UNHRC: Polisario camps becoming a recruiting ground for terrorists and traffickers
A report released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has found that refugee camps run by the separatist Polisario Front near Tindouf, Algeria, may have become a recruiting ground for terrorists and traffickers in North Africa.
Reports spanning back to 2009 show Polisario involvement in drugs and arms trafficking throughout the Sahel and Sahara; armed incursions in Mali; mercenary work under Gadhafi in Libya; and kidnappings and collaboration with AQIM. According to reports, the Polisario camps in Algeria have become a recruiting ground for AQIM, a hub for Polisario traffickers, and a threat to the region. Analysts are concerned about an “arc of instability” stretching across Africa, linking militants from AQIM, Boko Haram in Nigeria, al-Shabaab in Somalia, and the Polisario. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recently warned, “inaction could be catastrophic.”
Since 1990, international support for the camps has exceeded $1 billion. The UNHRC report recommends that support for the camps be used for durable solutions to resettle refugees, remove security threats, and improve humanitarian conditions.
Leaked report reveals Bahraini bid to replenish tear gas
A leaked report has revealed that in June, Bahrain’s interior ministry tendered bids for the provision of 1.6 million tear gas projectiles, 90,000 tear gas grenades and 145,000 stun grenades. The bid would replace nearly all of Bahrain’s projectiles used since 2011. The document does not reveal how much money Bahrain is prepared to spend on replenishing its supplies.
Bahraini forces have used tear gas extensively since 2011, as the minority Sunni government struggles faces daily low-level confrontations from a predominantly Shia population. Tear gas is among the most commonly-used methods to disperse protesters. In 2012, the US barred exports of tear gas to Bahrain, citing human rights concerns. Activists claim South Korean companies may be preparing to meet Bahrain’s tear gas requirements. The rise in global activism has spurred sales for non-lethal weapons as governments shift spending from counter terrorism to counter-activist policies.
Bombings in Suez, Sinai; police sent to trial
Two people were killed, and five wounded, when militants set off four roadside bombs targeting a security convoy in the Sinai Peninsula on 22 October. The convoy was travelling from Rafah, on the Gaza border, towards El Arish. The militants then exchanged fire with the security forces and fled. No one has yet claimed responsibility. The same day, militant group Ansar Beit Al Maqdis claimed responsibility for a car bombing on 19 October in Ismailiya that wounded six.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s public prosecutor has sent policemen to trial on charges of manslaughter over the deaths of 37 Islamist prisoners that were tear-gassed in a transport truck in August. The trials will be the first of policemen accused of killings in a massive crackdown of pro-Muslim Brotherhood supporters since army’s July 3 removal of president Mohamed Morsi.
Sectarian violence continues
At least 17 people were killed and 20 wounded in bombings and shootings on 22 October, when Iraqi forces clashed with an Al Qaeda militant hideout in the Himreen Mountains. The clashes resulted in the killing of four militants and the capture of seven others, all of whom were wanted for terrorism charges. A helicopter pilot was also wounded by the gunmen during the operation.
Earlier in the day, a suicide bomber blew up an explosive-laden car at the entrance of the home of Waqass Adnan, mayor of the city of Aana, some 250 km west of Baghdad. The blast was followed by a coordinated attack on the guards of the house, in an attempt to break in. In the process, four policemen and the brother of the mayor were killed, and four policemen were wounded. The mayor himself unharmed.
Meanwhile, in separate incidents, another suicide bomber rammed his explosive-packed car into the entrance of Aana police station and blew it up, killing two policemen and wounding three others. Gunmen fired mortars at a police station in Rawa city, west of Baghdad, killing a policeman and wounding seven others; a farmer was killed and his relative wounded when gunmen fired at them near a bridge northeast of Baquba, and a worker in a Sunni mosque was wounded by gunmen who fired at him in front of his house, about 20 km northeast of Baquba.
Sectarian tension between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in the Diyala province has increased, resulting in violence and reprisal killings. Sunnis and Shiites accuse each other of supporting extremists and militiamen. Across the nation Iraq is witnessing its worst escalation of violence in recent years, causing analysts to fear that the country is returning to the civil conflict that peaked in 2006 and 2007, when monthly death toll sometimes exceeded 3,000.
