The strikes were carried out in coordination with the Libyan Government of National Accord to degrade IS’s “ability to effectively conduct operations against the Libyan people,” said Army Maj. Gen. William Gayler, AFRICOM director of operations.
U.S. officials say the deteriorating security situation in Libya has allowed militants affiliated with IS to expand their presence in ungoverned spaces of the desert in the country’s south.
Troops affiliated with the Government of National Accord have been fighting forces led by strongman Khalifa Haftar, commander of the self-styled Libyan National Army. The fighting has left hundreds of people dead in Tripoli and in nearby cities and towns.
In recent months, IS has claimed responsibility for several deadly attacks against Libyan civilians and military personnel.
But as IS has become more emboldened by the current political chaos in Libya, U.S. officials tell VOA they have also made themselves an easier target.
Some reports say that between 500 and 750 IS fighters are currently active in Libya, but experts think the number is higher than what has been reported as foreign fighters continue to flee there from Syria.
Lyonel Desmarattes in Washington, Sony Louis in Leogane, Jaudelet Junior Saint-Vil in Fort Liberte and Hernst Eliscar in Les Cayes contributed to this report
WASHINGTON / PORT-AU-PRINCE – Hundreds of demonstrators protested across Haiti Monday, responding to calls by the opposition and anti-corruption militants to take to the streets and build roadblocks to force President Jovenel Moise to resign.
In Port-au-Prince, police fired on protesters who were trying to burn down a police station in the Carrefour Aeroport neighborhood, wounding a local radio reporter. Protesters did manage to set fire to a police car.
In the southern city of Les Cayes, protesters set ablaze a police station located in the southern part of the city. The local office of national electric company EDH was looted.
In Fort Liberte, hundreds took to the streets early. Some wore costumes as they marched through the tow,n holding a casket draped in white fabric, adorned with black crosses and the words, “Goodbye Jovenel,” written in black marker on the sides.
The Tet Ansanm pou Rebati Ayiti (Union to Rebuild Haiti) group, which includes various opposition organizations, Sunday called for the protests.
“Jovenel Moise is no longer president; the people have fired him, but the people must remain mobilized. The roadblocks must go higher and the mobilization has to go higher until we install a provisional government,” said lawyer Andre Michel, a member of the Democratic and Popular Sector party.
Referring to a protest last Friday which the opposition considered a nationwide success, Michel said, “On Sept 27, 2019, the people fired Jovenel Moise as their president…Jovenel Moise is a president in hiding….he is no longer leading the country.”
‘Where is Jovenel?’
Moise has not been seen or heard from since he delivered a national address on September 25, during which he sought to calm a furious nation and extend an olive branch to the opposition.
The latest protests stem from the Haitian leader’s decision more than a year ago to end fuel subsidies, a move that came at the request of the International Monetary Fund. While Moise reversed the decision after an eruption of violence, frustration has mounted over his inability to turn the economy around and end corruption.
Instead, Moise has infuriated the opposition and protesters and sparked the most destructive and violent protests to date. Asked if Moise is in hiding, presidential advisor Cange Mackenson told local radio station Magik 9 Monday morning that the president has control of the country and is “reflecting like a good coach.”
Late on Sunday, a series of decrees was issued by acting Prime Minister Jean Michel Lapin announcing new Cabinet appointments to head various ministries, including those for finance, public planning, migration, Haitians living abroad and tourism. The move followed shakeups in the interior and justice ministries.
The Conference of Catholic Bishops has added its voice to those expressing concern over Haiti’s political quagmire. The conference issued a statement asking the president to face the consequences of his irresponsibility. “Is there a violence worse than living with constant insecurity? Is there a misery worse than the black misery that removes all hope? No people should resign themselves to accepting misery, poverty and violence as a way of life,” the statement said. “The officials at the highest level of government must take responsibility to guarantee the country and its institutions are able to function properly. They are morally responsible for the security and well-being of the people, first of whom is the president.”
An association of artists and actors also decried the political crisis. A statement issued Sunday cited corruption and impunity as the main culprits.
“We artists realize that these two factors are responsible for the terrible situation we find ourselves in, where many young people are leaving in search of a better life overseas,” the statement, signed by some of Haiti’s most popular and successful artists, said.
Meanwhile, the Dominican Republic reportedly reinforced its border with Haiti, adding more than 1,000 soldiers to boost security in anticipation of the planned protests.
The Treasury Department is targeting Russians suspected of trying to influence the 2018 U.S. midterm elections.
Treasury says, however, there is no indication that they were able to compromise election infrastructure in ways that would have blocked voters, changed vote counts or disrupted vote counting.
Monday’s action targets for sanctions four entities, seven individuals, three aircraft and a yacht that are all associated with the Internet Research Agency and its Russian financier, Yevgeniy Prigozhin.
Treasury says the IRA used fictitious personas on social media and disseminated false information to attempt to influence the 2018 U.S. midterm elections and try to undermine faith in U.S. democratic institutions.
A regional Chinese diplomat has rebuked the United States for being “ignorant” about his country’s ongoing key economic contributions and cooperation with Afghanistan.
Arrangements are being worked out to enhance the cooperation with Kabul even under Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Yao Jing, the Chinese ambassador to neighboring Pakistan told VOA.
He hailed Saturday’s successful Afghan presidential election, saying China hopes they will boost peace-building efforts in a country wrecked by years of conflicts.
