TIME India

India Says Four Nationals Have Been Kidnapped in Libya

The kidnappers are suspected to be ISIS militants

Four Indians were reportedly kidnapped in Libya on Friday, with Islamic militant group the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) allegedly thought responsible.

The Indians were kidnapped from the town of Sirte near the Middle Eastern nation’s capital city Tripoli, the BBC reported.

They had been working as teachers at the University of Sirte, in the hometown of the country’s late former dictator Muammar Gaddafi where ISIS has a strong presence.

“We are in regular touch with their families,” Vikas Swarup, spokesperson for India’s Ministry of External Affairs, said in a statement to the ANI news agency, adding that they were ascertaining further details through the Indian mission in Tripoli. Three of the abductees are faculty at the University of Sirte while the fourth works at the university, Swarup said. All four hail from the south of India: two from Hyderabad and two from Karnataka.

“No ransom demand has been made yet. We are trying to ascertain their whereabouts,” local news channel NDTV quoted Indian foreign ministry officials as saying.

TIME Libya

Libya Sentences Gadhafi’s Son to Death for 2011 Killings

Seif al-Islam
Ammar El-Darwish—AP Seif al-Islam is seen after his capture in the custody of revolutionary fighters in Zintan.

But Seif al-Islam Gadhafi is unlikely to face the firing squad anytime soon

(TRIPOLI, Libya) — Moammar Gadhafi’s son and onetime heir apparent was convicted and sentenced to death on Tuesday by a court in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, on charges of murder and inciting genocide during the country’s 2011 uprising.

But Seif al-Islam Gadhafi is unlikely to face the firing squad anytime soon. The sentence was handed down in absentia because he remains in the hands of a militia in western Libya that has refused to hand him over for the past four years — yet another sign of the country’s bitter fragmentation since his father’s fall from power.

The uncertainty surrounding Seif al-Islam’s fate underlines both the weakness of the courts and the general chaos this North African nation has descended into, split between rival militias and governments while being threatened by an affiliate of the extremist Islamic State group, which has benefited from the turmoil and captured some areas in Libya.

The same Tripoli court on Tuesday also sentenced to death eight other former regime officials, including former Libyan spy chief, Abdullah al-Senoussi, who is in custody in the Libyan capital, as well as foreign intelligence chief Abuzed Omar-Dorda and Gadhafi’s former prime minister, Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi.

The rulings can be appealed, and a defense lawyer in the case, Ali Aldaa, said he would challenge it before the Libyan Supreme Court. Another lawyer, Hussien Al-Sherif, described the verdicts as “very harsh.”

“We did not expect the sentences to be like this for the defendants, and there will be an appeal to the Supreme Court,” he said.

In London, al-Senoussi’s wife, Fatma Farkash, asserted that the Tripoli court didn’t have the authority to hand down the death sentence.

“It was a big shock for me and my children. We were not expecting this. It was an ugly verdict,” she said. “Libyadoesn’t have a functioning state, and it was a closed hearing.”

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said the trial was “undermined by serious due process violations,” and called on the Libyan Supreme Court to independently review the verdict.

“This trial has been plagued by persistent, credible allegations of fair trial breaches that warrant independent and impartial judicial review,” said Joe Stork, Human Rights Watch’s deputy Middle East and North Africa director.

“The victims of the serious crimes committed during the 2011 uprising deserve justice, but that can only be delivered through fair and transparent proceedings,” Stork said.

Other international organizations, including the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Council of Europe, also condemned the verdict. The Council of Europe said the case should have been turned over to the International Criminal Court, which tried to extradite Seif al-Islam for trial at The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity, in part because of concerns that he could not receive a fair trial in Libya.

Libya has slid into chaos since the overthrow and killing of Gadhafi, who ruled the country for four decades. It is now bitterly divided between an elected parliament and government in the far eastern city of Tobruk, which has little power on the ground, and an Islamist militia-backed government in the west that has seized Tripoli.

Since the end of the civil war, Seif al-Islam has been held by a militia in Zintan, which is allied with the Tobruk-based government against the Tripoli one.

