Era of VHS Might Be Over, but Many Are Not Ready to Let Go

The last VHS player was produced five years ago by Funai Electric in Japan. But for many, the era of VHS tapes never ended. Karina Bafradzhian and Angelina Bagdasaryan have the story.Camera: David Gogokhia, Vazgen Varzhabitian.

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Update on Yemen Civil War

Katherine Zimmerman, a fellow for Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and Elana DeLozier, the Rubin Family Fellow in the Bernstein Program on Gulf and Energy Policy at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, assess with host Carol Castiel state of the civil war and humanitarian crisis in Yemen. DeLozier and Zimmerman say this proxy war between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran is exacerbated by the dearth of political will from within: the internationally-recognized Hadi government and the Houthi movement, which currently has the upper hand. Can Washington make a difference?

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Democrat Led Investigative Panel on Capitol Attack Opens with Riveting Testimony

Issues in the News moderator Kim Lewis talks with VOA Congressional correspondent, Katherine Gypson and VOA executive editor Steve Redisch about riveting testimony and video footage of four police officers who were overwhelmed by a mob during the attack on the Capitol, what’s ahead after the GOP Senate voted to begin work on a $1 trillion national infrastructure plan, President Joe Biden’s new foreign policy focus as the U.S. will end its combat mission in Iraq, the CDC’s new mask wearing guidelines as COVID-19 variants continue to spread and world reaction to super star gymnast Simone Biles’ decision to withdraw from some competitions at the Tokyo Olympics.

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Amazon Hit With Record EU Data Privacy Fine Inc has been hit with a record $886.6 million (746 million euros) European Union fine for processing personal data in violation of the bloc’s GDPR rules, as privacy regulators take a more aggressive position on enforcement.The Luxembourg National Commission for Data Protection (CNPD) imposed the fine on Amazon in a July 16 decision, the company disclosed in a regulatory filing on Friday.Amazon will appeal the fine, according to a company spokesperson. The e-commerce giant said in the filing it believed CNPD’s decision was without merit.CNPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, requires companies to seek people’s consent before using their personal data or face steep fines.Globally, regulatory scrutiny of tech giants has been increasing following a string of scandals over privacy and misinformation, as well as complaints from some businesses that they abuse their market power.Alphabet’s Google, Facebook Inc, Apple Inc and Microsoft Corp have drawn heightened scrutiny in Europe.In December, France’s data privacy watchdog handed out its biggest ever fine of 100 million euros ($118.82 million) to Google for breaching the nation’s rules on online advertising trackers.

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Israel’s NSO Under Fire for Spyware Targeting Journalists, Dissidents

There is growing international criticism of Israel following allegations that software from the private security company NSO was used to spy on journalists, dissidents, and even political leaders around the world. A group of American lawmakers is urging the U.S. government to take punitive action against the company, which denies any wrongdoing. In Israel, some experts are calling for better regulation of cyber exports. Linda Gradstein reports for VOA from Jerusalem.

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Big Tech Companies to Allow Only Vaccinated Employees into US Offices

Big tech companies are making it mandatory for employees in the United States to get COVID-19 vaccinations before entering campuses, as the highly infectious delta variant of the coronavirus drives a resurgence in cases.Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc. said on Wednesday all U.S. employees must get vaccinated to step into offices. Google is also planning to expand its vaccination drive to other countries in the coming months.According to a Deadline report, streaming giant Netflix Inc. has also implemented a policy mandating vaccinations for the cast and crew on all its U.S. productions.Apple Inc. plans to restore its mask requirement policy at most of its U.S. retail stores, both for customers and staff, even if they are vaccinated, Bloomberg News reported.Apple and Netflix did not immediately respond to requests for comments.Many tech companies, including Microsoft Corp. and Uber, have said they expect employees to return to their offices, months after pandemic-induced lockdowns forced them to shift to working from home.In April, Salesforce said it would allow vaccinated employees to return to some of its offices.Google also said on Wednesday it would extend its global work-from-home policy through Oct. 18 due to a recent rise in cases caused by the delta variant across different regions.”We’ll continue watching the data carefully and let you know at least 30 days in advance before transitioning into our full return-to-office plans,” the company said.   