Missiles from Syria Target Eastern Lebanon City
On 21 October, four rockets launched from Syria hit Hermel. The source was unable to confirm casualties. Hermel and other border areas of Lebanon have suffered frequent attacks since Syria’s uprising escalated into a civil war, sometimes impacting neighbouring Lebanon.
The eastern Lebanese city is a Hezbollah stronghold. Hezbollah, which supports the Syrian government led by Bashar al Assad, has been openly involved in Syria’s war, sending fighters to support the loyalist army on the battlefield.
Lebanon had been dominated politically and militarily by Syria for 30 years, until 2005. The country is heavily divided on pro and anti Assad lines. As a result, the war in Syria has served to escalate Lebanon’s sectarian and political divisions.
Disabled veterans break into Libyan parliament building
On October 22, several disabled former rebels from the Libyan War broke into the parliament building and vandalised parts of the building. The event occurred on the day before the second anniversary of the rebel victory over Gadhafi forces, days after the dictator was killed in Sirte.
The protesters came from the town of Ajdabiya, between Tripoli and eastern Libya. The city was a major battleground in the 2011 war.
An MP stated, “They got into the Congress chamber and smashed some fittings.” The chamber was empty at the time but the act was decried as a “new assault on a state institution.” The vandalism is the latest in a series of security breaches at the General National Congress building.
In an effort to increase security and gain acceptance from rebel groups, the government has given some militia units varying degrees of official recognition. However, their control over the units is minimal. Analysts are concerned about the interim government’s ability to assert its control over militias and security throughout the country. Former rebels units, some sympathetic to Al-Qaeda, have refused to surrender their arms.
Saudi Arabia announces “major shift” in relationship with United States
On 22 October, Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan told European diplomats that the kingdom will make a “major shift” in its relations with the United States.
The prince criticised actions and inactions taken by the United States, including failing to act effectively on the Syria crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; growing closer to the government in Tehran; and failing to back Saudi support for the Bahraini government when it crushed an anti-government revolt during the 2011 uprising. As a result, Prince Bandar has stated that he plans to limit interaction with the US, reportedly adding that there would be no further coordination with the United States over the fighting in Syria.
The report is consistent with Saudi Arabia’s reasons for refusal of a seat on the UN Security Council as a rotating member. Though they have not openly broken ties with the US, Saudi leaders have been quietly critical of several recent US actions in the Middle East.
Prince Bandar’s announcement marks a serious setback to the relationship between the two nations; it spotlights that Saudi and US interests are not aligned on several top issues driving instability in the Middle East. In particular, the Saudi’s point to the US shift toward a containment strategy regarding Iran’s nuclear program, and the US goal of driving Assad out while leaving a Baathist government in Damascus. The Saudi’s have vocally stated that both Assad and his government should be replaced. The US treats Syrian issues as separate from Iranian nuclear issues. The Saudis perceive them as inseparable. The differences in these world views are deep, and unlikely to be overcome easily. The change in stance could result in a strong shift in relations between the Middle East and the West.
Snipers targeting heavily pregnant women
Snipers are playing a “targeting game,” and heavily pregnant women are on the target list. David Nott, a British surgeon who volunteers with charity Syria Relief, says that up to 90% of the surgeries he performs daily are for sniper wounds. In the case of pregnant women, “Most of the children removed were seven, eight, nine month’s gestation, which meant it was fairly obvious to anybody that these women were pregnant.” He added that young children are also being targeted, and on some days, the wounds were “suspiciously similar”, with several victims coming in with shots to the same part of the body on the same day. The similarities suggest a game between the snipers.
Knott says he was told by other local doctors that snipers may receive little presents for people they’d shot during the day.
Mourning period announced for downed officers; Transition negotiations continue
In a televised speech on 23 October, Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki announced three days of national mourning for eight officers killed by suspected militants in the central Sidi Bouzidi province. The announcement was made on the second anniversary of the country’s first free elections. Members of the National Guard were securing a building in the village of Sidi Ali Bououn after receiving a tip-off that a suspicious group was hiding there. A gun battle ensued, killing both security forces and militants.
Marzouki said the militants were retaliating for attacks on 17 October, when nine suspected militants were killed. Authorities say the militants had carried out an attack on police patrols.
The interior ministry believes that the militants belong to the Salafist Ansar al-Sharia group, who were linked to the murders of prominent left-wing figure Chokri Belaid in February and opposition politician Mohammed Brahmi in July.
