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Saturday, July 8, 2017

UN convoy ambushed in Libya but members now safe

(June 29)The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) members whose convoy was ambushed near the town of Al-Zawiya are understood to be free and in a safe place.

The details of what exactly happened remain unclear. However UNSMIL head Martin Kobler thanked the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and also House of Representative (HoR) from nearby Al-Zawiya as well as local authorities for helping to ensure the safety of the UN staff. Sources told the Libya Herald that UN members were human resource specialists who were visiting the Department for Combating Illegal Migration (DCIM) in Sorman. UN officials had kept back from making any statements until they were sure that all their personnel and their guards were out of danger.
A tweet by Martin Kobler said: "Criminal attacks on @UN & others working to support #Libya is deplorable. Perpetrators must B brought to #justice.No #impunity for offenders."A UN tweet said: ".@UN welcomes #GNA's decision to investigate the attack on UN convoy, yesterday. Perpetrators must be identified & held accountable."
The five-car UN convoy carrying 13 UN staff was attacked at Farouk Bridge checkpoint. The third vehicle in the convoy was hit by an RPG. The fourth and fifth vehicle were able to turn around and head for Tunisia, while the first vehicle sped on to Tripoli. The second vehicle stopped and helped their colleagues out of the damaged vehicle. All seven were taken to a place of safety by locals where the GNA made arrangements to bring them back to Tripoli. A dozen security guards were also involved.
Kobler claimed that there were no injuries even though photos, circulating in social media, said to be one of the UNSMIL vehicles shows severe damage to the right-hand side of the SUV and bullet impacts on two shatter-proof side windows. A UNSMIL spokesperson said that she could not make any statement on the circumstances until those who had been involved were debriefed. One report claimed two people had been injured.
The Libya Observer also reported on the incident, quoting local sources from Al-Zawiya city as saying four men and two women were released after being held on Wednesday evening for hours by an armed group. The sources said:"The armed group was persuaded into letting the UN staffers go without any harm and any further escalation; and they are fine and will be flown back to Tripoli." The source said that elders, municipal members, and other notables from Al-Zawiya city convinced the gunmen to set their captives free without satisfying any demands from them. Local security sources also said :"The car that attacked the UNSMIL convoy by small arms was for someone called Ali Al-Kardmin, who is a Dignity Operation-linked fighter." These same sources said that the attack was in retaliation for the arrest of some of the attacking group by the Special Deterrent Force based in Tripoli. Apparently, the aim of the armed group was to trade the UNSMIL staffers for their arrested fighters. Al-Zawiya city has been witnessing clashes between groups linked to Haftar's Dignity Operation and others linked to Libyan Revolutionaries Operations Room.


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