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Blackwater Founder Erik Prince Accused Of Helping Evade U.N. Libya Sanctions

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NEW YORK: Erik Prince, the private security executive and supporter of former U.S. President Donald Trump, “at the very least” helped evade an arms embargo on Libya, according to excerpts from a United Nations report seen by Reuters.

Independent U.N. sanctions monitors accused Prince of proposing a private military operation – known as ‘Project Opus’ – to Libya’s eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar in April 2019 and helping procure three aircraft for it.

A spokesperson for Prince denied the accusations in the annual U.N. report, which was submitted on Thursday to the Security Council Libya sanctions committee and is due to be made public next month.

“Erik Prince had absolutely nothing to do with any operation in Libya in 2019, or at any other time,” the spokesperson said in a statement to Reuters.

The U.N. monitors wrote in the report that they had “identified that Erik Prince made a proposal for the operation to Khalifa Haftar in Cairo, Egypt on, or about, 14 April 2019.” Haftar was in Cairo at the time to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The report described Prince’s proposal as “a well-funded private military company operation” designed to provide Haftar with armed assault helicopters, intelligence surveillance aircraft, maritime interdiction, drones and cyber, intelligence and targeting capabilities.

“The Project Opus plan also included a component to kidnap or terminate individuals regarded as high value targets in Libya,” the monitors wrote.

Libya initially descended into chaos after the NATO-backed overthrow of leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 when the U.N. Security Council imposed an arms embargo. The country has been divided since 2014 between the internationally recognized government in its west and Haftar’s eastern-based forces.

PROJECT FAILURES

The U.N. monitors reported that the air and maritime component of ‘Project Opus’ had to be aborted in June 2019 after Haftar was unimpressed with the aircraft procured for the operations and “made threats against the team management.”

A South African team leader evacuated 20 private military operatives to Malta on inflatable boats, the monitors said.

“Project Opus private military operatives were deployed to Libya for a second time in April and May 2020 in order to locate and destroy high value targets,” said the U.N. monitors, but the operation again had to be aborted due to security concerns.

The rival Libyan administrations agreed a ceasefire in October, but have not pulled back their forces. Haftar is supported by the United Arab Emirates and Russia, while the government is backed by Turkey. Egypt had backed Haftar, but Sisi last week offered his country’s support to Libya’s interim government.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has demanded an end to foreign interference in Libya.

Prince – the brother of Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos – founded the private security firm Blackwater and was a pioneer in private military contracting after U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq in 2003.

Blackwater sparked international outrage in 2007 when its employees shot and killed more than a dozen Iraqi civilians in Baghdad. One of the employees was convicted of murder in December 2018 and three others were convicted of manslaughter. Trump pardoned the four men in December last year.

Disclaimer: This post has been auto-published from an agency feed without any modifications to the text and has not been reviewed by an editor

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Still living in fear, no compensation yet for our losses: A year on, OpIndia spoke to the owner of a parking lot burnt down in Delhi Riots

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Delhi was in throes of violent anti-Hindu riots in the last week of February last year. The communal flare-up was most evident in the city’s northeastern region, including Shiv Vihar, where Rajdhani Public Senior Secondary School was repurposed by a rabid Islamic mob as a hub to direct violence against Hindus.

A big catapult was found on the roof of this school, from where an attempt was also made to target the nearby Shiva temple. A large heap of stones, petrol bombs and slingshots were recovered from there. The DRP public school next door was burnt down. Although classes have been going on in both the schools since January, one year since the riots, people in the region claim there is still an atmosphere of fear and tension, especially on Fridays, the holiest day of the week as per Muslims and on which special congregational prayers are offered.

As life is slowing limping back to normal, the vivid memories of the macabre riots that swept the area last February are still fresh in the minds of the residents. At the time of the riots, roads in the neighbourhood were strewn with debris and stones. A parking area located next to the DRP school, where dozens of cars were parked was first ransacked and then set on fire by the vandals. A heavy loss was reported from the parking. Now, a year after the incident, Gajendra Parihar, the owner of the parking area, spoke to OpIndia.

While speaking to us, Parihar said he has so far received any only Rs 50,000 in compensation as against the colossal loss that he had endured during the riots. Parihar has no hopes of receiving additional aid to compensate for his losses. On the contrary, he burned out his own savings to make up for the losses. He even added that those whose cars were ransacked and later burnt did not receive any compensation for their losses. Gajendra had, in all, borne a loss of Rs 13 lakhs.

This is how a parking lot looked like a year ago during the Delhi riots

Gajendra said he no longer runs parking services because of the prevailing fear of riots. Instead, he rents out the place for conducting small programs. According to Gajendra, giving out the place for functions such as marriages significantly reduces the risks and provides him with an opportunity to earn money and restore normalcy in his life. Gajendra also confirmed that tensions in the region soar on Fridays. He was even afraid by the storming of the Red Fort on Republic Day by a legion of rampaging demonstrators, stating that he felt fearful that the hoodlums would visit the neighbourhood and create a ruckus.

Though Gajendra has not received any threats from the rioters, he has still refused to identify those who were responsible for burning down his parking. In his defence, Gajendra claims that the number of rioters then was 2000-2500 and it was impossible to identify them because they had worn masks. Gajendra further added that the rioters carried many weapons, including swords and batons. The violence started at around 5 PM on 24 February 2021 and the robbery in cars parked in the parking area happened on February 23.

Recalling the scene, he said that the glass panes were broken and valuables in the car were robbed a day before the violence broke out. He said that petrol bombs were also hurled, along with stones and slingshots were used to target people from Rajdhani School. The owner of the parking area also confided that he has not mentioned many things in the FIR out of fear and because he has to spend the rest of his life living in the area.

It is for this reason, Gajendra has only spoken about the damages done to his property in the FIR filed against the rioters. He still has no answers for who should be blamed for the riots that rocked Shiv Vihar. Speaking to OpIndia, Gajendra revealed that he barely managed to save himself during the riots and returned to his place only after 3-4 days. It took him a year to recover from the losses he had to borne due to the riots.

Besides Gajendra, OpIndia also spoke to the caretaker of the aforementioned parking area. The man said the stone-pelting had started an hour after the midnight of 23 February 2020, adding that a large number of petrol bombs were hurled from the terrace of the Rajdhani School to set the cars on fire. The caretaker stated that children playing marbles were also among the casualties of those killed due to slingshots. About 250 to 300 people had barged inside the parking area, he said.

“Some of them robbed car batteries, others took with them expensive music systems installed in the cars. On February 25, the car parking was set on fire. I was also badly hurt. I have not received any compensation so far. My son was also with me at that time. Somehow we escaped,” the caretaker recalled.

The caretaker further added that the pain and grief of the incident are still fresh in his memory, and, therefore, he refrains from speaking about them in media. The man also highlighted that though the atmosphere in the neighbourhood has improved considerably, confidence and trust among people is still lacking. He pointed out police presence and the overriding concern of people to make up for their losses as primary reasons for the peace and tranquillity in the region.

During ground reporting of Opindia a year ago, local people said that the parking area was destroyed by the same set of people who used the Rajdhani Public School as their ‘attack base’. It was a well-known fact that the school was used by an Islamist mob to foment unrest in the neighbourhood. Even the door of the school was inscribed with: “No CAA, No NPR”.

According to news reports, a total of 170 vehicles were set on fire in two-three parking areas located nearby. Many vehicles were junk. Stones and bombs were found lying on the roof of the parking lot. Not just cars, even houses and shops of Hindus located in the area were set ablaze. Police officers were also injured. In a bylane next to a Hindu temple, people fought to save the honour of their daughters.

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