World briefs – May 10

An overcrowded ship carrying up to 600 people trying to flee Libya sank just outside the port of Tripoli, the U.N. refugee agency said Monday, citing witness accounts.

Ship with up to 600 migrants sinks off Libyan coast

MILAN, Italy — An overcrowded ship carrying up to 600 people trying to flee Libya sank just outside the port of Tripoli, the U.N. refugee agency said Monday, citing witness accounts.

Aid officials were still trying to confirm the fate of those people after the vessel broke apart Friday in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya, UNHCR spokeswoman Laura Boldrini said.

Witnesses who left the Libyan capital on another boat shortly afterward reported seeing remnants of the sunken ship and the bodies of some passengers floating in the sea, she told The Associated Press.

Other witnesses saw passengers swimming to shore but it was unclear how many survived, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Its staff on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa interviewed a Somali woman who said she lost her four-month-old baby in the sinking. The woman swam to shore and managed to board another boat heading to Italy, the IOM said in a statement Monday.

A Libyan government spokesman in Tripoli had no comment Monday evening when asked for information about the sunken refugee ship.


Arizona appeals immigration law to Supreme Court

PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer announced Monday she will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a ruling that put the most controversial parts of the state’s immigration enforcement law on hold.

Parts of the law blocked from taking effect include a provision requiring police to question people’s immigration status while enforcing other laws if there is a reasonable suspicion they’re in the country illegally.

Other provisions that are on hold include: requiring all immigrants to obtain or carry immigration registration papers; making it a state criminal offence for an illegal immigrant to seek work or hold a job; and allowing police to arrest suspected illegal immigrants without a warrant.

The planned appeal to the high court comes after Brewer lost an initial appeal April 11, when a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reverse a lower court’s order that prevented key parts of the law from being enforced.

Attorney General Tom Horne said going directly to the Supreme Court and skipping a possible second appeal to the 9th Circuit will save time in resolving the case, while Brewer said she is confident “Arizona will prevail in its fight to protect its citizens.”

The state must file the appeal by a July 11 deadline, the officials said. The Supreme Court has discretion on whether to hear the appeal on the lower court’s order.

“It seems like this is a big enough national issue that it will ultimately be determined by the United States Supreme Court,” Horne said.


EU imposes sanctions on Syrian officials

BRUSSELS, Belgium — The European Union imposed an arms embargo Monday on Syria, where the government is conducting a violent and sometimes lethal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

The EU is banning the shipment to Libya of “arms and equipment that could be used for internal repression,” an EU statement said late Monday.

The EU also is prohibiting 13 Syrian “officials and associates of the Syrian regime” from travelling anywhere in the 27-nation union, and is freezing their assets, the statement said. The 13 have been identified as being responsible for the violent repression against the civilian population, it said.

An EU official said late last week that Syrian President Bashar Assad would not be among those sanctioned.


Mass graves found at Abidjan soccer field

DAKAR, Senega — UN investigators in Ivory Coast have determined there were at least 68 bodies spread out across 10 burial mounds in a mass grave recently discovered on a soccer field in Abidjan, the country’s commercial capital.

Guillaume Ngefa, the deputy director of the human rights division of the UN mission in Ivory Coast, said the victims were likely killed by pro-Laurent Gbagbo militias on April 12, the day after the strongman was arrested.

Ngefa said investigators visited the site Friday and photographed the 10 plots. They interviewed witnesses who described the killings as well as family members who identified the dead.

Ngefa said the investigators spoke to two residents of the Yopougon neighborhood where the incident occurred who were conscripted by the militiamen and forced to bury the dead.

The killings occurred on April 12, the day after Gbagbo was arrested by the army fighting to install the nation’s democratically elected leader, Alassane Ouattara.

Yopougon, where the soccer field is located, is believed to be where Gbagbo’s militias took cover after their leader’s fall.

Ngefa said the largest grave is believed to hold 31 bodies; another has at least 21.

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