Forces battling for control of Libya’s capital agreed to a truce Saturday, on the eve of the Muslim festival of Eid Al-Adha, but a car bomb killed two UN staff in the eastern city of Benghazi.
Military strongman Khalifa Haftar’s forces announced that they would implement a ceasefire after the unity government conditionally accepted the truce for the three-day holiday which starts Sunday.
Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) has been fighting since early April to seize Tripoli from the UN-recognised Government of National Accord.
The United Nations had called on both sides to commit to a humanitarian truce by midnight on Friday.
Haftar’s spokesman Ahmad al-Mesmari on Saturday announced “a halt to all military operations… in the suburbs of Tripoli”.
Mesmari said the truce had gone into effect at 3:00 PM (1300 GMT) on Saturday and would last until the same time on Monday afternoon.
The GNA had said late Friday it was keen to “ease the suffering of the citizens and allow rescue workers to accomplish their mission” and would accept “a humanitarian truce for Eid al-Adha”.
But it listed several conditions, saying the ceasefire must be observed “in all combat zones, with a cessation of direct and indirect fire and movement of troops”.
It also said the truce must include “a ban on flights and reconnaissance overflights” across the country’s entire airspace.
The GNA also called on the UN mission in Libya (UNSMIL) to “ensure the implementation of the truce and note any breaches”.
Haftar’s spokesman said the ceasefire was “out of respect for this occasion’s place in our spirits… so that Libyan citizens can celebrate this Eid in peace”.
But in Haftar-controlled Benghazi, a car bombing killed two UN staff — a Libyan and a Fijian –– as a UN convoy passed through a shopping area, a security official said.
At least eight other people, including a child, were wounded in the attack.
Thick black smoke rose from the area and firefighters rushed to put out the flames that gutted two cars, including a white vehicle like those used by the UN.
No side had claimed responsibility for the blast.
The UN’s Libya envoy Ghassan Salame called the incident a “cowardly attack”.
It “serves as another strong reminder of the urgent need for Libyans to stop fighting, set aside their differences and work together through dialogue and not violence to end the conflict,” he said in a statement.
The European Union called the attack “contemptible and a further worrying development in the Libyan crisis”, urging all sides to abide by the UN-brokered truce.
The blast came just months after the UN reopened its offices in Benghazi, which had been closed for security consideration, and less than a month after a car bombing at the funeral of an ex-army commander killed at least four people and wounded more than 30 others.
Haftar’s forces have controlled Libya’s second city since 2017, when he drove hardline Islamists and jihadists out after a three-year battle.
But Benghazi, the cradle of the NATO-backed 2011 uprising that overthrew and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi, has seen repeated attacks both before and since.
One attack on the US consulate on September 11, 2012, killed US ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
A May 2018 attack left seven people dead.
A Libyan lawmaker is also feared to have been abducted by an armed group in the eastern city, the UN and lawmakers said in July.
Haftar, who backs an eastern-based administration that opposes the Tripoli-based unity government, advanced into the country’s desert south this year before turning his sights on Tripoli.
Over the past four months, 1,093 people have been killed in the fighting and 5,752 wounded, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), while more than 120,000 people have been displaced.
Forces loyal to the GNA are keeping Haftar’s troops at bay on the southern outskirts of the city.
UN envoy Ghassan Salame had already called several times for humanitarian truces, without success.
In a video conference with the UN Security Council late last month, Salame warned against mounting tensions and called for a ceasefire for Eid Al-Adha.
Morocco frees journalist jailed for abortion after royal pardon
Hajar Raissouni was sentenced on September 30, along with her Sudanese fiancé for having sexual relations out of wedlock
Moroccan journalist Hajar Raissouni who was sentenced to one year in jail for an “illegal abortion” and sexual relations outside marriage walked free on Wednesday, shortly after being granted a royal pardon.
In a case that had provoked a storm of protests from rights groups, the justice ministry said the 28-year-old woman was released on a pardon issued by King Mohammed VI.
