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Conference kicks off in Tunisia on Libya security crisis

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The Ministerial Conference of Libya’s Neighboring Countries has kicked off in Tunisia to discuss the worsening security situation and the raging militancy in Libya, Press TV reports.

Delegations from Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, Chad and Niger attended the two-day conference in Tunisia’s coastal city of Hammamet on Sunday.

“The unstable security situation is the result of the armed terrorists’ threat. Some extremist groups want to impose their ideology by violence and terror. This is a major challenge for democratic transition process in Libya. It is also a source of threat to all the neighboring countries,” said Tunisian Interim President Moncef Marzouki at the conference.

The Libyan delegation cancelled their visit to the meeting after heavy fighting broke out on Sunday between rival militias near the country’s main airport in Tripoli.

All participants expressed preparedness to provide more support to Libya by encouraging consensus building among all stakeholders in the country.

“We have reached an encompassing vision that all parties should help the Libyan people establish a national dialogue and then a national reconciliation among all the Libyan patriots who care about the dignity, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Libya,” Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra told Press TV.

“Libya is going through a critical period. We are aware of the deep sufferings of our brothers in Libya. This is the result of the presence of the extremist armed militants,” Egypt’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mohamed Badreddine Zayed told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting.

This week, thousands of Libyans fled their cities to escape the ongoing armed conflict between militias that reject state authority.

The Foreign Ministers of Libya’s neighboring countries assert that the escalation of violence in Tripoli and other cities threatens regional stability.

Nearly three years after the fall of the country’s former ruler, Muammar Gaddafi, Libya is still grappling with rising insecurity as the country has been witnessing numerous clashes between government forces and rival militia groups.

The former rebels refuse to lay down arms despite efforts by the central government to impose law and order.

Thousands of angry Libyan demonstrators have frequently taken to the streets in different cities to protest against lack of security across the North African country.

(Source / 14.07.2014)

Written by altahrir

July 14, 2014 at 9:33 pm

Posted in Politics

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Heavy fighting breaks out near Libya’s Tripoli airport, seven dead

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Smoke rises near buildings after heavy fighting between rival militias broke out near the airport in Tripoli July 13, 2014

Heavy fighting broke out between rival militias vying for control of Libya’s main airport on Sunday, killing at least seven people and forcing a halt of all flights in the worst fighting in the capital for six months.

Explosions and anti-aircraft gunfire were heard from early morning on the airport road and other parts of Tripoli until the situation seemed to calm down in the late afternoon.

Residents said that militiamen from the northwestern region of Zintan who had controlled the airport came under fire, and local TV footage suggested that the attacking rebels were from the western city of Misrata.

The fighting is part of growing turmoil in the North African oil producer, where the government is unable to control battle-hardened militias that helped to overthrow Muammar Qaddafi in 2011 but continue to defy state authority.

Many Libyans are weary of militias whose members theoretically work for the government but who in reality appear to do as they please — fighting each other or seizing oilfields and ministries as they press their own financial and political demands on authorities.

Zintan forces, which have controlled the airport since Qaddafi’s ousting, and Misratis had been put on the state payroll in an unsuccessful attempt by the government to secure their cooperation and try to bolster the rule of law.

Seven people were killed and 36 wounded in the latest clashes, the Health Ministry said.

Comments on pro-Misrata websites suggested that the force was freeing the airport from Zintani control to hand it over to authorities.

The central government denounced the attackers as illegal. “The operation is led by civil leaders belonging to brigades and troops … moving without orders and legal cover,” the government of Prime Minister Abdulllah al-Thinni said in a statement.

Heavy guns
Local news channel al-Nabaa showed men in military vehicles with Misrata insignia opening fire with heavy weapons.

Heavy smoke could be seen rising above the airport as an official said: “All domestic and international flights have been halted.”

Nabaa TV showed a Libyan Airlines plane and a transport aircraft engulfed in smoke while vehicles fired anti-aircraft volleys and fighters took up positions next to a field of sheep.

Social media websites said that several rockets had hit the airport perimeter. Photographs on Facebook showed thick smoke at what was said to be the parking lot in front of the terminal. Families were trapped inside the building, local websites said.

The fighting was the worst in the capital since more than 40 people were killed in clashes between militias and armed residents in November.

Tripoli has seen a spike in kidnappings but has been mostly spared the kind of violence that has rocked the eastern city of Benghazi, where clashes between Islamists and forces loyal to a renegade general occur almost daily.

The violence comes as the country awaits the results of the June 25 parliamentary elections. Officials and Libya’s partners had hoped the vote would give a push to state building and ease political tensions.

