Thursday 22 March 2018

In brief: Tripoli prepares for fresh violence after 37 die in protests against militia

TRIPOLI, the Libyan capital, was last night braced for fresh violence after a day in which at least 37 were killed and more than 400 wounded in a confrontation outside a militia headquarters.

In some of the bloodiest fighting since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, a Misrata militia unit opened fire on protesters who had massed outside their Tripoli base, demanding they leave the city.

Hospitals were overwhelmed with the dead and wounded and prime minister Ali Zeidan appealed for calm, declaring three days of national mourning. The UN and European Union evacuated non-essential staff from Libya yesterday, with foreign embassies going into security lockdown.

Eyewitnesses said that anti-aircraft weapons were fired at the protesters outside the base in the city's Gharghur district, amid conflicting reports of who fired first. The demonstrators, including women and teenagers, fled the firing, seeking the shelter of nearby houses.

A spokesman for the Misrata militia unit, Taha Basha Agha, insisted that some protesters had been armed and had fired first, shooting from nearby rooftops. He said his unit would stay in its base, telling a TV station: "We will leave in our coffins."


BRITISH Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday set a four-month deadline for Sri Lanka to investigate allegations of war crimes in a parting shot at the host country as he left the Commonwealth summit early. The UK prime minister flew out of Colombo, having failed to secure any concessions from president Mahinda Rajapaksa or persuade fellow leaders to criticise Sri Lanka's record.

He gave Sri Lanka until March to order an independent inquiry into alleged brutality against civilians or face an international UN-backed investigation.

However, Sri Lanka immediately rejected this suggestion, arguing Mr Cameron is isolated in the Commonwealth and pointing out his inability to "act alone".

Mr Cameron said he had given a balanced account of what he saw in Jaffna after visiting newspaper journalists whose six colleagues were killed and a refugee camp where hundreds of people have been living since 1990.


THE family of one of the victims of the IRA bomb attacks in Birmingham have called for British authorities to reinvestigate the case. Campaigner Julie Hambleton said police should do "what they paid to do" as the 39th anniversary of the pub bombings approaches.

A total of 21 people were killed and 182 injured on the night of November 21, 1974, when the Provisional IRA bombed the Mulberry Bush and the Tavern In The Town.

West Midlands Police said its counter-terrorism unit had spent the past 18 months assessing and cataloguing more than 10,000 documents and exhibits to see whether a new inquiry was viable.

Ms Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was 18 when she was killed in the attacks, told BBC News: "It's a nightmare. You live with the grief and loss every single day of your life."

Six men were jailed over the atrocity but had their convictions quashed in 1991 when the Court of Appeal ruled that the forensic evidence that helped convict them was unsafe.

Ms Hambleton met one of the men, Paddy Hill, for a BBC documentary and said it was "awful" to come face to face with someone she had previously thought responsible for her sister's murder. But she added: "He understood that and he fully supports our campaign. Our battle now is with the authorities to recognise the fact the perpetrators still have their liberty and no one is looking for them."

Mr Hill was one of the men who became known as the Birmingham Six who had false confessions beaten out of them by British police following the horrific terror attacks.


SILVIO Berlusconi, Italy's former prime minister, was scrambling to retain influence over the fractured landscape of the country's centre-right yesterday, after the man who was once considered his political heir broke with him in a damaging personal and political snub.

At times appearing weak and tired, the 77-year-old billionaire told supporters at a party congress that he had not slept on Friday night following the "very painful" decision by his former loyalist, Angelino Alfano, to lead a breakaway group that would support Italy's fragile grand coalition government.

As Mr Berlusconi formalised the rebirth of Forza Italia (FI) he said it was "very difficult" to support prime minister Enrico Letta's grand coalition.

The leader of the now-defunct People of Freedom (PdL) party, who is likely to be ousted from the Italian parliament within weeks due to his conviction in August for tax fraud, accused the centre-left – of which Letta is a member – of wanting to "politically kill" him.


A GROUP of French celebrities, including singer Charles Aznavour and actress Catherine Deneuve, have signed a petition against a socialist proposal to punish clients of prostitutes.

Next week, a French parliament committee will review a proposal by the ruling socialist party faction to scrap sanctions on soliciting and instead punish prostitutes' customers with fines. Parliament is expected to vote on the proposal in December.

"Without supporting or promoting prostitution, we refuse the criminalisation of people who prostitute themselves and those who use their services," some 70 French celebrities, including former socialist culture minister Jack Lang, said in a statement published in the French media yesterday.

Ageing French singer Antoine, who took the initiative for the petition, told French daily Le Figaro that the government should continue fighting sexual slavery but should not criminalise prostitution, and that those who prostitute themselves should have the same rights as other workers.

Sunday Independent

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