Libyan coast guard rescues nearly 150 Europe-bound migrants

Migrants rescued from the sea off Libya disembark after being transferred to Maltese army boats at sea and brought to Valletta harbor, Malta in this April 13, 2019 photo. Libya on Sunday said its coast guard has also rescued nearly 150 Europe-bound migrants off the country’s Mediterranean coast. (AP file photo)
Updated 12 May 2019
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Libyan coast guard rescues nearly 150 Europe-bound migrants

  • Spain’s two North African enclaves, Melilla and Ceuta, have the EU’s only land borders with Africa
  • They are often used as entry points into Europe for African migrants, who either climb over their border fences or try to swim along the coast

CAIRO: Libya’s coast guard says it has rescued nearly 150 Europe-bound migrants, including women and children, off the country’s Mediterranean coast.

Spokesman Ayoub Gassim said Sunday that a rubber boat carrying 96 migrants, including 16 women and four children, was intercepted a day earlier off the city of Zawiya, 50 km west of Tripoli.

Gassim said another boat carrying 51 migrants was intercepted Saturday off the town of Khoms, some 120 km east of Tripoli.

He said the migrants were given humanitarian and medical aid, then taken to refugee camps.

Libya became a major conduit for African migrants and refugees fleeing to Europe after the 2011 uprising that ousted Muammar Qaddafi.

Libyan authorities have stepped up efforts to stem the flow of migrants, with European assistance.

In another development, Spanish authorities said 52 African migrants forced their way into Spain’s North African enclave of Melilla from Morocco Sunday by climbing over a towering border fence.

About 100 migrants tried to storm the barbed wire fence at dawn but Spanish and Moroccan security force prevented “around half” from entering Melilla, Spain interior ministry in Melilla said in a statement.

One migrant was taken to a medical center to treat cuts he suffered scaling the fence while four Spanish police officers sustained bruises, it added.

Police arrested one of the migrants for assaulting an officer.

Video images published by local newspaper El Faro de Ceuta showed sweaters and jackets stuck to the razor wire that tops the border fence, left behind by the migrants.

The 52 who managed to enter Melilla were taken to a temporary migrant accommodation center where they were given new clothes.

It was the biggest assault on the border between Melilla and Morocco since October 2018, when some 300 migrants stormed the fence. About 200 migrants manged to get into Melilla that time and one died of a suspected heart attack in the attempt.

Spain’s two North African enclaves, Melilla and Ceuta, have the EU’s only land borders with Africa.

They are often used as entry points into Europe for African migrants, who either climb over their border fences or try to swim along the coast.


Ethiopia pays tribute to slain military chief

Updated 43 min 10 sec ago
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Ethiopia pays tribute to slain military chief

  • Hundreds of soldiers and officers in uniform gathered for the ceremony in a huge hall in central Addis Ababa

ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia held a memorial on Tuesday for the army chief of staff slain with four other senior officials in weekend attacks that posed the biggest threat yet to the prime minister's reforms.
Abiy Ahmed, who survived a grenade attack at a rally in his honour last year, sat in the front row at the memorial and wiped tears from his eyes with a white handkerchief.
Abiy took power 15 months ago and has won widespread international praise for kickstarting political and economic reforms. But his shake-up of the military and intelligence services has earned him powerful enemies at home.
His government is also struggling to contain discontent from Ethiopia's myriad ethnic groups fighting the federal government and each other for greater influence and resources.
The foiled plot to seize control of the northern Amhara region and the assassinations in the national capital Addis Ababa underscored the threat of spiralling violence in Africa's second-most populous nation.
In addition to the killing of the chief of staff in the capital, Amhara state president Ambachew Mekonnen and an adviser were killed in the region's main city Bahir Dar.
The attacks were led by Amhara's head of state security General Asamnew Tsige, who had been openly recruiting fighters for ethnic militias in a state that has become a flashpoint for violence.
Asamnew, the alleged coup plotter, was shot on Monday near Bahir Dar, according to the prime minister's office. He had served nearly a decade in jail for a previous coup plot, but was released as part of an amnesty last year.
RISKS
Hundreds of soldiers and officers in uniform gathered for the ceremony in a huge hall in central Addis Ababa.
Roads in the capital were blocked for the ceremony and security was tight. Access to the internet appeared to be blocked across Ethiopia for the third straight day, users reported.
The coffins of army chief of staff Seare Mekonnen and a retired general, both shot dead on Saturday by Seare's bodyguard in the national capital Addis Ababa, were wheeled into the hall, draped in Ethiopian flags.
Photographs of the men in formal military dress were adorned with yellow roses. Seare will be buried in his home region of Tigray on Wednesday.
At the memorial, the army's deputy chief of staff General Birhanu Jula spoke of the chief of staff's bravery in the guerrilla war against the Communist Derg regime that was toppled in 1991, and of his leadership role in Ethiopia's war against neighbouring Eritrea in the late 1990s.
The weekend killings came as Ethiopia prepares to hold parliamentary elections next year, although the electoral board warned this month that they were behind schedule and that instability could delay polling.
SECURITY FORCES
Ethiopia's ruling coalition, itself a grouping of ethnically-based parties, is facing an unprecedented challenge from strident ethno-nationalist parties, global think-tank Crisis Group said in a briefing note on Tuesday.
Asamnew, who allegedly orchestrated the killings, had been appointed by state authorities as regional security chief in an effort to claw back support from Amharas supporting more his more hardline policies, including expansion of Amhara's borders, the group said.
"The 22 June killings confirm the dangers in handing security portfolios to hardliners like Asamnew who are ready to pander to extreme ethno-nationalists, from whichever of Ethiopia’s ethnicities," the note read.
Ethiopia analysts say the prime minister must tread carefully to restore security. Too strong a response risks derailing his reforms and angering a polarised population. But failure to punish those responsible could see violence could spiral out of control.
Mehari Taddele Maru, an independent Ethiopian analyst, said the government should channel public anger through dialogue, but if ethnic rivalries spread to the federal armed forces, that could destroy the state, he said.