The OPEC member is divided between rival militias from urban communities and tribes, as well as Islamist and more moderate forces. Oil production has fallen to a fraction of the 1.4 million barrels a day that Libya produced before July 2013 when a wave of protests erupted at oilfields and ports.

The country’s oil output is currently 470,000 bpd, a spokesman for state-run National Oil Corp said on Sunday.

The loss of oil revenues has sparked a budget crisis as Libya depends on energy exports.

(Source / 13.07.2014)

Written by altahrir

July 13, 2014 at 5:35 pm

Posted in Revolution Libye

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Poor election turnout sign of Libya’s despair

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Tuareg voters leave a school that served as a polling station in Ghat, southwestern Libya, June 25, 2014.

Fewer Libyans voted this time for the Council House of Representatives as the new parliament is known, than in the general elections of 2012. In 2012, Libyans were full of hope and optimism after the NATO-Qatari-backed rebels toppled longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi. Democracy, stability, security, peace and above all freedom were the noble causes the majority of my countrymen were eager for. Yet, it took only three years to see all that crumble into a pile of wreckage.

No wonder this time that only 630,000 voted, less than half of the eligible voters registered to cast their ballots, compared with over 3 million in 2012. There were no party lists this time around, so every single candidate contested the election on his own, personal credibility. Full results, though, are not expected before July 3.

Many polling stations, particularly in Derna in the east of the country and Kufra to the southeast, did not open for security reasons on June 25. Libya’s election commission said 15 seats in the 200-seat parliament will remain vacant since elections could not be organized in some parts in the country while others have to be rescheduled. In Benghazi, after casting her vote, prominent human rights lawyer Salwa Bughaighis was killed after gunmen forced their way into her house. She was stabbed before being shot in the head. She was a well-known critic of armed groups in Benghazi. Later, it emerged that her Egyptian housekeeper, who was wounded in the attack, was killed while under police protection. He was the only witness to her murder.

It is important to understand why fewer Libyans voted this time, when the opposite was expected.

Earlier this year, a large sector of Libyans lost their trust in the democratic process after being disappointed over and over again. The body they elected in 2012, the General National Conference, was paralyzed by infighting, corrupt, busied itself with less urgent matters and overstayed its mandate. Had it not been for huge popular demands that the General National Conference should dissolve itself and call for new elections, and had it not been for the military operations launched by retired Gen. Khalifa Hifter, last week’s elections might not have taken place at all.

There is also among Libyans a strong sense of disillusionment with almost all political parties. Coupled with overwhelming disappointment with a lack of progress, the majority of Libyans did not see the point of voting for another transitional legislature many think will only be like its predecessor. Large sections of tribal and political elites believe that while elections are a priority to claim Libya back from the brink of full civil war, national reconciliation is far more important.

This is widely reflected in voting figures among Libyans abroad. Elections were conducted in 13 countries, including Egypt and Tunisia, where over 1 million Libyans live. Most of those people are anti-status quo, while many others are considered as pro-former regime. Out of 10,000 registered voters abroad, fewer than 4,000 cast votes. A closer look at the figures from Tunisia, for example, showed only 114 out of about 400 registered voters cast their ballots. In Egypt, it was even lower, with only 400 people voting among about 1,000 registered voters.

The Libyan diaspora, given its size and the experiences of its members, is the most qualified to manage the country. However, many of those people are barred from running for office for two main reasons: security and their disqualification under the notorious Political Isolation Law passed by the General National Conference under militia pressure aimed at purging the state of former regime officials.

Libyans are clearly not happy with the way their country is run and managed. The low turnout is testimony to the little interest people have in the political process in the new Libya. This is a dangerous trend in a new democracy, since it means a failure of the political elite as well as the government to gain the nation’s trust, reflect the people’s will and be truly representative of the public’s interests.

In any case, while the final results have yet to be released, the Libyan people are sure to come out as losers.

(Source / 01.07.2014)

Written by altahrir

July 1, 2014 at 6:48 pm

Posted in Revolution Libye

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Two Tunisians abducted in Libya freed

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A member of Libyan security forces stand guard on April 17, 2014, outside the Tunisian embassy in the Libyan capital Tripoli

A Tunisian diplomat and a fellow embassy staffer abducted in Libya earlier this year were freed by their abductors on Sunday after months in captivity, an embassy source said.

“They have been freed and should be returning to Tunisia soon,” the source, who declined to be identified, told AFP, adding that the pair were in good health.

Diplomats in Tripoli say militias which fought to topple the Moammar Qaddafi regime in the 2011 uprising often carry out kidnappings to blackmail other countries into releasing Libyans they hold.