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France Calls British Travel Rules ‘Discriminatory,’ Not Science-Based

France’s European Affairs Minister on Thursday called Britain’s decision to lift quarantine requirements for all fully vaccinated travelers arriving from Europe except France “discriminatory and incomprehensible” and said he hopes it is reviewed as soon as possible. 

Clement Beaune made the comments during an interview on French television a day after Britain announced it was dropping the quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated visitors from the European Union and the United States but that it would review rules for travelers from France only at the end of next week. 

The British government has said it is keeping quarantine rules for travelers from France because of the presence of the beta variant there. But Beaune told French broadcaster LCI the beta strain accounted for fewer than 5% of COVID-19 cases in France, and mostly occurred in overseas territories from where relatively few people traveled to Britain.  

“We are saying to the British that, on the scientific and health levels, there are no explanations for this decision,” he said. 

In a Wednesday interview, British Transportation Minister Grant Shapps said the government will not be able to review the decision until the end of next week because they need to see the data. 

Beaune said he will continue pressuring Britain to review the requirement, but said, for now, he is not planning to impose similar measures on British travelers to France.  

Some information in this report came from Associated Press, Reuters and AFP. 

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Malta Government Carries Responsibility for Journalist’s Murder, Inquiry Finds

An independent inquiry into the car bomb murder of anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia found on Thursday that the state had to bear responsibility after creating a “culture of impunity.”

Caruana Galizia was killed in a massive explosion as she drove out of her home on October 16, 2017.

Prosecutors believe top businessman Yorgen Fenech, who had close ties with senior government officials, masterminded the murder. Fenech, who is awaiting trial for association to murder, denies all responsibility.

Three men suspected of setting off the bomb were arrested in December 2017. One has since pleaded guilty as part of a plea bargain and is serving a 15-year jail term. The other two are awaiting trial. The self-confessed middle-man has turned state witness and was granted a pardon.

The inquiry, conducted by one serving judge and two retired judges, found that a culture of impunity was created by the highest echelons of power within the government of the time.

“The tentacles of impunity then spread to other regulatory bodies and the police, leading to a collapse in the rule of law,” said the panel’s report, which was published by Prime Minister Robert Abela.

It said the state failed to recognize the real and immediate risks to Caruana Galizia’s life and failed to take reasonable steps to avoid them.

It was clear, the inquiry board said, that the assassination was either intrinsically or directly linked to Caruana Galizia’s investigative work.

Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat resigned in January 2020 following Fenech’s arrest. He was never accused of any wrongdoing. Media later also revealed close links between Fenech, ministers, and senior police officers.

The judges called for immediate action to rein in and regulate the links between politicians and big business.

Abela said in a tweet that the report required “mature” and objective analysis. “Lessons must be drawn and the reforms must continue with greater resolve,” he said, without elaborating.

The inquiry heard evidence from the police, government officials, the Caruana Galizia family and journalists, among others.

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Vaccines Save 50 Million Lives, But COVID Threatens Future Gains, Say Scientists

Vaccination programs against some of the world’s deadliest diseases have saved tens of millions of lives over the past twenty years, according to a new study. However, the researchers warn that continued progress is threatened by the coronavirus pandemic.

The scientists from the Vaccine Impact Modelling Consortium, funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, looked at vaccination programs over the past two decades targeting ten infectious diseases across 112 low- and middle-income countries. 

They found that some 50 million lives have been saved by vaccines, most of them children.

The diseases the researchers looked at included measles, hepatitis B, human papillomavirus (HPV), yellow fever, Haemophilus influenzae type b, Streptococcus pneumoniae, rubella, rotavirus, Neisseria meningitidis serogroup A, and Japanese encephalitis. 

The study is the largest assessment of vaccine impact before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Katy Gaythorpe, a co-author of the report at Imperial College London, told VOA that the successes of the past two decades would be replicated if progress in vaccination programs can be sustained.