The court that convicted him is affiliated with the Tripoli-based government, as is the Supreme Court, which has in the past ruled that the internationally recognized government in Tobruk is illegitimate, raising questions over whether it is under pressure from the militias that dominate the capital.

A total of 38 Gadhafi-era figures were on trial but only 29 were present in court Tuesday. Four were acquitted, one was remanded to a psychiatric hospital, while the remaining defendants were handed sentences ranging from five years to life imprisonment.

The British-educated second-eldest of Gadhafi’s seven sons, Seif al-Islam was the most prominent figure of his father’s regime. He returned to Gadhafi’s side and vigorously attempted to rally loyalists during the uprising. He was seized while trying to flee to neighboring Niger after rebel forces took Tripoli.

The rest of Seif al-Islam’s family members who survived, including his mother, sister, two brothers and others, were granted asylum in Oman in 2012 and moved there from Algeria, where they found refuge during the civil war.

During the trial, Seif al-Islam was accused of recruiting mercenaries who were given Libyan nationality, planning and carrying out attacks on civilian targets from the air, forming armed groups and shooting into crowds of demonstrators. Among the charges he was convicted of were incitement to murder and rape.

Hundreds of militias in Libya are battling for power and turf in a lawless environment that has allowed human traffickers and kidnappers to flourish. Meanwhile, extremists returning from fighting in the Syrian civil war have created a local affiliate of the Islamic State group, taking territory and beheading captives.

The U.N. envoy for Libya, Bernardino Leon, has urged the Islamist-led government in Tripoli to sign a peace deal that would establish a unity government. Members of the Tobruk government and regional leaders signed the unity accord in Morocco earlier this month.

___

Rohan reported from Cairo. Associated Press writer Martin Benedyk in London contributed to this report.

TIME Libya

Muammar Gaddafi’s Son Has Been Sentenced to Death Over 2011 Libya Killings

Seif al-Islam Gadhafi
Ben Curtis—AP Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, speaks to the media at a press conference in a hotel in Tripoli on Feb. 25, 2011

The court sentenced eight others to death as well

TRIPOLI, Libya — A court in Libya on Tuesday sentenced a son of Moammar Gadhafi to death by firing squad after convicting him of murder and inciting genocide during the 2011 uprising.

The Tripoli court that sentenced Seif al-Islam, who is being held by a militia that refuses to hand him over, also sentenced to death eight others, including former Libyan spy chief Abdullah al-Senoussi, who is in government custody.

It was unclear whether the sentences in the mass trial of 38 Gadhafi-era figures, only 29 of whom were present, would be carried out. Six others were sentenced to life in prison and four were cleared of charges.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said the trial was “undermined by serious due process violations,” and called on the Supreme Court to independently review the verdict.

“This trial has been plagued by persistent, credible allegations of fair trial breaches that warrant independent and impartial judicial review,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director. “The victims of the serious crimes committed during the 2011 uprising deserve justice, but that can only be delivered through fair and transparent proceedings.”

Libya has slid into chaos since the overthrow and killing of Gadhafi, who ruled the country for four decades. It is now bitterly divided between an elected parliament and government cornered in the country’s east, with little power on the ground, and an Islamist militia-backed government in the west that has seized the capital, Tripoli.

Since the end of the civil war, Seif al-Islam has been held by a militia in Zintan, which is allied with the Tobruk-based internationally recognized government against the Tripoli one. The court that convicted him is affiliated with the Tripoli-based government. He is also wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity.

During the trial, Seif al-Islam was accused of recruiting mercenaries who were given Libyan nationality, planning and carrying out attacks on civilian targets from the air, forming armed groups and shooting into crowds of demonstrators. Among the charges he was convicted of were incitement of murder and rape.

Hundreds of militias in Libya are battling for power and turf in a lawless environment has allowed human traffickers and kidnappers to flourish.