(Source / 29.06.2014)

Written by altahrir

June 29, 2014 at 7:08 pm

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Prominent female activist killed in Libya

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Mideast Libya

In this March 2014 image released by the National Dialogue Preparatory Commission, Salwa Bugaighis, lawyer and rights activist, poses for a photograph during a meeting in Tripoli, Libya. One of Libya’s most prominent female activists was assassinated in the restive eastern city of Benghazi when gunmen stormed her house, the state news agency reported Thursday, in slaying that stunned human rights advocates. Bugaighis, was at the forefront in the 2011 uprising against dictator Moammar Gadhafi. She was among the most outspoken voices against militiamen and Islamic extremists who have run rampant in the country since Gadhafi’s fall

 — A prominent Libyan activist who had become an international face of her strife-torn country’s efforts to build a democracy was assassinated by gunmen who stormed her home in the restive eastern city of Benghazi shortly after casting her ballot in the country’s parliamentary elections, police said Thursday.

The slaying of Salwa Bugaighis stunned residents of her home city, politicians, activists and diplomats, among whom she was well known. International rights groups called on authorities to investigate, something many Libyans believe won’t be possible amid widespread fear of militias.

Bugaighis, a lawyer and rights activist, was at the forefront in the 2011 uprising against dictator Moammar Gadhafi. After his ouster, she became one of the most outspoken voices against militiamen and Islamic extremists who have run rampant in the country.

The identity of the gunmen was not immediately known. Islamic radical militias, however, have been blamed for frequent assassinations of secular activists, judges, moderate clerics, policemen and soldiers in Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city.

Bugaighis was shot in the head and stabbed multiple times on Wednesday night, just hours after casting her ballot, police spokesman Ibrahim al-Sharaa said. She was rushed to a hospital where she died of her wounds, he said.

Her husband, who is a member of the Benghazi municipal council and was also at home at the time, has disappeared since the attack and is believed to have been abducted, al-Sharaa said.

Earlier in the day, Bugaighis had been speaking by phone from her home on a Libyan TV channel about fighting raging near her neighborhood, sparked when militants attacked army troops deploying to protect polling stations.

On her Facebook page, she posted a photo taken out her window showing what appeared to be militants in fatigues with a black banner just outside her house.

“These are people who want to foil elections,” she told Al-Nabaa network as rattling gunfire interrupted her call. “Benghazi has been always defiant, and always will be despite the pain and fear. It will succeed.”

In the evening, five gunmen broke into her home, the house’s guard told police, according to al-Sharaa. They first asked about her son Wael, then shot the guard in the leg, and broke into the house. The guard said he heard gunfire from inside.

Bugaighis’ house is located in an area where two powerful Islamic militias are operating — Rafallah Sahati and Ansar al-Shariah, according to al-Sharaa. The latter is a prime suspect in the Sept 11, 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi that killed the ambassador and three other Americans.

Bugaighis had only just come to Benghazi from the capital, Tripoli, to cast her ballot, Hanaa Mohammed, a family friend, told Libya Ahrar TV. She had fled with her family some time back to Jordan because of death threats against them. The son, Wael, survived an abduction attempt earlier in the year.

More recently, she and her husband came back and were staying in Tripoli, though their two children — including Wael — remained in Jordan, a family friend said.

Hours after her killing, the headquarters of a 60-member panel tasked to draft the constitution came under attack by a car bomb in the eastern city of al-Baida, al-Sharaa said. No one was killed in the attack, but the historic building used under the monarchy as parliament’s headquarters suffered damage.

In Washington, U.S. National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice called the assassination “brutal and senseless.” She said she met Bugaighis in November 2011, soon after Gadhafi’s fall.

“I was deeply impressed by her courage, leadership and dedication to building a peaceful, democratic Libya,” Rice said.

Human Rights Watch paid tribute to Bugaighis and said that with her killing, “the original idealism of the 2011 uprising that overthrew Gaddafi’s tyranny has received another crushing blow, and many Libyan women have lost a role model.”

The European Union and United Nations missions in Libya also expressed shock and condemnation, and Amnesty International called on authorities to investigate.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Bugaighis “a courageous and respected human rights defender” and urged Libyans to “refrain from violence.”

Bugaighis was a well-known figure in Benghazi, where her family is among the oldest and most prominent. Since the civil war, she has represented Libya at international conferences.

During Gadhafi’s rule, she represented families of prisoners in Tripoli’s notorious Abu Selim prison, pressing the government for the truth of what happened to 1,200 prisoners who disappeared, most of them Islamists from Benghazi.

