After the Libyan floods, dissent points to a crackdown.

Authorities in flood-ravaged eastern Libya appeared to be moving to crack down on dissent over the past week, arresting protesters and activists who have demanded accountability for the government’s response to the disaster. .

Heavy rains that burst two dams led to a flood on September 11 that swept the coastal city of Derna and surrounding areas into the Mediterranean Sea, killing thousands.

At least three people who either publicly criticized the government response or participated in Monday’s protests in Derna have been detained, according to witnesses and a relative. Aid workers and journalists also say the authoritarian administration that controls the eastern half of divided Libya, including Derna, has restricted access to the city for some.

Internet and cellphone services were also shut down in the city on Tuesday and Wednesday, raising questions about whether operators had deliberately cut them off.

“The level of anger among people is very high, and communication has been cut off because they are afraid that people will express their anger publicly,” said Islam Azuz, a volunteer aid worker from Derna, who attended the protest on Monday. attended, where hundreds of people demanded that those responsible for the disaster be held accountable.

“People lost their homes and their cities. Of course they are angry about the corruption and neglect that led to this disaster,” he added.

However, officials in eastern Libya said that damage or sabotage was responsible for the internet outage.

After Monday’s protests, some reporters from Arabic-language broadcast channels widely watched in the Middle East said they had been ordered out of Derna, while other journalists covering rescue and relief operations were told to leave. They are said to have been barred from moving freely in the city or re-entering the city. It was once they were gone.

Foreign aid teams and other aid groups appeared to be operating as usual. But Mr Azzouz said on Wednesday that some civilian volunteer groups on the other side of Libya’s east-west divide had been told to leave.

Two rival governments have divided control over a country wracked by chaos in the years since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings and ensuing civil war.

Georgette Gagnon, the humanitarian coordinator in Libya for the UN Aid Coordination Agency, said that a UN aid convoy from Benghazi, the original capital of eastern Libya, was also turned back by authorities on Wednesday without explanation. However, other UN relief operations in Derna continued unabated.

“There has been no overall effort to restrict the movement of the United Nations or to limit the delivery of humanitarian assistance,” Ms Gagnon said.

The wider confusion regarding access to Derna is due to the fragmented, fragmented and highly politicized state of Libyan institutions and media. Reliable information on death tolls and other basics was hard to come by before the communications blackout.

The World Health Organization said on Wednesday that nearly 4,000 deaths have been recorded in hospitals. But officials in the eastern administration have put the death toll much higher. Some have estimated that as many as 11,000 people died and thousands went missing.

Mohamed al-Jarrah, a former Libyan analyst and adviser who began work Tuesday as the official spokesman for the Benghazi-based eastern government’s Emergency Response Committee, said Wednesday that authorities were trying to streamline the chaotic relief effort. There were traffic jams related to relief. The streets and crowds that were left of Derna.

But officials in the east still lack a clear protocol for allowing entry into Derna, adding that they do not know why the UN convoy has been stopped.

The eastern administration, long controlled by military strongman Khalifa Haftar and his self-proclaimed Libyan National Army, often justifies its actions by saying it is rooting out Islamist extremists. This time is a little different.

Mr al-Jarrah said eastern officials were concerned that anti-Haftar elements were infiltrating aid efforts to incite violence against the region’s leaders and stoke local grievances, and that Islamist media outlets were unfounded in their criticism of Mr Haftar. They are politicizing the tragedy by broadcasting it.

But for those still angry about all the people they lost in the floods, Benghazi-based authorities seemed to be reverting to the same repressive security tactics they often use to stave off threats to their power. are

Hundreds of residents of Derna gathered at a mosque in the city on Monday evening to protest the government’s response to the storm, calling for an international investigation into those responsible for maintaining the burst dams and the impeachment of Libya’s eastern parliament. demanded the removal of the Speaker. Which is part of the administration of the area.

They torched the home of Derna’s mayor, the nephew of the Benghazi government-appointed speaker, and circulated a list of demands. The speaker, Aguila Saleh, is another powerful eastern politician generally aligned with Mr. Haftar.

Immediately after the demonstration, all communications in Derna were cut off, leaving residents, aid workers and others with no way to call, text or use mobile internet from Tuesday morning until Wednesday night, when People there said that internet has been restored.

Libya’s state-owned telecommunications company told local media after the communications were down that the outage was either due to damage to fiber optic cables during ongoing maintenance operations or sabotage. .

As of Tuesday night, the eastern government committee coordinating the emergency response announced that 70 percent of the damage had been repaired. This was in contrast to repair efforts immediately after the flood, when some communications were restored within hours.

Internal security forces arrested at least two protesters during the demonstration, including an organizer, according to Mr. Azuz, who was there, and two other protesters who said they witnessed the arrests.

Jawahar Ali, a journalist from Derna, said his brother, a Derna resident who went on television to hold those responsible accountable and criticize the way aid was administered, was arrested on Saturday. was done

Both protesters were later released, but Mr. Ali’s brother remained in custody, Mr. Ali said.

Although Mr. Al-Jarrah, the spokesman, said it was “very clear that the people of Derna have legitimate concerns and grievances,” he also said that anti-Haftar factions used the protests to incite violence, including the burning of the mayor’s house. What did

In Derna, aid teams and volunteers from across Libya pulled bodies from the rubble, trying to identify them before burying them in mass graves.

Aid groups were warning that the disease could spread quickly through contaminated water, with Libya’s National Center for Disease Control already reporting 150 cases of poisoning. Ms Gagnon said several agencies were working with authorities to repair the water supply.

Haweeda SaadCooperation reporting.

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