The U.N. envoy for Libya, meanwhile, has urged the Islamist-led government in Tripoli to sign a peace deal that would establish a unity government. Members of the Tobruk government and regional leaders signed the unity accord in Morocco on July 11.

Also sentenced to death on Tuesday were foreign intelligence chief Abu-Zeid Omar-Dawarda and Gadhafi’s former Prime Minister Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi.

TIME europe

Dozens of Migrants Reportedly Drown Near Italy

Italy Europe Migrants
Adriana Sapone—AP Rescued migrants sit in a bus after disembarking from the Swedish Coast Guard ship KBV 001 Poseidon at the Reggio Calabria harbor, Italy on July 23, 2015.

The dead were believed to be mostly sub-Saharan Africans, including at least 7 children

(ROME) — As many as 40 would-be refugees, including at least seven children, have died while trying to reach Italy from Libya in the latest Mediterranean migrant tragedy, Save the Children reported Thursday.

The aid group said some of the 80 survivors of the crossing who were brought ashore Thursday in Augusta, Sicily, reported the deaths that occurred the previous day when the dinghy they were travelling on took in water.

Eventually, a cargo vessel spotted them and alerted search and rescue authorities and the German navy, taking part in the EU’s Mediterranean rescue mission, came to their aid and brought them to shore.

The dead were believed to be mostly sub-Saharan Africans from Senegal, Mali and Benin and included at least seven children, the group reported in a statement.

So far this year, more than 80,000 migrants have come ashore in Italy, with a similar number arriving in Greece.

In the deadliest crossing, some 800 migrants were believed to have drowned in April when their boat capsized off Libya with hundreds of people trapped in the hold by smugglers; a few days before that tragedy another 400 people drowned.

TIME Military

Of Two Minds About Fighting ISIS

150528-N-KU391-255
Josh Petrosino / U.S. Navy An E/A-18G electronic-warfare plane readies for takeoff May 26 from the USS Theodore Roosevelt for a mission against the Islamic State.

The military's leery, and two top newspapers disagree

The U.S. has been bombing the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) for nearly a year, and its citizens—thanks to no American blood being spilled—are paying scant attention. That’s probably just as well, given the lack of consensus inside the U.S. government on what to do, and on the opposing views of two of the nation’s most influential newspapers.

Here’s a tip: it’s generally a bad idea to expand a shooting war when the government and press are split on its merits, a President’s in the twilight of his tenure, and the public doesn’t care. Even successful air campaigns—remember the 32-week effort that pushed Muammar Gaddafi out of Libya’s presidential tent in 2011?—seem less victorious in hindsight, as the north African “nation” becomes a Petri dish for terrorists (the U.S. launched an air strike early Sunday that reportedly killed Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an al-Qaeda-linked terrorist who’d set up shop there, the Pentagon said Sunday).

The U.S. thirst for vengeance on ISIS was fueled by the beheadings of three Americans last year. ISIS wanted deeper American involvement (remember, many of them are suicidal) but Washington refused to bite. While President Obama has pledged to “degrade and destroy” ISIS, Pentagon officials lately have been saying “containment” more often. The air strikes have frozen the situation on the ground, which amounts to a de facto containment strategy. Absent a major terror strike linked to ISIS, that could continue indefinitely.

Before the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, one of every three U.S. officers opposed it, according to an informal sampling of opinion at the time. Given that—and the years of turmoil it generated inside the U.S. military, and inside the region to this day—it’s not surprising that U.S. military leadership doesn’t want to wade more deeply into the anti-ISIS fight, as the Washington Post reported Sunday.

“Some of the strongest resistance to boosting U.S. involvement came from a surprising place: a war-weary military that has grown increasingly skeptical that force can prevail in a conflict fueled by political and religious grievances,” the Post said. “Their shift reflects the paucity of good options and a reluctance to suffer more combat deaths in a war in which America’s political leaders are far from committed and Iraqis have shown limited will to fight.”