Bugaighis was a member of the National Transitional Council, the rebels’ political leadership body during the 8-month civil war against Gadhafi. Since then, she was deputy head of the National Dialogue Preparatory Commission, which is trying to work out reconciliation among the country’s rival factions, tribes and communities.

“All supporters of the truth are threatened,” said Hassan al-Amin, another prominent activist and former head of the human rights committee in parliament, who fled abroad because of death threats.

Libyans voted on Wednesday in the country’s second parliament elections, hoping for stability after three years of chaos.

During her interview with Al-Nabaa, as shelling hit her neighborhood and smoke rose nearby, she urged people to vote, saying she hoped for a new parliament without the current domination of Islamists.

“I call upon our people in Benghazi to be steadfast and patient because elections must be accomplished.”

(Source / 26.06.2014)


Written by altahrir

June 26, 2014 at 9:50 pm

Posted in Revolution Libye

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Libyan court rules PM’s appointment ‘illegal’

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A file picture taken on May 21, 2014 shows Libya’s Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteeq holding a press conference in the capital Tripoli

Libya’s Supreme Constitutional Court ruled on Monday that the controversial appointment of the Muslim Brotherhood backed Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteeq was illegal.

“The ruling decided … the appointment of Mr Ahmed Maiteeq as premier of the interim government was unconstitutional,” state television reported.

The decision is likely to deepen Libya’s political crisis at a time when renegade Gen. Khalifa Hafter is waging an offensive against Islamist militias. Hafter has warned he will detain Islamist lawmakers, accusing them of financing militias which he blames for much of Libya’s chaos.

Last month, parliament elected Maiteeq in a chaotic vote which had been disputed by some lawmakers and judicial experts. the dispute prompted incumbent Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni to refuse to hand over the post until the judiciary decided on the matter.

Libya has sunk into chaos in recent past years following the downfall and the killing of longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in the country’s 2011 civil war.

(Source / 09.06.2014)

Written by altahrir

June 9, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Posted in Revolution Libye

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Red Cross suspends Libya operation after murder

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Red Cross suspends Libya operation after murder

Michael Greub, the Swiss head of a sub-delegation of the ICRC, was shot in the central coastal town of Sirte on Wednesday as he left a meeting with two colleagues

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is suspending operations in Libya while it investigates the killing of a staff member there, a spokesman said on Thursday.

Michael Greub, the Swiss head of a sub-delegation of the ICRC, was shot in the central coastal town of Sirte on Wednesday as he left a meeting with two colleagues in an unmarked car.

Anarchy is spreading in the North African oil-producing country where violence and political infighting have reigned since the 2011 uprising that ousted Muammar Gaddafi, and militias operate at will, beyond central government authority.

“It’s a bit difficult to say if the organisation was targeted or our colleague because he was a Westerner. We just need to pause the operation,” ICRC spokesman Wolde-Gabriel Saugeron said in Geneva.

The humanitarian agency has more than 160 people in the country, bringing aid to people who have been wounded, displaced or traumatised by conflict, and supporting the work of volunteers and ambulances belonging to the Libyan Red Crescent.

Saugeron said it was too early to say what the agency might do in the longer term.

He dismissed as “speculation” the suggestion that the ICRC could pull out of Libya altogether. He said there were a “range of possibilities” if it felt under threat of further attacks, but hoped it could resume operations as soon as possible.

Gunmen also fired a grenade at the prime minister’s office and tried to kill a renegade general in attacks on Wednesday.

The ICRC flag flew at half-mast at its Geneva headquarters on Thursday in honour of Greub, 42, who previously worked in Iraq, Sudan, Yemen and Gaza.

(Source / 05.06.2014)

Written by altahrir

June 5, 2014 at 7:55 pm

Posted in Revolution Libye

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Libya: Islamist militias seize PM’s office

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A file picture taken on May 21, 2014 shows Libya’s Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteeq holding a press conference in the capital Tripoli

Libyan militias loyal to new Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteeq, who is backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, stormed the prime minister’s office on Monday ahead of a planned Supreme Court session to adjudicate the dispute between him and interim Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni.

Al-Thinni last week refused to hand power to Maiteeq because of questions over his appointment, and demanded divided lawmakers resolve the political standoff.

Thinni referred to a decision by a justice ministry legal department that ruled Maiteeq’s election early this month was illegal.

The Supreme Court was due to reconsider the case on Thursday, but before it does, Maiteeq’s allies moved Monday to impose a fait accompli.

The Grand Mufti Sheikh Sadik Al-Ghariani, known to be close to Islamist lawmakers and Maiteeq, issued a fatwa, or religious edict, demanding support for Maiteeq.