Their deaths triggered mass protests against the government, and crippled progress between the ruling party and its opposition. While Ennahda condemned the killings, the opposition accused the leading party of failing to rein in radical Islamists.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Ali Larayedh addressed the nation to confirm that the government would resign after talks with the opposition on appointing a caretaker administration were complete. Larayedh stated that Ennahda, the current ruling party in Tunisia, is committed to the “principle of relinquishing power in line with the different phases envisaged in the roadmap”.
Larayedh’s speech came following anti-government protests in Tunis, who demanded that the Islamist-led ruling coalition government leave immediately. Ennahda has been accused of stalling talks in order to maintain power in the government. Both Ennahda and the opposition have set a three weeks deadline to appoint the interim cabinet, and a one month deadline to adopt a new constitution, electoral laws and set an election date.
Tunisia’s opposition alliance, the National Salvation Front (NSF) has called for country wide protests in all regions, and particularly in the capital, Tunis, on 23 October. The opposition believes that the Ennahda party is wilfully delaying the formation of a new government, and purposefully stalling negotiations.
On 5 October, the Ennahda party agreed to a political roadmap which would work toward the creation of a new caretaker government within three weeks. The roadmap includes the creation and passing of a new constitution and electoral laws, and a timetable for parliamentary and presidential elections. The transition date had been set for Sunday, 26 October.
However, on 6 October, Ennahda issued a statement calling for “the continuation of the current government until the completion of the constitutional tasks of the Assembly.” This statement directly contradicts the roadmap.
Prime Minister Ali Laarayedh has demanded four conditions be met before the current government is dissolved: the ratification of Tunisia’s new constitution, the reform of election oversight committees, the publication of new election procedures, and a clear date to be set for and parliamentary elections.
The Prime Minister insists that these demands are to ensure that the transition possible is smooth and free of political vacuum. To this end, the date of resignation of the current government was left open by Laarayedh, who said, “There is not a definitive time yet for the resignation of the current government.”
The NSF has accused the Ennahda party of attempting to buy time and failing to live up to their commitment. In response, Laarayedh said the problem with the transition is not the resignation of the government, but the need to maintain administrative continuity and “creating a solid foundation for a democratic environment.”
Complicating Tunisia’s political crisis is a security battle, particularly against armed Islamic extremist movements. The hard-core Salafist group, Ansar Al-Sharia, has been accused of carrying out the murder of Mohamed Brahmi, a left-wing MP, in July. The assassination put political progress at a standstill and deepened the political crisis.
Further, on 16 October, two Tunisian National Guard barracks on the border with Algeria were attacked by terrorist groups. The barracks are part of an advanced border monitoring system. While there have been no reports of casualties among the guards, the areas where the attacks were conducted are some of the most critical in the anti-terrorism system set up between Tunisia and Algeria.
Opposition leaders accuse Ennahda of failing to develop plans to ensure the safety of Tunisians. Laarayedh said that the situation was complex, and that part of the problem was the weakened government in neighbouring Libya, which has failed to mitigate smuggling and illegal weapons trade. The prime minister denied the existence of any accurate information on the quantity of weapons trafficked into Tunisia from Libya.
The scheduled date of the protests, October 23rd marks the two year anniversary of the election of the National Constitution Assembly. The opposition party has also accused Ennahda of mismanaging the economy and failing to improve living standards; these were the initial causes of the uprising in Tunisia in 2010-2011.
An intercepted conference call between more than 20 al Qaeda senior leadership and representatives prompted the US to close 22 embassies through 10 August, as information drawn from the call hinted that the terrorist organization was in the final stages of preparing for an attack.
A US intelligence official indicated that the conference all included members from Nigeria’s Boko Haram, the Pakistani Taliban, al Qaeda in Iraq, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, al Qaeda affiliates from Uzbekistan, and al Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula. The intercept provided insight into how al Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, manages the international terrorist organization.
During the call, al-Zawahiri announced that Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the leader of al Qaeda’s affiliate based in Yemen, had been promoted to “Ma’sul al-Amm” (general manager), making Wuhayshi the second highest position in the network, giving him operational control of Qaeda throughout the Muslim world, and effectively moving the centre of gravity for the organisation to the Middle East. Leaders of the call also indicated that a team or teams were already in place an attack. This signal prompted the closure of US embassies throughout the Muslim world. In Yemen, the UK Foreign Office (FCO) has temporarily closed the British embassy and “strongly urges” all British nationals to leave the country.