“If we continued with the vaccinations in our projections, so beyond 2019, we’d avert another 47 million deaths — so huge numbers,” Gaythorpe said. “And really what we wanted to show in this paper is this is what we projected vaccination to look like before the COVID pandemic. And we wanted to emphasize these long-term effects, these long-term benefits of vaccination going into the future.”

Immunization programs have added benefits beyond the prevention of specific diseases.

“For example, if people aren’t getting sick of vaccine-preventable diseases then that means there’s less stress on healthcare due to those infections, which means you could potentially be treating people for other things,” Gaythorpe said.

But the researchers warn that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted vaccination programs — and could lead to a decline in coverage.

“We’ve got not only healthcare services stretched by possibly treating people infected with COVID, we’ve also got people’s personal choice — you know, they might put off going to seek immunization just because of fear surrounding being infected with COVID,” Gaythorpe said.

The World Health Organization earlier this year launched its “immunization agenda 2030” to try to get vaccine programs back on track and reach even more people. 

“It would mean reducing by half the children who are completely left out of essential vaccines — the ‘zero dose children’ — [and] it would mean achieving another 500 introductions of new and underused vaccines in low- and middle-income countries,” the WHO’s Vaccines Department chief Kate O’Brien told reporters in April.

Scientists say the huge number of lives saved demonstrates the stunning advances in modern medicine — and the importance of keeping other vaccine programs on track, alongside tackling the COVID pandemic.

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US Federal Workers Again Are Masking Up

Federal workers in Washington and some other cities Wednesday began wearing masks again at work amid a spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Government employees are expected to be told Thursday that they will need to be vaccinated or submit to regular testing for the virus.

“While no decision has been finalized, I will say that the attestation of vaccination for federal employees is one option under strong consideration,” Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House deputy press secretary, told reporters Wednesday on Air Force One during a brief flight to Pennsylvania from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

Asked about the pending vaccination mandate as he left the aircraft, President Joe Biden said he would talk about coronavirus-related matters Thursday.

Signs began appearing Thursday in federal buildings, including in the White House briefing room, requesting that even the vaccinated wear masks.

“In areas of substantial or high community transmission, agencies must require all federal employees, onsite contractors and visitors, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask inside of federal buildings,” the Office of Management and Budget said Tuesday evening in an email to agencies. “As of today, that includes the Washington, D.C., area.”

Masks also are being mandated in the House of Representatives. The Capitol’s attending physician took action following Tuesday’s recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that even those who are vaccinated must wear masks indoors in public settings in areas with a current substantial or high transmission of the coronavirus.

The Republican leader in the House, Kevin McCarthy, objected, stating that the physician’s mandate for masks “is not a decision based on science.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, asked Wednesday by a reporter about McCarthy’s reaction, replied, “He’s such a moron.”

The Republican Party has been “delinquent” in embracing science about masks and vaccines amid the coronavirus pandemic, Pelosi later told reporters during a scheduled regular briefing on Capitol Hill.

White House officials, speaking on condition of not being named, said the administration as soon as Thursday could announce that government staff will have to show proof of being fully vaccinated to avoid regular coronavirus testing.

The Department of Veterans Affairs, which runs about 1,400 medical facilities in the United States, on Monday became the first federal agency to require vaccinations for its health care work force.

The department said nearly 150 of its workers had died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, announced Wednesday that all state employees – a work force totaling tens of thousands of people – must be vaccinated by Labor Day, September 6.

“It’s smart, it’s fair and it’s in everyone’s interest,” said Cuomo.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made a similar announcement Monday regarding his 300,000 employees.

New York became the second state after California to impose such a rule for its government workers.

California’s order, which Governor Gavin Newsom announced Monday, covers not only the 246,000 workers on the state payroll but also about 2 million health care workers in both the public and private sectors.

New cases in the United States have risen fourfold over the last month. The U.S. has the largest number of infections in the world, with more than 34.6 million confirmed cases and 611,000 deaths, according to information from Johns Hopkins University.