Actually, it’s not that surprising. The notion that the military chomps at the bit to wage war is usually not the case. Some of its leaders, like Colin Powell, have advocated a series of guidelines (overwhelming force, clear objective) that have acted as a brake, when observed, on U.S. military action. It was the State Department, the Post reported, that pushed for assigning limited numbers of U.S. troops closer to the front lines alongside Iraqi forces to make U.S.-led air strikes more effective.

That schism inside the government has been reflected in recent days in editorials in the New York Times and the Post.

The Times complained Friday that Obama’s decision to dispatch 450 more U.S. troops to Iraq will do little to “change Iraq’s dysfunctional politics.” Iraqi politicians “have consistently demonstrated an inability or unwillingness” to share power and reduce the historic divisions among Sunnis, Shi’ites and Kurds, it said. “With each increase,” the Times noted, “the United States is being dragged more deeply into a war that lawmakers have been unwilling to authorize formally.”

The Post‘s Sunday editorial seemed uninformed by that piece on its front page about U.S. military doubts. It said the 450 troops, a 15% increase over the 3,100 already there, are too few to make a difference. “Rather than aiming to destroy the [ISIS], Mr. Obama is focused on limiting U.S. engagement,” the editorial said. “It is well within the capacity of the United States to destroy the [ISIS].”

Well, yes. Just like the U.S. succeeded in destroying Saddam Hussein’s state.

TIME Italy

Thousands More Migrants Have Been Rescued From the Mediterranean During the Last Two Days

Italy Migrants
Sascha Jonack— Bundeswehr/AP Soldiers of the German Navy ship Hessen rescue migrants in the Mediterranean Sea on June 6, 2015

More than 1,800 migrants have died or gone missing attempting to cross the Mediterranean this year alone

A new wave of boats is attempting to cross from Libya to Italy, the International Organization for Migration warned Sunday, citing balmy weather and tranquil seas as the reasons behind the surge of migrants risking their lives in the Mediterranean.

Nearly 3,500 migrants were rescued on Saturday alone, with 1,000 more (including at least 10 pregnant women) on board relief vessels by mid-afternoon Sunday, CNN reports.

A team of ships from several European nations cooperated on a rescue effort, including the British, Irish, Spanish, and German navies and the Italian coast guard, which alone received 14 distress calls Sunday, many from wooden fishing boats and rubber dinghies. One of the biggest rescued vessels held 563 migrants.

Rescue ships planned to bring the migrants to various ports in Italy, including Palermo and Trapani in Sicily, Taranto in Italy, and the island of Lampedusa, a spokesman for Germany’s Bundeswehr Joint Forces Operation Command told CNN.

As of the end of May, the United Nations estimated that 90,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean to Europe so far in 2015; of those, more than 1800 have died or are missing at sea.

[CNN]

TIME Photojournalism Links

The 10 Best Photo Essays of the Month

A compilation of the 10 most interesting photo essays published online in May, as curated by Mikko Takkunen

This month’s Photojournalism Links collection highlights 10 excellent photo essays from across the world, including Stephanie Sinclair’s compelling National Geographic photo essay on young Newari girls in Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley who are worshipped as living goddesses.

Stephanie Sinclair: Living Goddesses of Nepal (National Geographic)

Daniel Berehulak: Caught in Nepal’s Earthquakes (The New York Times Lens blog) Powerful images by a photographer who just received a Pulitzer Prize for his Ebola coverage.

James Nachtwey: Nepal Pt1. | Pt. 2 (TIME LightBox) Two sets of pictures and text by the TIME contract photographer, who spent two weeks covering the quake’s aftermath.

Carolyn Drake: Sins of the Aral Sea (National Geographic) Photo essay highlights the current state of the vast inland sea that is now 90 percent gone.

Kirsten Luce: The Corridor of Death: Along America’s Second Border (TIME LightBox) Luce continues her strong documentation of the US-Mexico border.

Lynn Johnson: High Science (National Geographic) The magazine’s veteran documents the issues surrounding marijuana’s potential benefits and drawbacks.

Bryan Denton: Disabled and Facing More Challenges in Afghanistan (The New York Times) These pictures capture the struggles of injured Afghan soldiers and policemen.