Meanwhile, Yemeni authorities issued a list of 25 wanted al-Qaida suspects on 5 August. Officials believe the group was planning terrorist attacks in Sana’a and other cities across the country.
Algeria Enters Security Agreements with Tunisia, Libya
Algeria, a country known for being staunchly autonomous in security actions, has made agreements this week to work with other nations in the Maghreb. In the first move, The Algerian government has entered a bilateral agreement with Tunisia to eliminate terrorist threats along their shared border.
The Tunisian army has conducted attacks in the remote Jebel Chaambi area, and Algeria has deployed 10,000 soldiers along the other side of the border to monitor and prevent prevent terrorists from escaping into Algeria during the Tunisian siege.
Joint operations will be launched in phases on the ground and from the air, and the two nations will share intelligence. Intelligence services from both nations are particularly concerned as to whether the al-Qaeda allied group, Movement for Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), has moved from Mali to Tunisia.
However, it is likely that the terrorist group has moved to Libya, where they have the best opportunity to procure weapons of various sizes.
To that end, on 6 August, Libya and Algeria have entered an agreement to form a joint commission to fight terrorism and trafficking in the Maghreb. Algerian Prime Minister Abdel Malek Sellal has called on countries in the Maghreb to work together to secure borders from terrorists, and trafficking, including human, drugs and arms trafficking, which he said have reached ”alarming levels”.
On the international relations front, Algeria has also agreed to expand and deepen its relationship with Iran. Newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced, “Iran is completely ready to expand and deepen bilateral relations with Algeria in economic, cultural and political fields and believes that settlement of the regional issues needs the partnership of the countries of the region.”
President Rouhani was inaugurated into office in Iran on 4 August. Algeria will be holding elections next year.
Bahrain’s New “Anti-Protest” Laws Draw Ire from UN
Bahrain enacted stricter penalties for protests on 31 July, which include increasing the detention period for committing or inciting an act of terrorism. Critics suspect that the law, which also includes penalties for sit-ins, rallies, and gatherings, will be used against peaceful protesters.
Anti-government rallies in Bahrain have been planned for 14 August, despite the new legislation. The UN has warned that the new laws could result in “serious consequences” to the impact of human rights.
Political Mediation Talks Stalled
7 August: As delegates from the US, European Union, Qatar and the UAE have come to Egypt in an attempt to negotiate an end to Egypt’s political crisis, interim Egyptian President Adly Monsour has announced that mediation efforts have failed.
While visiting in hopes of mediation, US Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham urged the Egyptian military to release political prisoners in order to start a national dialog —a statement echoed by Qatari delegates— and also told the interim government that they consider the removal of Morsi to be a military coup – a term that the Obama administration had resisted using.
In a news conference last week, Senator Graham said, “The people who are in charge were not elected. The people who were elected are in jail. The status quo is not acceptable.” Calling the removal of Morsi a “coup” triggers a cutoff to the $1.3 billion in US aid that goes to Egypt each year. However, McCain said that “cutting off aid would be the wrong signal at the wrong time.” The Obama administration has not officially commented on the statements, but sources indicate that the US Administration is distancing itself from the senators’ statements. Reports indicate that the two Senators have left Egypt.
The statement caused outrage in the Egyptian media, and drew a strong response from Interim President Adly Monsour, who called it “an unacceptable interference in internal policies”.
Egyptian authorities allowed the delegates to meet with imprisoned Brotherhood leaders, hoping to gain peaceful solution. However, the interim government has now become determined to proceed with its own road map, which includes elections in nine months. On 5 August, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and European Union envoy Bernardino Leon met with Brotherhood deputy leader Khairat El-Shater in the prison where he is held. The delegates urged Shater to recognize that there was no realistic prospect of Morsi being reinstated, and asked for the Brotherhood’s attempts to work toward political compromise. Shater reportedly insisted they should be talking to Morsi, and the only solution was the “reversal of the coup.”
The announcement of failed talks also foreshadows a forced dispersal of pro-Morsi protesters, as sources say the government is also preparing to declare that the Muslim Brotherhood protests against the army’s overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi are non-peaceful. This is a critical signal that the government intends to remove the protesters by force, particularly in the Rabaa and al-Nahda protest camps in Cairo. Last week, security forces promised protesters safe exit if they left the camps, but warned their patience was limited.
