Red Cross freezes Libya operations

The humanitarian group’s comes amid a surge in violence and unrest gripping the North African country

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The International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday it was temporarily halting its operations in violence-wracked Libya, in order to reevaluate the disintegrating security situation after one of its staff was killed by gunmen.

“We are freezing movement (of personnel) for the time being to analyse the situation so we can adapt our operations,” ICRC spokesman David-Pierre Marquet told Agence France-Presse, stressing there were no plans to permanently halt the organization’s operations in Libya,


Earlier on Sunday, armed men killed Michael Greub, a 42-year-old Swiss national Red Cross staffer in the coastal Libyan city of Sirte.

“We are devastated and outraged,” said ICRC Director-General Yves Daccord, according to the Associated Press. “Michael was a devoted humanitarian who spent many years of his life helping others.”

Greub was in his car with his driver and another man, neither of whom were harmed, the Red Cross said.

‘Roughed up’

On the same day, four staffers for the United Nations were “roughed up” by Tripoli airport security personnel after being briefly detained for alleged arms smuggling, the U.N. chief of mission in Libya said Thursday.

The unidentified foreigners were “held for questioning by the security brigade... for an hour and a half and roughed up” Wednesday night, Tarek Mitri told a press conference in the capital, according to AFP.

Mitri denounced the “unacceptable” treatment of the men, who he said have diplomatic immunity.

Failing state

Anarchy and lawlessness seem to have hit a fever pitch in the North African oil-producing country where turmoil and political infighting have reigned since the 2011 uprising that ousted former leader Muammar Qaddafi. Multiple armed militias operate outside of the government’s authority.

In the east outside the country’s second city of Benghazi, ex-general Khalifa Haftar survived an assassination attempt. And in the capital Tripoli, gunmen fired a rocket propelled grenade at the office of Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteeq.

Meanwhile, the election of Maiteeq as Libya's new prime minister was conducted in violation of the country's temporary constitution, a prosecutor told the Supreme Constitutional Court on Thursday.

In addition to escalating violence, Libya is also struggling with a political crisis as outgoing premier Abdullah al-Thinni has refused to hand over power to Maiteeq who was elected by parliament in a chaotic vote last month. Amid disarray in Tripoli there is conflict between rival groups across the country.

Maiteeq’s lawyers argued, during a constitutional court session broadcast live on television, that the election was legitimate. An official of the prosecutor's office, however, said it violated the constitution in principle.

The court issued no ruling and adjourned the session until Monday, officials said.

(With AFP, Reuters and the Associated Press)

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