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TERRORISM

Ex-FM says Libya behind 1989 airline attack

Libya is responsible for a deadly 1989 attack on a French airliner, Libyan former foreign minister Abdel Rahman Shalgam told Al-Hayat newspaper in an interview published on Monday.

“The Libyan security services blew up the plane. They believed that opposition leader Mohammed al-Megrief was on board, but after the plane was blown up, it was found that he was not on the plane,” said Shalgam, who defected from Moamer Kadhafi’s embattled regime earlier this year.

On September 19, 1989, a UTA DC-10 travelling from Brazzaville to Paris via N’Djamena crashed in Niger after explosives on board detonated, killing 170 passengers and crew, including 54 French citizens.

A French court in 2009 sentenced six Libyan agents in absentia to life in prison for the attack, but Libya has never admitted it was responsible.

However, Tripoli had in 2004 agreed to pay $170 million in compensation to the families of the victims.

Shalgam also said that the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am flight over the Scottish town of Lockerbie that killed 270 people, for which Libya is widely believed to have been responsible, was more complicated than the UTA attack.

“The Lockerbie operation was more complex … the role of states and organisations has been discussed, and while the Libyan services were implicated, I do not think it was a purely Libyan operation,” he said.

Last February, a former official from the radical Palestinian group Abu Nidal said that the attacks against the Pan Am and UTA planes were conducted “in conjunction” with Libya, and that the explosives were fabricated in Libya.

Shalgam’s defection came in March when he was was serving as Libya’s representative to the United Nations.

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TERRORISM

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid wreaths at a Paris cafe and France's national football stadium Saturday six years since deadly terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff lay flowers after ceremonies at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, at which 130 people were killed during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/POOL/AFP

The attacks by three separate teams of Islamic State group jihadists on the night of November 13, 2015 were the worst in France since World War II.

Gunmen mowed down 129 people in front of cafes and at a concert hall in the capital, while a bus driver was killed after suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the stadium in its suburbs.

Harris, wrapping up a four-day trip to France, placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of a plaque honouring the victims outside a Paris cafe.

Castex attended a minute of silence at the Stade de France football stadium, along with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, before laying wreaths at the sites of the other attacks inside Paris.

In front of the Bataclan concert hall, survivors and relatives of the victims listened to someone read out the names of each of the 90 people killed during a concert there six years ago.

Public commemorations of the tragedy were called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year we weren’t allowed to come and we all found it really tough,” said Bruno Poncet, who made it out alive of the Bataclan.

But he said the start of a trial over the attacks in September meant that those attending the commemoration this year felt more united.

‘Overcome it all’

“We’ve really bonded thanks to the trial,” he said. “During previous commemorations, we’d spot each other from afar without really daring to speak to each other. We were really shy. But standing up in court has really changed everything.”

The marathon trial, the biggest in France’s modern legal history, is expected to last until May 2022.

Twenty defendants are facing sentences of up to life in prison, including the sole attacker who was not gunned down by police, Salah Abdeslam, a French-Moroccan national who was captured in Brussels. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Poncet said he felt it was crucial that he attend the hearings. “I can’t possibly not. It’s our lives that are being discussed in that room, and it’s important to come to support the others and to try to overcome it all.”

Survivors have taken to the witness stand to recount the horror of the attacks, but also to describe life afterwards.

Several said they had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, grappling with survivor’s guilt, or even feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Saturday’s commemorations are to wrap up with a minute of silence at the Stade de France in the evening before the kick-off for a game between France and Kazakhstan.

It was during a football match between France and Germany that three suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2015.

Then-French president Francois Hollande was one of the 80,000 people in the crowd, before he was discreetly whisked away to avoid triggering mass panic.

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