Nearly 300 people have been killed in political violence since Morsi’s removal, including 80 killed by Egyptian security forces on 27 July.
Iran Prepared to Resume Nuclear Talks with World Leaders
In his first news conference as President, Hassan Rouhani announced that Iran is ready for “serious” and swift talks regarding the nation’s controversial nuclear program. “We are ready to engage in serious and substantial talks without wasting time,” Rouhani said, and added that Iran’s interactions with the West should be based on “talks, not threats.”
The U.S. and its allies believe Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon. The Iranian government insists that the program is meant for peaceful operations, such as power generation and medical isotopes. Rouhani, a former top nuclear negotiator and a moderate cleric, has raised hopes among foreign diplomats. Several rounds of talks during Ahmedinijad’s tenure failed, resulting in heavy sanctions which decimated the nation’s economy as oil exports came to a standstill, and the nation suffered blocks on international banking transactions. Rouhani has made it his priority to work toward the sanctions against Iran lifted, despite the fact that Iranian policy rests primarily with the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
On 6 August, European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, called on Rouhani to schedule “meaningful talks” on the nuclear issue as soon as possible, adding that the five permanent UN Security Council nations, as well as Germany, are ready to continue talks to find a resolution as quickly as possible.
Rouhani believes it is possible to strike an agreement that would allow Iran to keep enriching uranium while assuring the West it will not produce nuclear arms. US President Barack Obama and other Western leaders have publicly supported diplomatic measures, though they have stated that military options are not off the table.
Rouhani indicated he would be willing to speak with representatives from Washington or the West, saying he would even go to Washington, as long as the nations “abandon the language of pressure and threat.” Rouhani did add, however, that there is a long way to go before Iran allows the U.S. consulate to resume work in Tehran.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the international community to step up pressure on Tehran, saying that, “The only thing that has worked in the last two decades is pressure. And the only thing that will work now is increased pressure.” Netanyahu believes that despite Rouhani’s moderate speech, the leader backs enriching uranium for nuclear weapons.
Series of Bomb Attacks Kill 41
A series of bomb attacks in and around Baghdad has left 41 dead and over 100 wounded. On 6 August, six car bombs targeted markets and shopping streets in different parts of Baghdad.
The bombings are the latest in a wave of violence which has swept Iraq in the past six months. The attacks predominantly stem from Sunni Islamist militant groups which mostly target Shia Muslim districts. This year, over 4,000 people have been killed in these attacks, with a further 9,865 injuries.
Citizens blame the government and security forces for failing to stem the violence. Just before the attacks began on Tuesday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued a statement vowing to continue operations against militants, in a statement issued just before the attacks began. However, many Sunnis accuse Maliki’s Shia-led government of marginalising them, particularly after security forces broke up an anti-government Sunni protest in Hawija in April, killing and wounding dozens of protesters.
Libya Appoints New Defence Minister; Deputy Prime Minister resigns
On 5 August, Libya’s Congress swore in a newly appointed Defence Minister Abdullah al-Thani, despite nearly daily attacks by gunmen on security forces. al-Thani replaces Mohammed Al-Barghathi, who resigned in May following a series of raids by militias on ministries in Tripoli, pressuring lawmakers to pass a contentious bill.
Under former dictator Moamar Gadhafi, Al-Thani was detained several times because of his brother’s criticism of Libya’s intervention in the internal affairs of neighbouring Chad.
A day earlier, Libya’s Deputy Prime Minister, Awad al-Barassi resigned his post, citing failed government policies and the deterioration of security following a string of assassinations. Al-Barassi accused the prime minister of monopolizing decision-making and hindering government efforts to discharge its “responsibilities for deteriorating security, especially in (the eastern city of) Benghazi.
The Prime Minister’s office accepted the resignation, but has made no further comment.
Moroccan King Revokes Paedophile’s Pardon
King Mohamed VI of Morocco has revoked a pardon granted to a Spanish serial paedophile. The pardon set off a series of angry protests in the kingdom.
On 30 July, the king pardoned 48 Spanish prisoners as part of the nation’s Throne Day celebrations. Among the pardoned was Daniel Galvan Vina, age 60, who was convicted of raping 11 children aged between four and 15. In September 2011, he was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
While the king often pardons prisoners on special occasions, the decision to release Spaniards was at the request of King Juan Carlos of Spain, who visited Morocco in late-July. The pardons of Spanish prisoners frustrated Moroccans, who feel the king put Spain’s interests about his nation’s needs. However the pardon of Vina sparked particular outrage.
