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Showing posts from July, 2016

Forces loyal to Libyan unity government inch forward against Islamic State in Sirte

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Forces loyal to the UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA), the Al-Bunyan Al-Marsoos (Solid Structure, or BAM), move slightly further into Islamic State controlled territory in the center of the city of Sirte.
On Thursdaythere was heavy fighting with dozens killed on both sides. While the offensive against the Islamic State advanced rapidly in May and June, in July the BAM forces have met fierce resistance as the remaining IS fighters are encircled in a central section of Sirte. Although their headquartershave been attacked, they are not yet occupied by the BAM fighters. The BAM forces are facing heavy losses from snipers, suicide bombers, and mines every time they attempt to advance further. Sirte is the last major city in Libya under the control of the Islamic State. It was captured last year along with a considerable stretch of coastal areas about 250 kilometers (155 miles) to the east and west, in some places extending a considerable distance to the south. However, that t…

Pakistan to pass a law banning "honor killing"

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After the "honor killing" of an outspoken media star Qandeel Baloch by her brother, Pakistan's ruling party is making moves to pass long-delayed legislation to ban honor killings.
The daughter of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif,Maryam Sharif, made the announcement on July 20. She said the bill will go before the legislature very soon. The present law allows family members to pardon a killer in cases where the killing is considered to be defending the honor of the family. The brother said that he was incensed byBaloch'soften risqué posts on social media. Qandeel Baloch had become a household name for her posts of bold, sometimes raunchy, photographs, video and comments, in one case with a Muslim cleric. InPakistani society where many hold conservative values, opinions are divided on this case. The brother strangled Baloch. In an unusual move, the government itself is a complainant in the case. The killing was designated as a crime against the state, and this blocked Baloc…

Protesters angry at presence of unauthorized French forces in Libya

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Thousands of angry protesters marched in a number of Libyan cities on Wednesday to denounce what they claimed were French airstrikes that targeted Defend Benghazi Brigades (DBB).
The protesters also complainedabout the silence of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) — headed by PM Faiez Sirraj — on the issue. Actually arecent tweet says: In Tripoli, protesters marched to Martyr's Square chanting both anti-French and anti-GNA slogans. Protests were also held in Misrata, Gharyan and Zawiya. They called for the overthrow of the GNA and formation of a higher council of revolutionaries. Salah Burki Brigade, one of the most powerful in Tripoli according to the Libya Observer, denounced the airstrikes and French intervention in Libya. France denies that its planes carried out the overnight attacks that killed 13 members of the DBB. French president Francois Hollande confirmed today that three French soldiers had been killed in what was described as a helicopter crash during …

After Brexit IMF cuts forecast for Global Growth

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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) cut its global growth forecasts on July 19 citing uncertainty over the economic effects of the recent Brexit vote which will see the UK leave the European Union (EU).
 1 of 2 Even before the Brexit vote, the IMF had cut its global growth outlook. The new forecasts represent the fifth time in the last 15 months that the IMF has cut forecasts of global economic growth. In its World Economic Outlook forecast the IMF now predicts global GDP to grow at 3.1 percent in 2016 and 3.4 percent in 2017 a decline of 0.1 percent for both years from the forecast in April. While the IMF said that there had been recent improvements in Japan and the EU, and some recovery in commodity prices, that the Brexit vote increased uncertainty which took its toll on the investment outlook and consumer confidence. The chief IMF economist, Maury Obstfield, said that a day before the Brexit vote the IMF was ready to upgrade the 2016-17 growth projections slightly higher: "…

UN press release after Libyan Dialogue talks in Tunis

Now that the Libyan Political Dialogue talks held in Tunis from July 16 to 18 are over, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya has issued a press release.
The statement on the UNSMIL websitesaid that the meetings were held to ensure that there was a continued commitment to implementation of the Libyan Political Agreement signed in Skhirat Morocco last December 17th. The meeting also was in recognition of the challenges to the implementation of the agreement that had led to the deterioration of basic services and necessities of life. Just over half of the 40 Dialogue members attended as a recent tweet notes: "Only 22 of the 40 members of Libya Dialogue, which created the UN-backed govt, attend key meeting Tunis" The Dialogue members also met with the Presidency Council(PC) to discuss difficulties the Council faced in trying to carry out its duty. The group decided to hold regular follow up meetings to assess steps taken by the PC to address various crises such as electri…

