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The World in Brief

by Compiled by Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports | February 8, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.

Rescued migrants head to Italian port

ROME -- A rescue ship with 422 migrants aboard, a small number of whom tested positive for covid-19, was headed to a port in Sicily on Sunday.

SOS Mediterranee, the humanitarian group that operates the rescue ship Ocean Viking, said Italy had granted the vessel permission to enter the port of Augusta, where it was expected to arrive Sunday evening, just as rain and strong winds were forecast.

The migrants were rescued in separate operations in the central Mediterranean Sea on Thursday and Friday, including 121 who were crowded into a rubber dinghy. Some of the passengers fell into the sea during that rescue operation but were brought to safety, SOS Mediterranee said in a statement by Luisa Albera, search and rescue coordinator aboard the Ocean Viking.

In all, four separate rescue operations were carried out over two days. Many of those rescued are women and children.

Eight of the rescued migrants have covid-19, according to tests administered by the crew, and they were being isolated on board despite the difficulties of crowded conditions on deck.

Egypt's leader backs Libyan government

CAIRO -- Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has given his support to a transitional government that would lead neighboring Libya through elections later this year.

In rare televised comments late Saturday, el-Sissi said the appointment of the interim government Friday, including a three-member Presidential Council and a prime minister, was "a step in the right direction."

The Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, which includes 75 U.N.-picked delegates from across the country, appointed Mohammad Younes Menfi, a Libyan diplomat from the country's east, as chairman of the Presidential Council. The forum chose Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah, a powerful businessman from the western city of Misrata, as prime minister.

The three council members each represent a region of old Libya: Tripolitania in the west, Cyrenaica in the east, and Fezzan in the southwest. The country's divided parliament is tasked with confirming the new government within three weeks. If it fails to do so, then the forum will confirm.

The appointment of an interim government caps months of U.N.-brokered talks that resulted in an agreement to hold elections Dec. 24.

"We are supportive of them. ... We are ready to cooperate with them for Libya's recovery and to prepare for the elections in Libya," el-Sissi said.

3 Saudis sentenced to prison, not death

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Three young Saudi men who faced death sentences over acts they were accused of committing as minors have been handed 10-year prison sentences instead, the Saudi Human Rights Commission said.

Ali al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoun and Abdullah al-Zaher, youths from Saudi Arabia's Shiite minority, were detained separately on charges stemming from their participation in anti-government Shiite protests over discrimination that rocked the country's eastern province in 2011-12.

Al-Nimr, the nephew of prominent opposition cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, whose execution sparked Shiite demonstrations from Bahrain to Pakistan, was arrested in 2012 at age 17, according to Human Rights Watch. He was sentenced to death by the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh, which handles terrorism trials.

Al-Marhoun was 17 and al-Zaher was 15 when they were swept up in the government's crackdown on Shiite protests, and they were denied access to lawyers during their protracted pretrial detention, the New York-based watchdog previously reported.

The court will credit time served, Saudi Arabia's Human Rights Commission announced, setting the release date of all three men for 2022.

The government's communications office did not respond to a request for comment.

New Ebola outbreak confirmed in Congo

BENI, Congo -- Health officials on Sunday confirmed another Ebola outbreak in Congo's east, the fourth in less than three years.

On Wednesday, a woman died in Butembo town in North Kivu province, Minister of Health Eteni Longondo announced.

The woman from the nearby village of Biena felt sick for a few days before being tested at a clinic there. She then went to a hospital in Butembo but died before receiving the results. The government has begun tracing everyone who came in contact with her to try to "eradicate the epidemic as soon as possible," Longondo said.

This is the 12th outbreak in conflict-ridden Congo since the virus was first discovered in the country in 1976, and it comes less than three months after an outbreak in the western province of Equateur officially ended in November.

A 2018 outbreak in eastern Congo was the second-deadliest in the world, killing 2,299 people before it ended in June. The nearly two-year outbreak was fought amid unprecedented challenges, including entrenched conflict between armed groups, the world's largest measles epidemic, and the spread of covid-19.

-- Compiled by Democrat-Gazette staff from wire reports


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