“We hope that with the election in Afghanistan, with the peace development moving forward in Afghanistan, Afghans will finally achieve a peaceful period, achieve the stability,” said the Chinese diplomat, who served in Kabul prior to his posting in Islamabad.
Earlier this month, U.S. officials and lawmakers during a congressional hearing in Washington sharply criticized China for its lack of economic assistance to Afghan rebuilding efforts.
“I think it’s fair to say that China has not contributed to the economic development of Afghanistan. We have not seen any substantial assistance from China,” Alice Wells, U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia, told lawmakers.
Wells, however, acknowledged that Beijing has worked with Washington on a way forward on peace as have other countries, including Russia and immediate neighbors of Afghanistan.
“She is a little ignorant about what China’s cooperation with Afghanistan is,” ambassador Yao said when asked to comment on the remarks made by Wells.
He recounted that Beijing late last year established a trade corridor with Kabul, which Afghan officials say have enabled local traders to directly export thousands of tons of pine nuts to the Chinese market annually, bringing much-needed dollars. Yao said a cargo train was also started in 2016 from eastern China to Afghanistan’s landlocked northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.
China is also working on infrastructure projects, including the road linking Kabul to the eastern city of Jalalabad and the road between the central Afghan city of Bamiyan and Mazar-e-Sharif. Chinese companies, Yao, said are also helping in establishing transmission lines and other infrastructure being developed under the CASA-1000 electricity transmission project linking Central Asia to energy-starved South Asia nations through Afghanistan.
Ambassador Yao noted that China and Afghanistan signed a memorandum of understanding on BRI cooperation, identifying several major projects of connectivity.
“But the only problem is that the security situation pose a little challenge. So, that is why China and Pakistan and all the regional countries, we are working so hard trying to support or facilitate peace in Afghanistan,” he said.
For her part, Ambassador Wells told U.S. lawmakers that China’s BRI is a “slogan” and “not any reality” in Afghanistan. “They have just tried to lockdown lucrative mining contracts but not following through with investment or real resources,” she noted.
Wells said that Washington continues to warn its partners, including the Afghan government about “falling prey to predatory loans or loans that are designed to benefit only the Chinese State.”
U.S. officials are generally critical of BRI for “known problems with corruption, debt distress, environmental damage, and a lack of transparency.” The projects aims to link China by sea and land through an infrastructure network with southeast and central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.
But Yao rejected those concerns and cited the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a pilot project of BRI, which has brought around $20 billion in Chinese investment to Pakistan within the past six years. It has helped Islamabad build roads and power plants, helping the country overcome its crippling electricity shortages, improve its transportation network and operationalize the strategic deep-sea Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea.
Clashes between two Turkish-backed rebel groups in the northwestern Syrian town of Afrin have left at least two fighters dead and about a dozen wounded, according to reports Sunday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor group that has researchers across Syria, reported that fierce fighting between the al-Majd Legion and al-Sham Legion in Afrin erupted Saturday night following a disagreement over property.
“Our sources have confirmed that the infighting erupted after a dispute over the ownership of a house just outside of Afrin,” Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory, told VOA.
Local news said the disputed house belonged to a Kurdish civilian that armed groups reportedly had seized months ago.
Armed confrontations among Syrian rebel factions have reportedly increased since Turkish military and allied Syrian rebels took control of Afrin after a two-month-long military campaign that ousted the Kurdish People Protection Units (YPG) from the region in March 2018, rights groups said.
“This is not the first time that such clashes take place over property and revenue-sharing among rebel groups,” the Syrian Observatory added.
Infighting among rebel groups has become a common issue in the region.
“There is almost one occurrence like this one on a daily basis,” said Mohammed Billo, a journalist from Afrin.
“Usually when fighting gets out of control, Turkish military interferes to stop it,” he told VOA.
Some rights groups have also voiced concerns about growing violations against civilians in recent months in Afrin.
“Local sources in Afrin reported at least 110 abuses that appear to amount to instances of arbitrary detention, torture and abductions of civilians by pro-Turkey armed groups,” Amnesty International said in a report released in May.
Since their ouster from Afrin in March 2018, Kurdish fighters affiliated with the YPG have occasionally carried out attacks against Turkish military and Syrian rebel forces in the Kurdish-majority region.
Last week, YPG fighters claimed responsibility for an attack on a Turkish military outpost in Afrin that killed two Turkish soldiers and wounded another.
Ankara views the YPG as part of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been engaged in a three-decade war with Turkish armed forces for greater Kurdish rights in Turkey. The PKK is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
Turkey has repeatedly threatened to invade other YPG-held areas in northern Syria, despite a recent agreement with the United States to establish a safe zone along Syria’s border with Turkey.
The two countries have begun joint patrols along parts of the border, but Turkish officials continue their objection over Washington’s support for the YPG, which has been a key U.S. ally in the fight against the Islamic State terror group in Syria.
About 350,000 treasure hunters from all over the world, have been scouting out a large area in the Rocky Mountains stretching from Northern New Mexico to Montana, looking for a hidden treasure. As the story goes, all one needs to do to find the loot, is to decipher the nine clues in a poem written by wealthy art collector and entrepreneur Forrest Fenn, who says he collected and hid the treasure years ago. Its lore became wildly popular after he had written a book called “The Thrill of the Chase,” talking about his life and the treasure. While many believe the treasure is real, others think it’s a hoax. VOA’s Penelope Poulou visited the area and spoke with Fenn about the meaning of it all