Powerful Shia cleric says US troops are a target

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Powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr told his followers to target U.S. ground troops deploying in Iraq to help fight against the Islamic State.
While Al-Sadr has tolerated the allied bombing campaign, he has constantly warned about the presence of U.S. troops on the ground. The U.S. has been continually raising the number of troops on the ground in Iraq even though they are supposedly just in an advisory role. On Monday, U.S. Secretary of DefenseAsh Carter said 560 additional troops will be sent later this year to Iraq to help retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State. The total U.S. troopsin Iraq now will be 4,647, although troops just in Iraq for a short term apparently are not counted. Al-Sadr was prominent after the 2003 occupation of Iraq. His Mahdi army — disbanded in 2008 and replaced by the Peace Brigades, who helped keep the Islamic State out of Baghdad — often battled with U.S. troops. The group is present in Baghdad and several other cities. Sadr's main target s…

Protests over salaries close down Al-Hariga port in Tobruk Libya

The protesters, affiliated with the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) shut Al-Hariga port down in Tobruk because of delays in being paid.
Spokesperson for the new unified National Oil Company (NOC) Mohammed Al-Harari claimed the protesters were no more than 30 people in all. They came from Tobruk on Wednesday, and shut down the port stopping all export of oil. Al Harari said: “We are doing some effort to solve this problem, some elders from Tobruk and some officials from Al-Khaleej Al-Arabi Oil Company are trying to reopen the oil port so that they avoid the country a possible economic melt-down.” Al-Harari indicated there were already two ships waiting to be loaded. Libyan export firms could be subject to huge fines. Al-Harari concluded:“Libya’s oil exportation is almost at 220 bpd and shutting down Al-Hariga oil port could diminish the output into its half, not to mention that it will affect Tobruk refinery station as crude oil will stop to be pumped into it.” Just before the revoluti…

Russia and US to increase cooperation in Syria

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John Kerry U.S. Secretary of State said on July 15 that Russia and the U.S. had agreed to cooperate in Syria against the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front.
 1 of 2 Kerry said the cooperation was intended to "restore the cessation of hostilities, significantly reduce the violence and help create the space for a genuine and credible political transition." Kerry appeared alongside his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow. Kerry did not give any details as to what exactly had been agreed upon. . The decision to have greater military cooperation with Russia is causing divisions within the US government, with the Pentagon challenging the view that Russia could be trusted to fulfill its part of any agreement. Kerry's statement appeared to reflect awareness of this skepticism as he said: "I want to emphasize, though, they are not based on trust. They define specific, sequential responsibilities all parties to the conflict must assume with the intent of stopping all togethe…

"28 pages" about Saudi involvement in 9/11 finally released

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The US House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has at least released the secret "28 pages" from the 9/11 report which deal almost entirely with the relationship of the Saudi Arabian government to the attacks.
The White Houseclaims even after the release that these pages prove that Saudis had nothing to with the attack. While there is, one might say, no smoking gun, there is plenty of circumstantial evidence that there were contacts between hijackers and individuals who were associated with the Saudi government. The full redacted text of the 28 pages can be readhere. Many political figures such as former Sen. Bob Graham and Congressman Rick Nolan have long been calling for release of the pages.Graham claimed the pages point a "very strong finger at Saudi Arabia." The report admits: “While in the United States, some of the September 11th hijackers were in contact with or received assistance from, individuals who may be connected with the Saudi government.” F…

Troops loyal to Libyan unity government attack Islamic State headquarters in Sirte

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The Albinyan Almarsoos (Solid Structure, BAM or Albunian) forces, loyal to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) are reported to have attacked a conference hall in the middle of Sirte, the headquarters of the Islamic State (IS).

