinghy drowned in the central Mediterranean in international waters off the coast of Libya
Migrants in a rubber dinghy hang on to ropes beneath the bow of the Panama-registered ship Tuna 1, after some migrants on another rubber dinghy drowned in the central Mediterranean in international waters off the coast of Libya CREDIT: DARREN ZAMMIT LUPI/REUTERS

The government says it has little choice but to rescue the migrants, but critics say that trafficking gangs in Libya have come to depend on Italian, EU and NGO vessels deployed in the Mediterranean as a free taxi service.

Smugglers launch boats packed with migrants from Libyan beaches with little fuel and cheap outboard engines, knowing full well that they are likely to be rescued once they reach international waters.

“Thousands more people who don’t have the right to come to Italy, reaching our shores,” said Maurizio Gasparri, an MP from Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-Right Forza Italia party. “A catastrophe, the fault of the (governing) Democratic Party.”

Paolo Romani, another MP from Forza Italia, accused the Italian, British, French and German NGOs operating in the Mediterranean of “incentivising human trafficking” – a charge that organisations such as Medecins Sans Frontieres strongly deny, arguing that migrants will try to reach Italy regardless.

The majority come from West African countries such as Mali, Gambia, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Guinea, as well as from other countries such as Bangladesh. They are classed as economic migrants, rather than refugees fleeing conflict.

At least 900 migrants have died while trying to reach Europe by sea so far this year. The International Organisation of Migration reported earlier this month that growing numbers of African migrants passing through Libya are traded in what they call “slave markets” before being held for ransom, forced labour or sexual exploitation.

“So there’s a full-on economy of trafficking or trading in migrants who think they are going to a better life in Europe and end up effectively in a gulag of exploitation,” IOM spokesman Leonard Doyle told a briefing in Geneva.

Latest terror attack in Paris — Sixth terror strike on Paris in three years — ‘I am here to die for Allah’

April 21, 2017

Image may contain: night and outdoor

  • Most recently, on March 18, a convicted criminal was shot dead at Orly Airport
  • By far the most deadly strike was in November 13, 2015, when 130 people died
  • On January 7, two brothers killed 11 inside headquarters of satirical magazine

French police have said tonight’s attack was ‘probably a terrorist act’, and if so it would be at least the sixth terror strike on Paris in three years.

Most recently, on March 18, a convicted criminal with links to radical Islam shouted ‘I am here to die for Allah, there will be deaths’ seconds before he was shot dead during an attack at Orly airport.

And a month earlier, on February 3, a man was shot five times outside the Louvre museum in the heart of Paris after attempting to storm the historic art gallery.

The shooting in Paris tonight is the latest of a series of attacks that have struck the French capital

The shooting in Paris tonight is the latest of a series of attacks that have struck the French capital

March 18, 2017: Criminal with links to radical Islam shouted ‘I am here to die for Allah, there will be deaths’ seconds before he was shot dead during an attack at Orly airport


A grainy picture claims to show the immediate aftermath of this morning's shooting, after a machete-wielding man attacked four soldiers outside the Louvre, which houses many of the world's most famous paintings, including the Mona Lisa

February 3, 2017: Machete-wielding man attacked four soldiers outside the Louvre art gallery in the city centre


Last year, on June 13, two police officers were murdered in their home just outside Paris in front of their 8-year-old son in an attack claimed by Islamic State.

The area around the Louvre museum in Paris has been evacuated after a huge security operation was launched this morning

The area around the Louvre museum

By far the most deadly strike came on November 13, 2015, when ISIS militants killed 130 people in France’s worst atrocity since World War II.

A series of suicide bomb and shooting attacks were launched on crowded sites in central Paris, as well as the northern suburb of Saint-Denis.

The majority of those killed were in the Bataclan concert hall where hostages were taken.

Islamic State extremists claimed responsibility and said it was in retaliation for French participation in airstrikes on the militant group’s positions in Syria and Iraq.

It led to the declaration of a state of emergency in France with police powers greatly expanded.

And on January 7, two brothers killed 11 people inside the Paris building housing the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in revenge for the publication of cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammed.

More were killed subsequently in attacks on a kosher market in eastern Paris and on police. There were 17 victims in all, including two police officers. The attackers were killed.

Terrifying footage shows moments after Paris shooting

June 13, 2016: Two police officers were murdered in their home just outside Paris in front of their 8-year-old son in an attack claimed by Islamic State. Larossi Abballa (pictured) recorded a 12 minute rant to camera about the killings

June 13, 2016: Two police officers were murdered in their home just outside Paris in front of their 8-year-old son in an attack claimed by Islamic State. Larossi Abballa (pictured) recorded a 12 minute rant to camera about the killings

November 13, 2015: ISIS militants killed 130 people in France's worst atrocity since World War II

November 13, 2015: ISIS militants killed 130 people in France’s worst atrocity since World War II

January 7, 2015: Two brothers killed 11 people inside the Paris building housing the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in revenge for the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed

January 7, 2015: Two brothers killed 11 people inside the Paris building housing the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in revenge for the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed


The shooting on March 20 comes just two days after the arrest of two men found with a cache of weapons and explosives in Marseilles.

They were suspected of preparing an attack to disrupt the first round of the presidential election on Sunday.


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