Rassiouni was sentenced on September 30, along with her Sudanese fiancé, a gynaecologist, anaesthetist and a medical assistant, whose convictions were also overturned, an official told reporters.
The journalist made a victory sign to the waiting media as they emerged from El-Arjat prison near Rabat, but she made no statement before joining her family and friends.
The ministry said the monarch wanted to help “preserve the future of the couple, who wanted to establish a family in line with our religious and legal precepts, despite the error they made”.
The amnesty was decided on the grounds of “compassion”, it said.
A government source told reporters the ruling was made “without entering into the debate that is sovereign to Moroccan citizens on the evolution of their society and in which, regrettably, certain foreigners, intellectuals, media and NGOs invited themselves to take part”.
The journalist at the Akhbar Al-Yaoum newspaper, which has a history of run-ins with the authorities, denounced the affair as a “political trial”, saying she had been questioned by police about her family and her writing.
Youne Maskine, a director of Akhbar Al-Yaoum, took to Twitter to hail “finally a wise decision”.
Raissouni was arrested on August 31 as she left a clinic in Rabat. In court, she denied having had an abortion, saying she had been treated for internal bleeding — testimony backed up by her gynaecologist.
She was sentenced under Article 490 of the Muslim-majority kingdom’s legal code.
That article punishes sexual relations out of wedlock, while the law also forbids all abortions unless the mother’s life is in danger.
‘Obsolete’ ban –
In a case that sparked widespread debate on personal and media freedoms in Morocco, her gynaecologist, who spoke up in her defence, was given two years and her fiancé one year in prison.
The anaesthetist was handed a one-year suspended sentence and the medical assistant eight months, also suspended.
Rights groups were quick to condemn the verdicts, which Amnesty International described as a “devastating blow for women’s rights” in the country.
Ahmed Benchemsi, the regional director for Human Rights Watch, described the sentencing of Raissouni and her fiancé as a “black day for freedom in Morocco”.
The verdicts were “a blatant injustice, a flagrant violation of human rights, and a frontal attack on individual freedoms,” he wrote on Twitter.
The prosecution insisted she had been seen by a medic and showed signs of pregnancy and of having undergone a “late voluntary abortion”.
It had said her detention had “nothing to do with her profession as a journalist”.
Between 600 and 800 back-shop abortions occur each day in Morocco, according to estimates by campaign groups.
In a manifesto published on September 23 by Moroccan media outlets, hundreds of women declared themselves “outlaws” by claiming to have already violated the “obsolete” laws of their country on abortion and other social norms.
In the early 1970s, in a similar text, French women calling themselves the “343 sluts” famously declared they had had an abortion when it was still illegal.
Last year, Morocco tried thousands of people for sex out of wedlock, 170 people for being gay and 73 for pregnancy terminations.
Sudan announces “permanent ceasefire” as peace talks hit deadlock
The talks were launched on Monday, but a rebel group says it would pull out unless the government withdrew from its territories
Sudan announced Wednesday a “permanent ceasefire” in the country’s war zones even as a key rebel group threatened to pull out of peace talks, accusing government forces of bombing its territory.
Juba has been hosting talks between new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s government and delegates from two umbrella groups of rebels who fought now-ousted President Omar al-Bashir’s forces in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.
The talks were launched on Monday, but the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) told journalists it would pull out unless the government withdrew from an area in the Nuba mountains.
The group said that for the past 10 days, government forces had kept up attacks on its territory despite an unofficial ceasefire.
Late on Wednesday, the chief of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, announced a permanent ceasefire in the three conflict zones.
“General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has announced a permanent ceasefire to show that the government is committed to peace,” the sovereign council said in a statement.
“The ceasefire is valid from the signing of this declaration.”
An unofficial ceasefire had been in place since Bashir was ousted by the army in April in a palace coup following nationwide protests against his decades-old rule.
A joint civilian-military sovereign council is now ruling Sudan and is tasked with overseeing the country’s transition to civilian rule as demanded by protesters.
A new transitional government is in place to carry out the daily affairs of the country, and has been leading the peace talks in South Sudan’s capital with the rebel groups.