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Nigeria’s Pre-Olympic Basketball Progress Inspires Amateurs

The success of Nigeria’s national basketball team, D’Tigers, in pre-Olympic games this month is inspiring amateur players back home. The Nigerians beat the top ranked U.S. team at a friendly match and are currently the only African team competing at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Timothy Obiezu reports from Abuja.

 Camera: Emeka Gibson  Produced by: Mary Cieslak

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Cameroon Asks People Who Fled Boko Haram to Return

Cameroon’s government has sent ministers to its northern border with Nigeria to convince villagers who fled Boko Haram militants to return. Cameroon invested $10 million on reconstruction efforts after damage caused by the Islamist terrorist group in some villages. But, in northern Cameroon, many villagers are reluctant to go home, and authorities acknowledge the militants are still a threat.

Bulldozers of Cameroon’s Ministry of Public Works fill destroyed portions of the 30-kilometer road linking Cameroon’s northern town of Mora to Banki, a town in northeast Nigeria.

Celestine Ketcha Courtes, Cameroon’s minister of housing and urban development, and Talba Malla Ibrahim, minister of public contracts, traveled to the site this week.

Courtes said they went to find out the effectiveness of reconstruction work on infrastructure damaged during fighting by Cameroonian troops and Boko Haram combatants.

She said Cameroonian President Paul Biya instructed her and the minister of public contracts to visit markets rebuilt to facilitate the purchase and sale of goats, cattle, table birds and food. She said they also saw roads built to ease travel between Cameroon and Nigeria and to facilitate trade between the two neighbors. She said Cameroon’s government is planning to rebuild infrastructure destroyed by the jihadist militant group Boko Haram.

Cameroon said the $10 million was invested this year for reconstruction of schools, hospitals and markets destroyed by Boko Haram. Alamine Ousman Mey is the minister of economy. He said civilians who fled can return and occupy infrastructure that has been reconstructed.

“It started with the reconstruction be it [of] the police as well as custom administrative facilities [buildings]. It has gone further to train those involved in protecting the population and also the community to be part of the stabilization process. It is about bringing back economic life,” he said. 

Mey acknowledged Boko Haram is still a threat. He said civilians should return as the military will protect people to help in the development of their towns and villages.

But this week, Cameroon reported two Boko Haram deadly attacks that claimed the lives of 13 troops and civilians in the border villages of Sagme and Zigi. The latest attack was in Zigi on Tuesday. Authorities say five troops and six civilians were killed. 

Cameroon said several hundred civilians fled the two villages.

There has been no comment from Nigeria, but a Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), established by Lake Chad Basin countries to combat Boko Haram, consists of troops from Nigeria, Cameroon, Benin, Niger and Chad. The troops, which have a base in Mora, are posted along Cameroon’s border with Nigeria.  

Gregory Bonglam is a teacher. He said on Tuesday, he fled Mozogo, a northern administrative unit on the border with Nigeria after yet another Boko Haram attack.

“You never can identify who is Boko Haram and who is not. We were sitting outside and discussing. Little did we know that Boko Haram was around and before we knew it, there were already explosives. Luckily, we were a little far from the incident otherwise we would have been killed. Going back there is really very dangerous,” he said.

Philemon Ndula, conflict resolution specialist with the Cameroon NGO Trauma Center, said Cameroon should ensure there is peace before reconstruction.

“What I will suggest is for the government to talk about recovery. In recovery, there is the physical aspect of building the schools, building the houses, building the hospitals and so on. So that is why I am saying that reconstruction is just a starting point. The psychological aspect is actually the heart of the matter. People can only go out to do their businesses, to go to their farms when they have that minimum security,” said Ndula.

Cameroon says security will improve if civilians collaborate with authorities and report to authorities if they see suspicious activities in towns and villages. The government is also asking for the creation of militias to assist the military fight Boko Haram.

Boko Haram has been fighting for 11 years to create an Islamic caliphate in northeast Nigeria and parts of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin.

