Italy’s Salvini says terrorists have infiltrated migrant boats from Libya
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini yesterday resurrected the spectre of migrants infiltrating Europe on migrant boats, saying that, “Islamic terrorist infiltration is no longer a risk, it has become a certainty: it is therefore my duty to reiterate that no docking will be allowed on Italian shores.”
Salvini, in a radio interview yesterday, said that chaos in Libya following General Khalifa Haftar’s offensive on Tripoli has increased the risk of terrorist presence on migrant boats headed for Italy.
Italian authorities arrested an Italian convert to Islam and a Moroccan resident who met over the Internet and were preparing to fight with Islamic State in Syria.
Sicilian prosecutors who ordered the arrests said investigators had identified the Italian suspect, 25-year-old Giuseppe Frittatta, from social media posts. They included extremist propaganda as well as photos of himself holding a knife with a 26-centimeter blade calling for deaths to “all westerners.”
The 18-year-old Moroccan, Ossama Gafhir, is alleged to have induced Frittatta toward extremism, and was following stringent fitness routine to prepare for combat.
Frittata — a Sicilian who changed his name to Yusef — allegedly was in contact with extremists in Italy and abroad, including an American that prosecutors are trying to identify who provided Islamic State battlefield details.
The arrests were carried out in northern Italy.
Salvini said the arrests reinforced his decision to close Italian ports to humanitarian rescue boats with migrants, “seeing that we already have potential terrorists at home”.
Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte, who met Tuesday with the deputy premier of Libya’s UN-backed government, Ahmed Maitig, said renewed fighting could create a “humanitarian crisis that could expose our country to the risk of arrivals by foreign fighters”.
Salvini told reporters that some 500 “terrorists” were in Libyan jails, adding “we don’t want to see them arrive by sea”.
800,000 could flee toward Europe - Libyan PM
Political instability in Libya has sparked fears that thousands of Libyans will risk the dangerous Mediterranean crossing to flee the conflict.
But on Tuesday, in an interview with Sky News’ Alex Crawford, Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Al Sarraj said he believed more than 800,000 of people could flee Libya for Europe if fighting continued.
“What’s going to happen with this security breakdown is that 800,000 illegal migrants on Libyan ground will have to leave Libya and will cross the sea towards Europe. Amongst these 800,000 there are terrorists and criminals. This will be disastrous,” he told Crawford.
Al Sarraj warned that among the number of migrants would be “terrorists and criminals”.
The Libyan PM said of the situation since the ouster of former strongman Moammar Gaddafi, “The world has abandoned Libya and left it to suffer on its own and a lot of things have become complicated. And I fear that’s what’s happening will happen again and the world will abandon Libya again and it will go into another dark tunnel.”
UN says fighting over Libya’s capital has displaced 20,000
Recent clashes between rival Libyan militias for control of the capital Tripoli have displaced nearly 20,000 people, according to the UN
The self-styled Libyan National Army, aligned with a rival government in the east, launched a major military offensive on 5 April to take Tripoli, igniting clashes with rival militias allied with the UN-supported government.
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who was already investigating crimes in Libya, said in a statement that she is “deeply concerned” about the escalation of violence and called on military commanders to prevent war crimes.
She said she “will not hesitate to expand my investigations and potential prosecutions to cover any new instances of crimes falling within the Court’s jurisdiction.”
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric in New York said Tuesday the number of people displaced due to hostilities in the Tripoli area has increased to near 20,000, including more than 2,500 in the last 24 hours, according to the UN migration agency.
He said 50 civilian casualties were confirmed so far, including 14 deaths, but these individually verified cases must be considered “a minimum,” Dujarric said.
Dujarric said heavy weapons and shelling have damaged houses, schools and civilian infrastructure.
He said the number of people displaced due to hostilities in the Tripoli area has increased to nearly 20,000, including more than 2,500 in the last 24 hours.
Dujarric said Monday that around 3,000 migrants remain trapped in detention centres in, and close to, conflict areas.
And “in some cases guards have abandoned the detention centres leaving detainees to their own devices without basic life-sustaining supplies such as food or water,” he said.
Proposed UN resolution demands immediate cease-fire in Libya
A proposed UN resolution, meanwhile, demands that all parties in Libya immediately de-escalate the fighting and commit to a cease-fire.
The British-drafted resolution, circulated to Security Council members and obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press, also calls on all parties to immediately re-commit to attending a UN-facilitated political dialogue “and work toward a comprehensive political solution to the crisis in Libya.”
The draft resolution expresses “grave concern” at military activity near Tripoli, which began after Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter’s self-styled Libyan National Army — aligned with a rival government in the east — launched its offensive.
The internationally supported UNbacked government, which is weaker, is based in Tripoli.
The draft says the offensive “threatens the stability of Libya” and prospects for the national dialogue and a political solution in Libya, and has had a “serious humanitarian impact.”
The Security Council is divided over Hifter’s offensive.
Hifter is supported by Russia, France, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, which see him as the best hope of stabilizing the troubled country and combatting extremists.
A proposed press statement soon after the offensive began that urged the Libyan National Army to halt the offensive was blocked by Russia, one of the permanent council members. Such statements require approval by all 15 council members.
Britain’s proposed resolution stresses the need for the parties to engage with UN envoy Ghassan Salame “with the aim of achieving a Libyan-led and Libyan-owned political solution to bring security, political and economic sustainability, and national unity to Libya.”
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “would welcome a strong and united response from the Security Council.”
The UN chief was in Tripoli promoting a national conference of all Libyan parties when Hifter announced the offensive. The conference has now been postponed, and Dujarric said that since he left he has been calling for a cease-fire to deliver humanitarian aid and “for first responders to be able to do their work without getting shot at.”