More than 200 migrants feared drowned in Mediterranean

More than 200 migrants are feared dead in a boat sinking off the coast of Libya, a Spanish aid organisation says.

Proactiva Open Arms said it had recovered five bodies floating near two capsized boats, which can each hold more than 100 people.

The group’s Laura Lanuza said the five they pulled from the Mediterranean were young men who appeared to have drowned.

A spokesman for Italy’s coast guard, which co-ordinates rescues, confirmed the five deaths.

But he told the BBC that they could not confirm the estimates of deaths given by Proactiva, and said they had received no distress calls from any boats.

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No let-up yet in intensity of Libyan conflict

Given the country’s complex tribal composition and the matrix of global interests, no single party in the country’s multi-layered civil war will triumph entirely

By Marwan Kabalan

Last week, forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar regained control of Libya’s coastal “Oil Crescent”, a bay, roughly 200km long, which extends between the oil ports of Sirte and Ras Lanuf. The area along this coastal strip contains 60 per cent of Libya’s proven oil reserve. This comes less than two weeks since a tribal force called the Benghazi Defence Brigade (BDB), loyal to the Tripoli-based government of National Accord (GNA), took control of the oil fields.

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Islamic State Routed in Somalia’s Puntland, President Says

by Nizar Manek

An Islamic State faction in Somalia’s Puntland region numbers a maximum of 300 fighters and doesn’t pose a serious threat after its militants were driven out of a port town last year, President Abdiweli Mohamed Ali said.

The Islamist fighters are “scattered in the mountains” after being “kicked out” of Qandala by security forces in early December, Puntland’s leader said Tuesday in an interview in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. The numbers of militants “vary from 100 to 200 to 300 — they’re not a threat to us,” Ali said.

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Somalia: Ten Killed in Al Shabaab Attack in Somali Port Town

At least ten people, including seven militants were killed, and several wounded in Al Shabaab attack in the southern Somalia’s port city of Barawe overnight, military officials said.

Confirming the incident, Col Abdirahman Rooble Jimale said a heavily battle erupted after armed Al Shabaab fighters stormed military barracks on the coast of the town [at] midnight.

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Vital Oil Shipping Lane Becomes Target In Yemen’s Civil War

Zainab Calcuttawala

Yemen’s strategic Red Sea port, through which some 4 million barrels of oil flow daily to Middle Eastern markets, is becoming a focal point in the proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and China is the only power with the economic deal-making leverage to keep this from becoming much more than a proxy battle.

The Red Sea port, near the Bab al-Mandab strait, is currently controlled by Yemen’s Shi’ite Houthis, and whoever maintains control of it has a strategic advantage. This port is a pathway connection the Middle East (where the world’s largest proven oil reserves are) and Sub-Saharan Africa (a region expected to see a four-fold increase in energy demand by 2040), making it a coveted geopolitical prize for regional powers, but a livelihood-destroying burden for Yemen’s residents.

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UKMTO reports second Somali hijacking

MAST Note: At the time of writing, UKMTO states that the report is ‘unconfirmed’. The Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF) did have a presence in Eyl for some time and we are currently trying to confirm this incident with sources in the region.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) has issued a report advising another ship has been hijacked off Eyl in Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland, the second attack in under two weeks.

The UKMTO is reporting the ship, as yet not named, is now acting like a mothership on the hunt for further attacks. UKMTO acts as voluntary reporting scheme for the Indian Ocean.

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Philippine militants take two captive, hours after troops rescue two

MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine militants took two crew captive from a cargo ship on Thursday, only hours after soldiers rescued two Malaysians held for about eight months on a southern island, officials said.

The vessel was on its way to General Santos City on the southern island of Mindanao from the central Philippines when gunmen in three speed boats intercepted it, a coast guard commander said.

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Libyan oil output experiences new hike reaching 700.000 bpd, NOC says

Libya’s oil production has reached 700,000 barrels per day (bpd), the National Oil Corporation (NOC) said on Wednesday, recovering from a drop earlier this month caused by fighting at two key oil ports, Reuters said.

“We are working very hard to reach 800,000 barrels by the end of April 2017, and, God willing, we will reach 1.1 million barrels next August,” NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla was quoted by Reuters as saying in a statement.

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Iran ‘harassed’ US aircraft carrier in Strait of Hormuz

Laura Mackenzie
Foreign Correspondent

ABOARD THE USS GEORGE HW BUSH // A US aircraft carrier was “harassed” and “threatened” by armed Revolutionary Guard vessels while passing through the Strait of Hormuz this week, as the ship’s captain said the lack of stability and predictability from Iran was the main security threat facing the Arabian Gulf.

The US navy said up to 20 small Iranian vessels were involved in the incident which took place on Tuesday as the USS George HW Bush was sailing to the northern Gulf to take part in anti-ISIL operations.

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