The IS has been surrounded in the city for some time but suicide bombers, booby traps, and snipers have caused heavy losses and slowed the advance of the BAM forces, who are mostly composed of militia members from the city of Misrata. The campaign against the IS has now lasted two months butsome predict the offensive will soon be victorious. The advance is also slowing down in order to ensure that there are not too many civilian casualties as the IS appears to be using civilians as shields. Sirte has been under control of the IS since last year and had extended its control along 250 kilometers (155 miles) of coastllne often to a considerable depth to the south. If the IS loses Sirte it will have control of no significant territory in Libya although…

Defense minister of Libyan unity government survives assassination attempt

An official statement from the office of the GNA Defense Minister Mahdi al-Barghathi reports that he survived an attempted assassination on Wednesday by a car bomb.
Al-Barghathi was leaving an army barracks in the city of Benghazi. One of his guards was said to be injured by shrapnel.Another report says that a man and two of his daughters who were passing by were also injured. The same report claims the attack was Wednesday night rather than Thursday as theDaily Mail reports, as doesLibya Prospect. Apparently Barghathi had been meeting with a number of chiefs of armed brigades mostly from his Awaqir tribe at the 204 Tanks brigade office. The attack, according to the Barghathi's media office, was not at the offices themselves but a bomb parked at the roundabout of the Al-Arab Medical University went off as Barghathi's motorcade passed. Barghathi is at odds with General Khalifa Haftar, commander in chief of the Libyan National Army (LNA) associated with the House of Representati…

Libyan unity government moves into new offices amid protests

While a red carpet was rolled out to welcome the 7 members of the Presidency Council (PC) of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) to new quarters in Tripoli, elsewhere in the city, protesters were setting tires on fire and blocking roads.
The GNA Presidency Council has finally moved away from the Tripoli naval base that had been its headquarters since March 30 — a total of 103 days. The new headquarters were formerly occupied by the Salvation Government associated with the General National Congress (GNC). The buildings were defended by a militia loyal to the Salvation Government, but in April another militia loyal to the GNA and its head, Faiez Serraj, seized the headquarters. The defending militia claimed they did not resist in order to avoid bloodshed. While the Salvation Government has virtually ceased to exist with many members now part of the GNA State Council, the PM Kalifa Ghwell and a few others meet from time to time in Tripoli and MIsrata. Ghwell warned that the…

US expects $40 billion in foreign military sales this fiscal year.

For the fiscal year ending on October 1, 2016, the U.S. is on track to rack up $40 billion in foreign military sales. Exports sales are down from $46.6 billion last year, according to a top Pentagon official.
U.S. Navy Vice Admiral,Joe Rixey, head of the Pentagon Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) provided the statistics at the Farnborough International Airshow, saying: "We're tracking toward $40 billion. We're tracking toward our forecast. " While Rixey admitted that the total still could be different depending on what happens in the fourth quarter, Rixey did not think the Brexit will change U.S. sales to the UK. He cited two large UK purchases from Boeing just recently. Rixey said global demand for U.S. helicopters and weapons remains strong. Rixey has created over 40 different initiatives to make the approval process quicker and more efficient in response to criticism that there were delays in handling the large number of requests. Industry officials and t…

UN envoy to Libya suggests the Libyan army could be decentralized.

In an interview in Cairo with the Associated Press (AP), Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) Martin Kobler suggested a new reconstituted army of the Government of National Accord (GNA) could be decentralized.
Kobler seesa decentralized armed forces as a way of helping to prevent political gridlock that seems to be gripping the country now, as he is unable to convince the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) to vote confidence in the GNA and become its legislature. Kobler spoke to the AP after he had talks in Cairo with a number of Libyan officials aimed at finding a solution to the political impasse. Egypt is a strong supporter of Haftar. Haftar and his allies insist on his remaining commander-in-chief of any new Libyan National Army (LNA). Haftar is now just commander-in-chief of the LNA associated with the Tobruk-based House of Representatives(HoR) government of PM Abdullah Al-Thinni. Kobler has been discussing the formation of military councils from the th…

Islamic State likely to face defeat in the next few days in Sirte Libya

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According Brigadier Mohammed Al-Gosri, the spokesperson for Al-Bunyan Al-Marsoos (Solid Structure or BAM), artillery shelling on ISIS militants encircled in a small area of Sirte has continued for five days.
Al-Gosri said that the resistance is likely to collapse in the next few days. He said most of the militants are hiding in the Ouagadougou Conference Hall, headquarters for the group. However, he said that there were pockets of resistance in some residential areas. Over the last few days the BAM forces do not seem to have advanced far and they were within attacking distance of the Ouagadougou Hall since the first days of July. However Rida Issa spokesperson for the Misrata forces of BAM said: "Our forces have...targeted militants with artillery and air force around Ouagadougou complex, Ghiza Asskariya district, and in the city center. They have targeted Islamic State members, vehicles, ammunition stores, and control rooms." The two-month long offensive against the Islamic…