Adam Ferguson: Cambodia’s Child Grooms (Al Jazeera America) Early marriage is on the increase in the country’s highlands.

Jerome Delay: Mob Attacks Suspected Militia Member in Burundi (NBC News) Dramatic sequence from Burundi’s capital by AP’s Africa chief photographer. Delay was also interviewed on TIME LightBox.

Alessio Romenzi: Gambling for a better life across the Mediterranean (Al Jazeera English) These pictures document the crowded conditions faced by migrants held in Libya’s detention centers.

TIME Italy

More Than 5,000 Migrants Rescued on the Mediterranean Since Friday

They left Libya in 25 boats, and were picked up by vessels and aircraft from several European countries

The number of migrants rescued over the weekend while trying to cross the Mediterranean sea surpassed 5,000.

Italian authorities transported 454 to Sicily on Sunday, but 17 others brought ashore in Sicily died, while a European operation to rescue 500 more is still in progress, Reuters reports.

The migrants left war-torn Libya in 25 boats, and were rescued by vessels and aircraft from several European countries including Italy, Britain, Malta, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Iceland and Finland.

“This is the biggest wave of migrants we have seen in 2015,” Fabrice Leggeri, executive director of the European Union’s border-control agency Frontex, said in a statement. “The new vessels that joined operation Triton this week have already saved hundreds of people.”

Triton, the Mediterranean rescue mission by the E.U. that replaced an Italian initiative called Mare Nostrum, was expanded after it came under criticism after more than 800 migrants drowned in one of the region’s biggest-ever disasters.

The question of how to deal with Europe’s growing refugee crisis, however, still remains a point of contention. Several countries within the E.U. are reluctant to share the responsibility that has primarily been undertaken by the Italian government thus far. Britain opted out of a plan that would have seen refugees sent there from Italy and Greece, while several other countries are reportedly calling for their involvement in rehabilitation efforts to be purely voluntary.

More than 40,000 migrants from Africa and West Asia have been rescued and rehabilitated in 2015 alone, a number that is sure to go up with more boats setting out as the weather gets warmer.

TIME Italy

Italy Says It Rescued 3,600 Migrants From the Sea in 48 Hours

A group of 300 sub-Saharan African migrants sit on board a boat during a rescue operation off the coast of Sicily, Italy on May 14, 2015.
Alessandro Bianchi—Reuters A group of 300 sub-Saharan African migrants sit on board a boat during a rescue operation off the coast of Sicily, Italy on May 14, 2015.

Some 200,000 are expected to arrive in Italy this year

Italy has rescued 3,600 migrants from rickety boats sailing from Africa to Europe in the past two days, officials said. Hundreds were taken to the Sicilian port of Catania.

The Interior Ministry expects human cargo to the southern European nation to increase by 30,000 to 200,000 this year, Reuters reports.

Many migrants embark from Libya, where a prevailing lawlessness creates conditions favorable to those seeking to profit from the demand for illegal passages to Europe.

This week, the European Union declared it would absorb an additional 20,000 refugees and more evenly disperse asylum seekers across member states.

The death toll from migrant boat journeys is expected to move beyond 2,000 in 2015. In early May, approximately 6,800 people were brought ashore to safety by European rescue missions.

[Reuters]

TIME Behind the Photos

How Photographers Are Trying to Put a Face on Europe’s Migrant Crisis

"I wanted to show that behind each migrant there’s a person”

European leaders are grappling with what’s being called one of the worst migrant and refugee crises in two generations. On Thursday, in a hastily formed summit in Brussels called after an estimated 800 people died in a capsizing off Libya while en route to Europe, leaders pledged new support to cap the rising death toll in the Mediterranean. But aid organizations and humanitarian officials said Europe is still “lagging far behind” of what’s realistically needed to ease the tragedy.

