Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for an investigation into the lethal force used by armed groups against protesters in Tripoli, the Libyan capital.
The organisation says some of the protesters, who took to the streets in late August to protest against corruption and demand better public services, have also disappeared.
Quoting witnesses, reviews of photographs and videos, the US-based group said no fewer than 24 protesters were arbitrarily detained or tortured by armed groups which are linked to the interior ministry.
The rights organisation says the groups include some of the Libyan capital’s biggest factions – like the Nawasi brigade, and the Special Deterrence Force.
It added that weapons like machine guns were used to disperse the crowds – one person is known to have died.
The protests were triggered by persistent electricity cuts and the deterioration of other public services, as well as alleged corruption.
At the time, Minister of Interior Fathi Bashagha condemned the violent clampdown and was later suspended by the prime minister pending an investigation.
He resumed his post earlier this month, and it is not clear what the conclusions of the inquiry were.
HRW is calling for an independent investigation into the abuses to be carried out by Tripoli’s General Prosecutor’s Office.
The HRW, in a statement on its website, wrote: “Because of fear of reprisals, those who spoke to Human Rights Watch have asked that their names be withheld.
“Libya Alahrar TV, a Libyan satellite TV station, reported that a group of protesters harassed and attacked a TV crew from the channel on August 23 while they were preparing to cover the protests at Martyrs’ Square.
“One Tripoli resident who attended the August 23 protest in Martyrs’ Square said that he observed a man in civilian clothes carrying a shotgun and shooting at protesters in the square before retreating toward armed groups who were stationed on the coastal road. This witness also observed a vehicle-mounted anti-aircraft weapon shooting at protesters:
“When we saw violence take over, we wanted to leave the protest area as fast as possible, and almost ran into a pickup truck with a 14.5-millimeter anti-aircraft weapon. We had barely made it 6 or 7 meters when the shooting began. It was just before the call to prayers, around 7:30 p.m. I was too preoccupied trying to make it out and so did not focus on any insignia other than it was a beige pickup truck. There were 10 or 12 people all wearing military uniforms with the exception of 1 militia member who was in civilian clothes.
“Human Rights Watch reviewed video footage from the incident and corroborated the use of a vehicle-mounted 14.5-mm anti-aircraft weapon.
“Another Tripoli protester said that protests on August 23 and 26 were met with violence, and that he recognized a member of Al-Nawasi Brigade who was shooting at protesters on August 23. He said protesters were mostly peaceful, with few exceptions:
“On August 23, armed groups used anti-aircraft weapons against protesters and other weapons for around one-and-a-half hours. Initially they were shooting in the air. On August 26, a big convoy with over 50 military vehicles showed up at Martyrs’ Square that included Al-Nawasi Brigade, Bab Tajoura Brigade, and Tripoli Revolutionary Brigade, and I saw many people being arrested. Although the police were present during the demonstrations on these days they did not intervene when armed groups used machine guns and heavy weapons and arrested people under the eyes and ears of the Interior Ministry. Al-Nawasi Brigade has power over police forces and they in return don’t have confidence to do anything.
“A journalist covering the protests on August 23 said there was a lot of anger among the youth because of miserable living conditions and lack of opportunities in the country:
“When I got to Martyrs’ Square at around 4 p.m., I saw people between 16 years and 40 years participate. People are ready to explode because there’s no water, no electricity, no cash or opportunities. People were calling for the removal of politicians and demanded an investigation into corruption allegations. When the shooting started it was directed above the heads and not at the protesters, and only when protesters responded with swearing did the armed groups start to shoot directly at protesters. I saw injured people being taken away to the Tripoli Medical Center, but then they were transferred to another hospital.”
300 Militants Crossed Into Tanzania From Mozambique – Police
Tanzania authorities say over 300 armed men from Mozambique raided a village in Mtwara region of the country, killing a number of locals.
It is the first time the Tanzanian authorities have publicly acknowledged the presence militants from Mozambique in the country.
Northern Mozambique is in the grip of a militant Islamist insurgency that has claimed more than 1,500 lives.
Last week, it was widely reported that conflict had spilled into Tanzania, with a number of villagers killed and on Thursday, the head of Tanzania’s police acknowledged this.
Inspector General Simon Sirro said 300 “terrorists” attacked a village in Mtwara region.
He said that Tanzanians were among the attackers and added that they were arrested before they could flee back to Mozambique.
“We will continue to confront [the attackers] until we are able to trace their network,” he said in a statement.
The Tanzanian government had previously declined to comment on the incident.
The insurgency in Mozambique is now in its third year and the government in Maputo is struggling to contain it.
South Africa’s Police Arrest Public Officials For Inflating Project Costs
South African authorities have arrested four former public officials for inflating the cost of a prjoect.
The Hawks, on Thursday, arrested former senior Gauteng Department of Health officials for alleged R1.2 billion tender irregularities committed almost 13 years ago.
The arrested are a former head of department who was also an accounting officer at the time; chief director of information communication and technology; head of supply chain management; and the deputy director for executive support.
They are accused of receiving kickbacks for their role in ensuring the contract was awarded to an undeserving entity and have been charged with fraud, corruption, money laundering and contravention of the Public Finance Management Act.
Police say the case emanates from February 2007 where the State Information Technology Agency (Sita) submitted a proposal to continue with an information technology maintenance programme at the department.
The Hawks’ Lieutenant Colonel Philani Nkwalase said the total cost of a project like that was not meant to be over R57 million for a period of three years.
“The contract was instead awarded to a private entity at a whopping cost of around R1.2 billion without following due tender procedures.
“Two private company directors who unduly benefited from the tender are yet to be charged along together with their two companies. The said directors are reportedly outside of the country but steps have already been initiated to ensure that they are accounted for,” Nkwalase said.
The four appeared in the Palm Ridge Specialised Commercial Crime Court on Thursday.
#EndSARS: Miscreants Raid Prisons In Ondo, Delta States, Releases Inmates
Violence in Nigeria continued on Thursday with suspected miscreants raiding at least two correctional centres and setting prisoners free.
Armed thugs reportedly attacked a police station in Asaba, the Delta State capital. The hoodlums also allegedly raided the Warri Correctional Centre – Okere Prison – in the Warri South Local Government Area of the state, shooting sporadically.
The police station was reportedly set on fire.
The hoodlums reportedly moved to the Police Special Protection Unit in the area in an attempt to set it ablaze but were repelled by security personnel there.
It was also learnt a protest was currently ongoing at Oleh in Isoko South Local Government Area of the state by young persons, who have barricaded all major roads leading in and out of the community.
Recall that the office of the Federal Road Safety Corps along the Benin-Asaba-Onitsha Expressway and the beautification garden at Koka Junction, Asaba, were on Wednesday night set ablaze by thugs.
State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, had on Thursday morning announced a 48-hour curfew across the state.
The governor also ordered the closure of all public and private schools in the state until November 2, 2020.
In Ondo State, hoodlums on Thursday broke into the National Correctional Service Centre in Okitipupa, the headquarters of Okitipupa Local Government Area and forcefully released the inmates.
It was gathered that no fewer than 58 inmates were released during the attack while a vehicle was burnt.
It was also learnt that several items were destroyed on the premises of the prison.
Also on Monday, an attempted jailbreak at the Ikoyi prison in Lagos was foiled by the security forces. Videos shared online showed smoke billowing from parts of the prison while inmates were seen running.
The prison authorities called for reinforcements and they said that no prisoners managed to escape.
Earlier in the week, hundreds of inmates escaped a correctional facility in Edo State after it was raided by suspected miscreant, prompting Governor Godwin Obaseki to declare a 24-hour statewide curfew.
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