Bloodshed in the three states has left hundreds of thousands of people dead and millions displaced, in turn severely impacting the country’s economy.
Dhieu Mathok, a member of Juba’s mediation team, told reporters they were investigating the SPLM-N’s complaints but would not stop peace talks.
“We are still investigating whether there are really attacks in those areas or not, but this will not stop the peace process,” Mathok said.
Mohammed Hassan, a spokesman for Khartoum’s delegation, attributed the fighting to an attack by herders on local merchants.
“The government regrets and condemns in the strongest terms these unfortunate events that keep happening in the area and in other parts of the country,” he said.
“We also regret that these events took place at a time when people are entering peace negotiations, and the country and the whole region is united for the cause of peace in Sudan.”
Tunisia’s outsider Kais Saied projected to win presidential election
The official results are expected Monday, but news of the projected victory has triggered celebrations
Conservative academic Kais Saied, who is poised to become Tunisia’s next president, on Sunday thanked the “young people for turning a new page” in the country’s history.
“We will try to build a new Tunisia,” he told a gathering of supporters, his family and the press after state media announced his landslide election victory.
“Young people led this campaign, and I am responsible for them.”
In a contest which reflected Tunisia’s shifting post-revolution political landscape, Saied, an independent, scooped almost 77 per cent of the vote, Wataniya television said.
Some 90 per cent of voters aged 18 to 25 voted for Saied, according to polling institute Sigma, while just 49 per cent of people above 60 chose him over his rival, business tycoon and media magnate Nabil Karoui.
The official results are expected Monday, but news of the projected victory triggered celebrations at the retired law professor’s election campaign offices in central Tunis, as fireworks were set off outside and supporters honked car horns.
“I will carry the message” of the 2011 Arab Spring revolution that ousted dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Saied said.
“The law will be applied to all, and first and foremost to me,” he said.
“Everyone made their choice, in complete freedom. Our project is founded on freedom. The era of submission is over. We have just entered a new era in history,” he said.
“The state will be built on a foundation of trust. Trust between the leader and the people, and in a framework of respect for the rules,” he added.
Saied, meanwhile, underlined his support for the Palestinian cause, which he said he considered a foreign policy priority.
Teni, Falz, Burna Boy win big at 2019 Headies award. See full list of winners
Egypt unveils 30 ancient wooden coffins in Valley of the Kings in Luxor
Nigerian town celebrates self-proclaimed title of ‘twins capital of the world’
Young climate activists push for more awareness in Africa
Ruling party ahead in partial Mozambique election results
Nigeria’s “Street Doctor”, Samson Shonowo provides free healthcare for the poor
Egyptian stocks dip after outbreak of anti-Sisi protests
South Africa’s Archbishop Tutu blesses Royal baby
Prince Harry, Megan Markle and baby Archie arrive South Africa for tour
Zimbabwean state media says former President Robert Mugabe died of “cancer”
A walk along the slave routes in Badagry
The #AfricaFirst Pledge with Adebola Afolabi (RezThaPoet)
United Nations #SDGs: A better world with Family planning
The #AfricaFirst Pledge with Efe Paul Azino
Harsh abortion sentences are putting Malagasy women at risk
Politics5 days ago
Nigerian police rescues over 300 pupils from another ‘torture house’
Op-Ed1 week ago
“Sex for grades” – Another sad reminder of our failed education system (Opinion)
Culture & Tourism1 week ago
M.I Abaga vs Vector the Viper: Nigeria’s battle for rap supremacy [Updated]
Politics1 week ago
Dozens of foreigners appeal to UN for deportation from South Africa
Central Africa News1 week ago
Official cargo plane of DRC goes missing with 8 aboard
East Africa Sports News1 week ago
Ineos 1:59 Challenge: Kenya’s Kipchoge says ready to “break the two-hour barrier”
News1 week ago
Eight years on from the Arab Spring Tunisia looks back
Politics6 days ago
Nigeria’s custom chief says Seme border closure has no ‘time limit’