By Mel Frykberg
A total of 1523 people died in violent incidents, including bombings and shootings in Libya during 2016, the NGO Libya Body Count has reported (www.libyabodycount.org).
This figure was similar to the 1519 people who died in similar circumstances during 2015 – but much lower than the 2825 people who lost their lives during bloody confrontations the year before.
Three Libyan cities recorded deaths of more than 1100 people with 693 in Sirte, 307 in Benghazi, and 102 in the capital Tripoli.
The violence was particularly high in Sirte, where Libyan soldiers have been battling to expel Islamic State (IS) extremists from the city situated on the Mediterranean coast, half-way between Tripoli and Benghazi.
The IS state took over Sirte in 2014 before the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord’s forces (Bunyan Marsous) launched their military campaign with the help of US air strikes.
Meanwhile, Italy’s new interior minister, Marco Minniti, is expected in Tripoli next week for talks on terrorism and curtailing migrant smuggling operations, the Libya Herald reported.
He is due to meet Faiez Serraj, the head of Libya’s Presidency Council, with the aim of working out an agreement on blocking illegal migration routes from Libya.
“Around 90 per cent of migrants arriving in Italy travel by boat from Libya,” the Italian interior ministry reported in a statement.
The number in 2016 was up to 176554. That is eight times higher than in 2013.
A UN report indicates that most of the migrants that arrived in Italy in 2016 were from Nigeria, Eritrea and Guinea.
Rome’s main objective is to prevent the migrants entering Libya before they even have the chance to cross the Mediterranean in an attempt to reach Italy.
Stopping immigration is a top priority of the new government of Paolo Gentiloni and his centre-left Democratic Party.
Mel Frykberg began her journalism career reporting on unrest in black townships, including Soweto, in South Africa during the apartheid era. She later worked as a journalist in Sydney, Australia. Mel has worked as a journalist in the Middle East for over a decade.
African News Agency