Islamist militias from the Libya Shield Force were quick to respond, storming the prime minister’s office. They military move was followed by statement from Maiteeq’s media office saying that the prime minister would address the country on a state television later in the day.

The developments came as violence escalated in the eastern city of Benghazi between the Libyan army loyal to renegade general Khalifa Haftar and Islamist militias, including the al-Qaeda-linked Ansar al-Shariah.

Combat helicopters belonging to forces loyal to Haftar – who wants to purge Libya of Islamist militants – supported the army in the worst fighting in months.

At least 20 people were killed and 67 wounded in Benghazi alone, hospital doctors said. Some 18 wounded were reported in al-Marj, a town east of Benghazi, where fighting also broke out, medical sources said.

Libya is in protracted turmoil three years after the NATO-backed war that ousted Muammar Qaddafi, with Islamist, anti-Islamist, regional and political factions locked in conflict.

The Ansar al-Shariah militant group attacked a camp on Monday belonging to army special forces, residents there said. Haftar’s forces joined the battle taking place in residential areas with frightened families staying indoors. Schools and universities were closed, Reuters reported.

Special army troops were also seen moving reinforcements to the area of fighting in the west of Libya’s second-largest city.

Haftar started a campaign to battle Islamists two weeks ago. Since then, public life has come almost to a standstill in the city, home to several oil companies. Its airport is closed.

On Sunday, a warplane belonging to Haftar bombed a university faculty while trying to attack a nearby Islamist camp. Two people were wounded.

The government, rival militia brigades and political factions rejected Haftar’s offensive against militants as an
attempted coup after his forces also stormed parliament a week ago.

Ansar al-Shariah, listed as a terrorist group by Washington, warned the United States last week against interfering in Libya’s crisis and accused Washington of backing Haftar.

Qaddafi’s one-man rule, followed by three years of unrest, have left Libya with few functioning institutions and no real national army to impose authority on the competing militias and brigades of former rebels who have become power-brokers.

(Source / 02.06.2014)

Written by altahrir

June 2, 2014 at 9:47 pm

Posted in Revolution Libye

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Libya crisis: At least 18 dead after clashes in Benghazi

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At least 18 people have been killed in continuing violence around the eastern city of Benghazi.

The fighting came during an offensive by General Khalifa Hifter against Islamist groups. The clashes near Benghazi University started late on Sunday and continued overnight, forcing school exams to be cancelled. Gunfire and grenades damaged homes, according to witnesses.

Helicopters attacked camps and strongholds of Islamist militias Monday in eastern Libya, and militiamen responded by firing rocket-propelled grenades and anti-aircraft guns at the attacking troops.

A former Gaddafi-era army chief, Hifter has rallied support from the country’s weakened military, its anti-Islamist politicians, tribes and diplomats, vowing to crush the Islamist militias he blames for Libya’s instability.

The clashes started late Sunday and continued overnight, forcing the Education Ministry to cancel high school exams.

Witnesses said the clashes were near Benghazi University and that gunfire and grenades damaged homes, witnesses said.

In Benghazi’s southern districts, citizens set up checkpoints to prevent rival forces from taking shelter as shops closed, witnesses said.

Residents have also been unable to leave as the airport has been closed since Hifter’s offensive began three weeks ago. Traveling by road has become risky because of the violence.

Mohammed al-Hegazi, a spokesman for Hifter, called on residents to stay away from the fighting. He accused Islamist militias of firing at houses and civilians.

“This is not a football match. This is a war. People must stay away so they won’t be used as human shields,” he said.

(Source / 02.06.2014)

Written by altahrir

June 2, 2014 at 8:38 pm

Posted in Revolution Libye

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Al-Qaeda urges Libyans to fight Hiftar

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General Khalifa Haftar holds a news conference in Abyar, a small town to the east of Benghazi, on Saturday
TRIPOLI: Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb on Sunday urged Libyans to fight a rogue general pressing an offensive against militias in the country’s east, labeling him an “enemy of Islam.”

Just hours after the AQIM statement, ex-general Khalifa Hiftar’s forces launched fresh air raids on radicals in Benghazi, witnesses said, without any casualties reported.

“We call on you to unite to remove the symbol of treachery and apostasy, Khalifa Hiftar, and the supporters of (late dictator Moamer) Qaddafi who are under his command,” AQIM said in its online statement.

“…The traitor Hiftar has launched a war against Islam on the pretext of fighting terrorism,” it said. “We warn our Libyan brothers that the criminal Hiftar is carrying out a crusader plan against Shariah…”

(Source / 01.06.2014)

Written by altahrir

June 1, 2014 at 9:17 pm

Posted in Revolution Libye

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