Babies saved from Libya clashes in airlift to Rome

The UNHCR airlifted 149 African migrants, including 65 minors and 13 infants (similar to the child pictured in a detention centre in April 2019) from Libya to Rome for safety. (File/AFP)
Updated 30 May 2019

Babies saved from Libya clashes in airlift to Rome

ROME: Nearly 150 migrants from East Africa, including 65 minors and 13 babies under one, were rescued from conflict-torn Libya and airlifted to Rome on Thursday by the UN refugee agency.
“Due to the violent clashes and deteriorating security conditions in Tripoli, 149 refugees and vulnerable asylum seekers were evacuated and transferred to Rome,” the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.
Those airlifted to safety — including a two-month-old infant — came from Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan and Ethiopia, it said.
“After months spent in desperate conditions in detention centers,” and trapped by renewed fighting in the North African country, many were suffering from malnutrition or needed medical attention, UNHCR said.
“Other evacuation operations are needed,” the UNHCR mission head in Libya, Jean-Paul Cavalieri, was quoted as saying.
“These operations represent a lifeline for refugees, for whom the only way to escape is to entrust their lives to unscrupulous traffickers in order to cross the Mediterranean,” he said.
Earlier this week, 62 people from Syria, Sudan and Somalia were evacuated from Tripoli to the UNHCR Emergency Transit Center in Timisoara, Romania, where they were to receive medical care before going on to Norway.
The UN agency said it was grateful to states that have offered evacuation opportunities, but warned that “at present the number of new detainees is increasing much faster than the number of those being evacuated.”
Nearly 1,000 people have been evacuated from Libya or resettled so far in 2019, while in May alone more than 1,200 people were returned by the Libyan coast guard after being intercepted trying to cross the Mediterranean, it said.
Clashes between rival forces in Libya and heavy bombardments have forced more than 83,000 Libyans to flee their homes since the start of April, according to the UN.
More than 2,400 have also been wounded, while 100,000 people are feared trapped by the clashes raging on the outskirts of Tripoli, according to the World Health Organization.


Taliban aim to sign deal with US by end of month

Updated 2 min 48 sec ago

Taliban aim to sign deal with US by end of month

KABUL: The Taliban are aiming to reach a withdrawal agreement with the US by the end of January and are prepared to “scale down” military operations ahead of signing the deal, according to their chief spokesman.
The statement by Suhail Shaheen to Pakistani daily Dawn comes as the group and the US held discussions in Doha this week, after insurgent sources told AFP they had offered to initiate a brief cease-fire.
“We have agreed to scale down military operations in days leading up to the signing of the peace agreement with the United States,” Shaheen told Dawn in a report published Saturday.
He added that the Taliban were “optimistic” a deal with Washington could be signed before the end of the month and that the reduction in fighting across the country would also include the targeting of Afghan forces.
“It’s now a matter of days,” said the spokesman.
Washington has for weeks been calling on the militants to reduce violence, posing it as a condition for resuming formal negotiations on an agreement that would see US troops begin to leave the country in return for security guarantees, after a near two-decade fight.
The Taliban and the US had been negotiating the deal for a year and were on the brink of an announcement in September 2019 when President Donald Trump abruptly declared the process “dead,” citing Taliban violence.
Talks were later restarted between the two sides in December in Qatar, but were paused again following an attack near the Bagram military base in Afghanistan, which is run by the US.
Any agreement with the Taliban is expected to have two main pillars — an American withdrawal from Afghanistan, and a commitment by the insurgents not to offer sanctuary to militants — and would ultimately have to be given final approval by Trump.
The Taliban’s relationship with Al-Qaeda was the main reason cited for the US invasion more than 18 years ago.
A deal would hopefully pave the way for intra-Afghan talks.
Many observers agree that the war can no longer be won militarily, and that the only route to a lasting peace in Afghanistan is for an agreement between the Taliban and the US-backed government in Kabul.
The Taliban have until now refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, which they consider an illegitimate regime, raising fears that fighting will continue regardless of any deal ironed out with the Americans.