The violence has cost the lives of 30,000 people and displaced about 2 million civilians, according to the United Nations. 


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US Gymnast Simone Biles Withdraws from Individual All-Around Competition

A day after withdrawing from the women’s gymnastics team finals, Simone Biles of the United States has taken herself out of the individual all-around competition at the Tokyo Olympics.  

A statement issued Wednesday morning from USA Gymnastics said Biles, considered the all-time greatest in her sport, is withdrawing “after further medical evaluation” in order to focus on her mental health. 

The statement said Biles will continue to be evaluated daily “to determine whether or not to participate in next week’s individual event finals.”   

The 24-year-old Biles withdrew from the overall team finals Tuesday after failing to execute her planned maneuver in the vault and stumbling backward on her landing. She then briefly left the floor with her coach, then returned to rejoin her teammates with her ankle wrapped in a bandage.   

With the loss of Biles, the Russian Olympic Committee took the gold in the team finals with the U.S. taking silver and Britain getting the bronze.  

Biles later told reporters that she was not in the right frame of mind because of the stress and pressure heading into the competition, and that she needed to “focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and well-being.” 

“We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being,” USA Gymnastics said in its statement. “Her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many.”

Jade Carey, who finished ninth in qualifying, will take Biles’ place in the all-around competition. 

Wednesday’s competitions saw U.S. swimmer Katie Ledecky making Olympic history while her Australian rival Ariarne Titmus earned a second gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.  

Ledecky won the finals of the women’s 1,500-meter freestyle race at the Tokyo Aquatics Center, the first time the event has been staged at a Summer Olympics. Ledecky’s fellow American Erica Sullivan won the silver medal, while Sarah Kohler of Germany took home the bronze medal.  

Ledecky’s dominating performance in the 1,500-meter freestyle — she finished four seconds ahead of Sullivan — came just moments after her dismal finish in the finals of the 200-meter freestyle event, her second head-to-head matchup against Titmus.  The Australian star, whose dominating performances have earned her the nickname “The Terminator” in her home country, finished the race at 1:53.50 (one minute, 53.50 seconds) to set a new Olympic record.  Hong Kong’s Siobhan Haughey won the silver medal, while Canadian Penny Oleksiak finished third to take the bronze.

Ledecky finished the 200-meter freestyle in fifth place, nearly two seconds behind Titmus, who also beat the celebrated American in Monday’s 400-meter freestyle race.  Ledecky won both events at the 2016 Rio Olympics and had been favored to repeat in Tokyo. But her win in the 1,500-meter freestyle gives her six career Olympic gold medals dating back to the 2012 London Games.  

Japanese swimmer Yui Ohashi also became a double gold medal winner Wednesday after winning the 200-meter individual medley, three days after her victory in the 400-meter individual relay. Ohashi edged Americans Alex Walsh and Kate Douglass, who won the silver and bronze medals respectively. Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu, the 2016 champion and current world-record holder, finished in seventh place.   

Meanwhile, the British men’s team, anchored by Tom Dean, Duncan Scott, James Guy and Matthew Richards, won the 4×200 freestyle relay race, giving Britain its third swimming gold medal at Tokyo. Dean won the 200-meter freestyle Tuesday, with Adam Peaty winning gold in the 100-meter breaststroke the day before.   

And Kristof Milak of Hungary set a new Olympic record in winning the gold medal in the men’s 200-meter butterfly race, finishing at 1:51.25 (one minute, 51.25 seconds), with 19-year-old Tomoru Honda of Japan winning the silver medal and Italy’s Federico Burdisso finishing third to win the bronze medal.   

Cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten of the Netherlands won the gold medal in the women’s time trials event with a time of 30:13.49 (30 minutes, 13.49 seconds) at Fuji International Speedway.  Switzerland’s Marlen Reusser finished in second place, with van Vleuten’s compatriot Anna van der Breggen winning bronze.   

Van Vleuten’s victory is certain to erase the memory of her humiliating finish in Sunday’s road race when she ecstatically crossed the finish line believing she had won, only to find out Austrian Anna Kiesenhofer had broken away from the field to take the gold medal, leaving van Vleuten with the silver medal.

