Government condemns attack on Benghazi church

BENGHAZI, Libya (Libya Herald) – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has condemned an attack on Thursday on the Egyptian Coptic church in Benghazi in which the priest and his assistant were assaulted.

In a statement Sunday, the Ministry voiced its concern at what had happened and expressed regret, saying that the attack was “contrary to the teachings of our Islamic faith and customs and as well as international covenants on human rights and fundamental freedoms and respect for the monotheistic religions”.

The attack followed the arrest earlier in the week of a number of Copts, variously put at between 50 and 100, who were accused being Christian missionaries. Following the intervention of the Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Amr Kamel and the Egyptian embassy in Tripoli, they have now been deported.  Charges of proselytism have been dropped.

The Copts were arrested in Benghazi’s Suq Al-Jareed area and accused of being missionaries after they were reportedly found in position of bibles and other Christian literature.

There have been concerns about possible Christian missionary activity in Benghazi since earlier reports that four Protestant Christians were arrested in the city on 13 February accused of proselytizing.

Hmeid said the government-affiliated security apparatus called the Preventative Security, for which he is a spokesman, had arrested an Egyptian, a South African, a Korean and a Swede who was travelling on a U.S. passport. It is extremely unusual for Protestants and Copts to have any links whatsoever.

Bomb explodes outside Coptic church in the Mediterranean town of Dafinya – Dec. 2012

Egyptian Copts in Libya allegedly detained, tortured following `missionising’ claims

Scores of Egyptian Coptic Christians are detained, abused by Salafists in Benghazi after being accused of proselytising, says Coptic Church source. Activists in Libya posted photographs on Facebook allegedly portraying Egyptian Coptic-Christians detained in Libya on charges of proselytising.

The activists asserted that the images would also be sent to the United Nations, the Egyptian embassy in Libya, the Egyptian foreign affairs ministry, the Libyan Observatory for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch, in hopes that “action would be taken to secure their release.”

According to a source from Egypt’s Coptic Church, a group of Salafist Muslims attacked a church in Benghazi this week and detained roughly 100 Egyptian Copts working in the country. The detained Copts had been tortured by their captors, who had also shaved their heads and used acid to burn off the crosses tattooed on their wrists, the source – who preferred anonymity – told Ahram Online.

The source added: “The Coptic Church has sent an official request to the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which in response has begun negotiations with its Libyan counterpart to resolve the issue and release the detained Christians.”

Libya stops gas exports from Mellitah complex to Italy after militia fight

TRIPOLI, Libya (Reuters) Mar. 3, 2013 – Libya has stopped gas exports to Italy from its Mellitah complex after fighting between militias, Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) and Italy’s Eni told Reuters.

Saturday’s firefight began after an argument between former rebel fighters from nearby Zuwara and others from Zintan over who should guard Mellitah, security officials said, adding the clashes were now over.

Mellitah supplies Italy with gas through the Greenstream pipeline, which at full capacity pumps at least 8 billion cubic metres. Italy gets most of its gas from Algeria, Russia and Norway, with Libya providing about 10 percent.

Deputy Oil Minister Omar Shakmak told a news conference in Tripoli one person was killed and several injured. Khaled Bukrayat, a member of Zuwara Media centre which compiles local news, said seven people were seriously injured.

It was the latest violent disruption to the energy industry in Libya where protests have shut down oil-export terminals in recent months and in the North African region following January’s bloody hostage-taking at an Algerian gas plant.

Thousands of former rebels who fought to overthrow former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 have been employed in a protection force to look after Libyan oil and gas installations.

Major Libyan Oil Terminal Remains Closed, Exports Delayed

The Zueitina oil terminal in Libya remains shut, almost a month after demonstrators forced the closure of the major oil exporting hub, a shipping agent told news source. The closure has caused severe disruptions to exports of oil from the North African country.

What is happening in “Zueitina is in line with what’s been going on elsewhere; there’s been quite a lot of protests at oil terminals throughout the country over the last three months,” said Alan Fraser, risk consultant at Ake security.  

    “Locals are trying to pressure the government and oil ministry into giving more people in the local community jobs.”

Royal Navy sends warship to Libya to showcase defence equipment

(Guardian) – Britain is trying to boost defence equipment sales to Libya by sending a Royal Navy warship to Tripoli to act as a floating shop window for security firms, amid concern in Whitehall that France and Italy are cashing in on the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

But the trip, planned for April, has raised concerns among Libyan politicians and arms control campaigners who have demanded to know which companies will be on board and what kind of equipment they will be attempting to sell.

So far, UK Trade and Investment, the government agency organising the arms fair, has refused to disclose the businesses likely to be exhibiting, saying this would give European competitors an advantage.

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