This is the Airone, a fishing boat from Mazara del Vallo, in Sicily. It was boarded by armed militias early this morning in international waters and taken in tow towards a Libyan port (probably Maserata). The crew were resisting being towed and attempting to free the boat when the Italian navy turned up after the Italian department of Fisheries had protested to its counterpart in Libya but had been told the Libyan government knew nothing of the taking of the Airone.
A number of prisoners have been secured and the fishing boat is now under escort on its way to Lampedusa. The fishermen were determined not to be taken by Libyan militias whose reputation ranges from vicious to murderous.
This incident follows yesterday's arrest by the carabinieri of just-landed islamic 'migrants' who had thrown Christian refugees into the sea, where they drowned.
The evening RAI news reports that the first Italian military resource to arrive at the beleaguered Airone was a helicopter of the Italian Marines, rapidly followed by a small, fast boat full of marines arriving from the Italian naval intervention vessel (so useful these helicopter- troop-carrying, fast, naval resources compared with aircraft carriers). The fishermen then finished off overpowering the islamic whatever they ares -government (denied) or terrorist - with a bit of help from their friends, and sailed for home and civilisation.
The Italian state response to fundamentalist islam showing its ugly face so close to mainland Italy, within Italy's Near Abroad, has been a physical blockade of some of its north African coast. Particular protection has been given to energy supply installations both on-land and off-shore (as well, Italy is still scooping desperate refugees from islamic horror from watery graves: 1500 last week alone). * This has been done with little fuss and great speed. And has left international organisations and the international Great and Good to scurry about having talks and consultations and all the rest of it with whomsoever they choose. In the meantime, while the UN et al. faff about, islamics have taken their attentions and threats off to the cultural vandalism of undefended human heritage in which they so excel. Rome, it seems, might need a little longer after all.
Rome is gathering other forces: not the State's naval and air coverage operating in the Mediterranean - but Voice. Politics and religion being the same thing, opposing political primitives vested in religious garb is best undertaken by the religiously experienced. The Christian Church knows what has to be dealt with - it moves its own religious primitives on into a more modern world after all. In naming the three 20th century genocides for what they were - the slaughter of peoples for primitive politico/ideological beliefs and goals - Pope Francis has placed fundamentalist islam within its proper modern category, the category of imperialism, nazism, and stalinism.
A Jesuit pope is just what is needed to take on islam's imams in the religious end of this political spectrum. Rome has some experience in the assertion of imperial power too.
UPDATE 14 April 2015
8,400 refugees have been saved from drowning in the last four days by the Italian navy and the Italian coastguard (RAI News at lunchtime).
Another 400 souls are feared drowned this afternoon (14 April). The evening RAI news reports some people have been rescued from sinking, unseaworthy boats but there were just too many of them to save them all in time in the winter sea.
The Synagogue in central Florence, standing in its pretty gardens, all lit up like the Pontevecchio ( as they say here) had its usual pair of soldiers at the main gates inside their glass sentry-box as we walked home after dinner. There are always sentries at the Synagogue.
What made me jump was a whole patrol of troops rounding the corner of piazza d'Azeglio, carrying submachine guns - in Firenze per bene, patrolling the elegant streets and palazzi of the bourgeoisie.
The Prefect has authorised patrolling by the regular army in central Florence at 'points of particular vulnerability': so that'll be the entire city within the viali then. But what about Poggio Imperiale, the Certosa, San Domenico.....better make that the Province. The Prefects of Siena, Arezzo, Pisa .....will have to look to their own cities, provinces. There aren't going to be enough soldiers to go round though. The Florentine patrols are from the 187th Fanteria based in Livorno (at least they're not from Pisa). All the Italian marines, sailors and airmen are patrolling the Mediterranean. This country is at war with barbarians.
The ruling party in Zambia, the Patriotic Front (PF) 'yesterday issued a strong warning
against High Court judge Chitabo of grave consequences if he does not
reverse the decision to stay the tribunal appointed to probe Mutembo
Nchito', (Nichito is the Director of Public Prosecutions, ed.). The PF has also instructed these PF Youth Cadres
to prevent the reinstated DPP from reaching his offices (reports the Zambian Watchdog). Last night a PF 'delegation' also visited the house of the High Court judge who issued the order to suspend the tribunal while its constitutionality was considered.
The judge has promised to reconsider the matter this morning.
