SHARE
COPY LINK

LIBYA

Red Cross freezes Libya work after Swiss death

The International Committee of the Red Cross says it is temporarily freezing its operations in Libya to reevaluate the security situation after a Swiss staffer was killed by gunmen.

Red Cross freezes Libya work after Swiss death
Photo: Julius Kusuma

"We are freezing movement (of personnel) for the time being to analyze the situation so we can adapt our operations," ICRC spokesman David-Pierre Marquet told AFP on Thursday.

He said there were no plans to permanently halt the organization's operations in Libya.

The announcement came a day after Michael Greub, a 42-year-old Swiss citizen heading the ICRC's office in Libya's third city Misrata, was killed by gunmen in Sirte, 200 kilometres further along the coast.
   
Greub had been leaving a meeting with two colleagues when the attackers shot at their vehicle at "point-blank" range, ICRC spokesman Wolde Saugeron said on Wednesday.
   
Greub's two colleagues emerged unscathed from the attack.
 
 "They were very lucky," Marquet said, noting that the security situation in the country was of deep concern.
   
Greub's death came just a week after a local 23-year-old Red Cross employee was murdered in Benghazi, he pointed out.
   
"If our aid workers' lives are in danger, we have to try to adapt our structure, our way of working" to protect them, he said.
   
The ICRC counts some 30 expatriate staff members and around 150 local staff in Libya.
   
The organization will surely reduce its footprint somewhat following its evaluation, Marquet said, adding that the aim was to complete the review quickly so operations could resume.
   
He said the ICRC had been surprised by the attack, since "Sirte is rather calm — it's not like Benghazi — and we received no indication that an incident like this might occur."
   
Greub and his colleagues were not travelling in a marked vehicle, so it was unclear if ICRC was the intended target or if the attack was random, Marquet said.
   
"We're trying to understand why this happened," he said.

The neutral, Switzerland-based ICRC specializes in providing aid in conflict zones and overseeing respect for the Geneva Conventions on warfare, such as the treatment of prisoners.
 
 In 2012, it put a temporary freeze on operations in Misrata and the eastern city of Benghazi after unidentified gunmen attacked its Misrata compound.

There were no casualties in that attack.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

RED CROSS

South Sudan civil war victims face famine

Tens of thousands of people forced to flee violence in South Sudan could go hungry, with fighting interrupting the planting season and cutting off supply chains, the Geneva-based Red Cross warned Monday.

South Sudan civil war victims face famine
Photo: Julius Kusuma

Civil war broke out in South Sudan in December 2013, when president Salva Kiir accused his sacked deputy Riek Machar of attempting a coup.
   
Most recently civilians have been uprooted from the opposition-held town of Leer, in an oil-rich part of Unity State, and from Kodok in Upper Nile State, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.
   
It cautioned that hostilities could sever escape routes, and said it feared civilians could suffer from a lack of food and health care while on the run.
   
In addition, the displacement from Leer, including of many people already uprooted by fighting in Unity state a year ago, “comes just as the country's crucial planting period is under way,” ICRC said in a statement.
   
“The upheaval will no doubt negatively impact residents' ability to plant food that would be used to feed their families next harvest season,” it said.
   
The fighting had also forced the ICRC to halt its regular activities and reduce its staff in Leer, where the organization has one of its largest food
distributions in the world.
   
“Prolonged displacement exposes people to suffering. We fear that the situation of some 100,000 people in Leer, who are now hiding in unimaginably difficult conditions, will worsen day by day,” said Franz Rauchenstein, who heads the ICRC's delegation in South Sudan.
   
“The ICRC must be able to access these communities. We call upon all involved in the fighting to facilitate the lifesaving work of Red Cross workers,” he added.
   
The fighting in the world's newest country, which only gained independence from Sudan in 2011, has been characterized by ethnically-driven massacres, rape and attacks on civilians and medical facilities.
   
The violence, which has escalated into an ethnic conflict involving multiple armed groups, has killed tens of thousands of people.
   
ICRC said Monday that intensified shelling in the area of Kodok town was endangering the lives of patients at a hospital it supports there, and said
that although the hospital remained open, it had moved its nearby operational base to Oriny.
   
It reminded all parties involved in the fighting that civilians and medical facilities cannot be targeted, according to international law.
   
“The more fighting in South Sudan expands, the more . . . the vulnerable will suffer, whether from the risk of sexual violence, a lack of food and medicine or forced conscription of the young,” ICRC said, stressing that using children under the age of 15 as soldiers is a war crime.

SHOW COMMENTS