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Haitians Displaced by Gang Violence Face Bleak Future

Haitians displaced by gang incursions into swaths of the capital now live on the sharpest edge of insecurity in the Caribbean country, which is reeling from the assassination of President Jovenel Moise earlier this month. 

Officials say thousands of people have lost their homes to encroachment by violent gangs into central and southern parts of the city, where urban sprawl envelops more than 2.5 million people.   

“I’ve got no future in this country as a young man. I’m in an unstable situation, I can’t build a home, the situation is really critical,” said one youth, staying at a shelter in the Delmas 5 neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. 

Like others who spoke to Reuters at the center, which gives refuge to about 1,800 people, he declined to give his name for fear of reprisals from gangs. 

Gang violence in Haiti, the poorest nation in the Americas, increasingly marred Moise’s rule before he was shot dead in his official residence on July 7. The government says the attack was carried out by a group of largely Colombian mercenaries, though many questions about who was behind his killing remain. 

Ariel Henry was formally appointed as prime minister of Haiti last week, calling for unity, stability, and international support. 

But the gangs are powerful and security institutions are weak. Georges Michel, a Haitian historian, said the gangs can muster a firepower superior to official security forces and are highly mobile, used to deploying guerrillalike tactics to prey on the population and do battle with rival outfits.   

“I hope that (the government) finds a way to destroy them because they create terror in all the neighborhood,” he said. 

Gangs have threatened to occupy the streets to protest the assassination of Moise. One of the most prominent bosses, Jimmy Cherizier, a former cop known as Barbecue, on Monday led hundreds of followers to a commemoration of the dead president.   

“We never knew this situation before,” said another youth at the shelter. “This stems from the political crisis.” 

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US-sanctioned Militia Leader Killed in East Libya, Officials Say

A Libyan militia leader sanctioned by the United States for allegedly killing civilians was shot dead Tuesday in an exchange of fire with forces attempting to arrest him in an eastern city, officials said. 

Libyan officials said security forces raided Mohamed al-Kani’s house in Benghazi to carry out an arrest warrant on charges of killing civilians. Libyan officials and the U.S. allege al-Kani was responsible for the deaths of people found in mass graves last year in the western town of Tarhuna. 

Tarhuna, a strategic town about 65 kilometers (41 miles) southeast of the Libyan capital of Tripoli, was under control of the al-Kaniyat militia, which gained a reputation for its brutal tactics. Led by al-Kani, the militia had initially sworn allegiance to a former government in Tripoli. But it switched sides in the civil war and aligned with the east-based forces of military commander Khalifa Hifter in 2019. 

The officials said al-Kani was killed in an exchange of gunfire along with one of his associates. A third man was arrested, according to the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. 

Mohamed al-Tarhuni, a spokesman for the militia, confirmed al-Kani’s death. 

The mass graves in Tarhuna were found last year after the militia’s withdrawal following the collapse of Hifter’s 14-month campaign to wrest control of Tripoli from an array of militias allied with the former U.N.-recognized government. 

The U.S. Treasury placed al-Kani and his militia under sanctions in November after finding them responsible for killing the civilians. They also alleged the militia had committed acts of torture, forced disappearances and displacement of civilians.  

Fatou Bensouda, former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, told the U.N. Security Council in November that her office was working with the Tripoli government “in relation to these mass graves,” where many bodies were found blindfolded and with hands tied. 

Libya has been in turmoil since 2011, when a NATO-backed uprising toppled long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed. The country was since split between rival administrations in the east and the west, each backed by armed groups and foreign governments. 

Hifter’s 2019 offensive, supported by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia, collapsed in June 2020 when militias backing the Tripoli government, with support from Turkey and Qatar, gained the upper hand. A U.N.-brokered cease-fire was reached in October that stopped hostilities. 

Oil-rich Libya is now ruled by a transitional government tasked with preparing the nation for elections in December. 

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