The President of
Zambia, on whose instruction the tribunal was instituted and who set its terms of reference and membership, as well as suspending the DPP during its enquiries - not to mention appointing another DPP, perhaps more 'sympathetic' to his Executive - is currently hospitalised in Johannesburg after collapsing at a women's gala march-past in Lusaka.
UPDATE Having reconsidered his suspension of the tribunal of enquiry into the Zambian DPP, this morning the judge reinstated it and reinstated the suspension of the DPP. Well, he would, wouldn't he.
Meanwhile the President of Zambia is to be discharged from the clinic in Pretoria to which he had been transferred from hospital in Johannesburg, and advised to proceed to Pakistan should he wish to undertake any further treatment, or to return home. While the US ambassador to Zambia has denied that he has referred to the President having health issues the media is reporting serious concerns on the president's condition. So Zambia has a newly elected president already hospitalized and out of the country, a vice-president out of the country on a jaunt to the UN and Japan (Japan?), and an acting president in Lusaka swearing in high officers of the state, the executive, and the civil service. Sata's demise in late 2014 is beginning to look positively plain sailing in comparison.
To lose one president may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness. To lose three might turn thoughts to witchcraft.
Edgar Lungu, the newly 'elected' Zambian president is being exported for medical treatment unavailable in his own country, having collapsed at a Women's Day march past. Frankly a legion of Angels probably would collapse during a Wimmin's Day march past: but he'd been standing there for only an hour before the legs gave way. Perhaps he's a wimp needing the training Elizabeth II can call upon; even in advanced age there's no collapsing on parade from her. The instant way in which Zambians are wishing him well and offering their sympathy to his relatives and affines (there's something about African politics that makes for an onset of anthropological accuracy) is courteous, patriotic even, but displays faint irritation, doubtless brought on by a considerable history in Zambian politics of presidents dying in office.
Those following the goings-on in Zambia since President Sata died in office last year (he too had been exported, in his case first to the US and then to London for medical treatment unavailable in his own country) will be aware that the vice-President is constitutionally expected to take over when the President can't manage the job. But the vice President is at the Wimmin's Day knees-up in New York. Mrs Lungu, First Lady of Zambia, cancelled her flight to the same freebie at the last minute, after the incident at the march past; she cannot fulfil her speaking engagements at the UN. The question is will Inonge Wina be persuaded to take Ms Lungu's place in New York or insist on rushing back to Lusaka to take up her constitutional role as acting president while Edgar is indisposed and out of the country? The Zambian constitution is in the throes of reform, not least in ending the requirement for an election within 90 days of a new president for the residue of the fixed term of office of the deceased. What a pity there has been so little sense of urgency, particularly with the swathe being cut through sitting presidents. And what a pity the Zambians couldn't leave Guy Scott to act as president until the scheduled presidential elections in 2016.
Apart from the collapse in copper prices, the outburst of borrowing since Lungu got his hands on the presidency, the fall in the Zambian currency, the dam could burst. Meanwhile Zambian Watchdog offers a fine, blow by blow account of every-day politics in southern Africa.
Zambian vice-president Inonge Wina cuts short her New York shindig to get back to Zambia. But will the Instruments of Power have been handed to someone else before she gets there?
She didn't make it back soon enough:
President of Zambia Edgar Chagwa Lungu has with immediate effect appointed Hon. Ngosa
Simbyakula to act as President during his absence; Hon. Simbyakula will
also act as Minister of Defence and Minister of Justice. That sounds like everything is covered, particularly as the Director of Public Prosecutions has also just been suspended with immediate effect and is now the subject of a tribunal enquiry under various sections of the Zambian constitution.
The call by the Luxembourgeois Juncker for a European Union army to 'defend European values' is so offensive at so many levels that perhaps it's simplest to stop at the first: what is needed is a not an army but a navy. An army will be useful later but right now ruling the waves (and by modern extension the airspace over the waves and nearby coastal strips) has priority. As a comment on the FT noted most European armies are well-armed pension funds.
That the Italian prime minister has more political sense than most presidents has been demonstrated amply over the last couple of years in his own country but his evaluation of what is needed in the Mediterranean and who can offer it is a lesson in realpolitik. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation yearning for lumbering about in tanks on the central and eastern European plains and being rude to Russia is just so 20th century; an exemplar of the well-armed pension fund. If President Juncker (lots of presidents these days) wants to 'defend European values' he needs to stop playing eastern front 1940s games and build some ships and helicopters. Otherwise Europe will just have to hope Russia can provide.