The crisis along the Mediterranean’s coastlines, from Libya to Morocco and Greece to Italy, is not new. Photographers have worked over the last decade to raise awareness as conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa have displaced millions. Last June, one image crystallized the scale of this movement. Shot by Italian photographer Massimo Sestini aboard a helicopter taking part in Mare Nostrum, an Italian-led search and rescue operation largely funded by the European Union and abandoned late last year, it showed one boat with hundreds of people looking up, waving their arms. “You could see their desperation,” Sestini said last year. “And, concurrently, their happiness at being saved.”

The photograph, which TIME named one of the top 10 images of 2014, went on to win a World Press Photo award, but it told only one part of a much larger story.

“The only way to really tell the story is to spend time with them in their home countries, see how they live, learn why they leave and then just go with them on their way,” says Daniel Etter, a German photographer, who has documented migrants in northern Africa and across Europe. He called that “almost impossible” to do. Security risks, travel obstacles and financial barriers get in the way, leaving most photographers unable to build the kind of all-encompassing narrative that could help people understand the true nature of the crisis.

Some photographers have attempted to piece together the stories of migrants who risk their lives on these journeys. Alixandra Fazzina, a photographer with Noor, followed Somali migrants’ arduous trip across the Gulf of Aden in search of a better future in her book A Million Shillings, published in 2010. One in 20 who attempted the crossing lost their lives, their bodies washing up on Yemen’s shore.

She wanted to go deeper, she says, than the “small paragraph you find in a newspaper detailing the number of people that have died… I wanted to find out why they were making the journey. I wanted to find out why these people were willing to put their lives into the hands of smugglers and traffickers? Why would somebody do that?”

Olivier Jobard, a French photographer who followed a Cameroonian man’s trek to France, seeks similar answers. “What’s bothering me when we’re talking about immigration is that we often associate these people with ghosts and shadows,” he says. “They are not human in our minds.”

Italian photographer Alessandro Penso, who has been following migrants around Europe, focusing on hotspots like Greece, Italy and Malta, says he seeks moments of spontaneity to expose the humanity of his subjects.”There are simple gestures and habits in daily life that, as banal as they can seem to our eyes, hide the simple truth that we are all humans and vulnerable.”

Humanizing the people making these dangerous and harrowing journeys is important, Penso and his colleagues argue, especially when photography can lead to misconceptions. Cases in point are the widely published photographs of “hordes” of people scaling border fences in Melilla, a Spanish enclave on the edge of northern Morocco. “[When] people see these images,” says Santi Palacios, an Associated Press photographer who has taken such pictures, “they [think] we’ve been invaded.”

The people portrayed in these images are often seen shirtless and shouting, Jobard says, deliberately assuming a provocative stance. “They actually choose to behave like ‘wild animals’ in these situations—to impress or to scare people because it’s a real battle to get in [Melilla]. Of course, that also does them disservice.”

Once they’ve made it over the fence, he says, the contrast is striking. “They dress up, they take care of their appearances.” Last year, he shadowed a man named Hassan Adam from the Ivory Coast, who spent hours on one of these fences, alone. His friends had made it across to Melilla, successfully avoiding the police forces, but Adam was handcuffed, beaten and sent back to Morocco. Jobard tracked him down, months later, after he had finally made it across. “I told his story,” he says. “I wanted to show that behind each migrant there’s a person.”

For all of those who made it over the fence, or past border patrols or across the Mediterranean, there are untold thousands who lost their lives in the search for a new or better one. In October, Italian photographer Francesco Zizola dived 59 meters to photograph the wreckage of a boat that had carried some 500 people, and now rests at the bottom of the Mediterranean. He sought to convey the vastness of the tragedy that had occurred one year before, when 360 people lost their lives.

“I wanted to show to everybody that our comfortable, bourgeois homes could turn—as if in a nightmare—into that cabin with the red curtain, which I photographed inside the sunken ship,” he says. “That cabin is the tomb of our collective conscience and a memento of our indifference.”

Alice Gabriner and Mikko Takkunen edited this photo essay. With reporting by Lucia De Stefani, a contributor to TIME LightBox.

Andrew Katz is a News Editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @katz. Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent.

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