Rallies and sit-ins were planned around the nation as King Mohamed VI withdrew the pardon. Protesters called the pardon “an international shame”. A statement explaining the pardon’s revocation stated that the decision was made due to the “gravity of the crimes committed and out of respect for the victims’ rights.”
An earlier statement from the palace indicated that the king was unaware of the nature of Vina’s crimes, and issued a probe to “determine the responsibilities and the failures that led to this regrettable release.”
Vina has left Morocco, but the Moroccan Justice Minister announced he would work with authorities in Madrid to address “the next step after the pardon’s revocation.”
Omani Maritime on the Rise
An economic update by the Oxford Business Group shows that investments by maritime services firms are helping Oman to improve its credentials as a shipping and trade centre. Oman Oil Marketing Company (OOMCO) has announced plans to develop an oil terminal at the port of Duqm to provide bunkering services to the regional market. Oman hopes to tap into growing maritime trade along its Indian Ocean coast, while simultaneously attracting more customers to the port itself.
CEO of OOMCO, Omar Ahmed Salim Qatan said, “We are in the process of negotiations to acquire a footprint in Duqm by establishing a terminal and bunkering services.” The group hopes to conclude negotiations in 2014, but a timeframe for the planned developments is still in early stages.
Qatar Airways Suspends Operations in Tripoli
Following a series of dangerous incidents, Qatar Airways has suspended operations in Tripoli.
On 4 August, a Qatar Airways flight was prevented from landing at Tripoli International Airport when an armed group forced air traffic control staff to deny the plane permission to land. The flight was diverted to Alexandria, Egypt to refuel before returning to Doha.
A day earlier, a group of gunmen stormed the Qatar Airways office at the Tripoli airport demanding staff to leave. The group wanted to prevent Qatari passenger and cargo aircraft from landing in Libya, and force the closure of the Qatar Airways office in Tripoli. There was no explanation provided. As a result, Qatar Airways has temporarily seized operations in Tripoli
In June, Qatar Airways suspended flights to Benghazi after militiamen forced non-Libyans arriving on a flight from Doha back onto the plane and prevented Libyans from boarding it for the return flight. The militiamen accused Qatar of interfering in Libya’s internal affairs.
The Libyan Interior Ministry condemned the attack and asserted that the armed group does not
Libya. He added that the group is sending the wrong message to the international community and foreign companies, which could have a negative impact on Libya’s struggling economy.
Saudi Arabia- Sudan
Al Bashir Plane denied flyover in Saudi Airspace
On 3 August, a charter aircraft carrying Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir to attend the inauguration ceremony of Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, has been denied flyover rights by Saudi Arabian authorities. The plane was forced to return to Khartoum.
The Saudi-registered aircraft with a non-Sudanese crew circled on the periphery of Saudi airspace for an hour, attempting to negotiate clearance. The plane had obtained prior authorisation which was withdrawn when the pilots announced that Al Bashir was on board.
Al Bashir has been indicted by the ICC on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and is subject to international arrest warrants. While Saudi Arabia is not part of the ICC statute, the nation has voiced concerns about Sudan’s close ties with Iran. Sudan allowed Iranian warships to dock in Port Sudan twice last year, drawing concern from the Gulf States as well as the US. The Saudi pro-government newspaper, Al Riyadh, criticised the Khartoum government over the incident, saying there is no “logical justification” for a relationship between the two countries.
In Iran, foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi called the barring of Al Bashir in their airspace “very unfortunate” and added that “Tehran is investigating”.
Syrian Rebels Capture Aleppo Airbase
Rebels fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have captured Menagh airport, a key airbase in Aleppo province, near the Turkish border. The rebels have been attempting to capture the airbase, which lies on a major supply route from Turkey, since last year. The airbase was the final piece to consolidate opposition control in the area, but rebel forces are still under daily attack from long-range artillery and air strikes.
Rebel forces have also taken over several villages in the majority Alawite province of Latakia, which is near to Bashar al Assad’s hometown of Qardaha. Rebels have been engaged in fights in Latakia since 4 August.
Meanwhile, pro-government recently recaptured the Khalidiyeh neighbourhood in Homs from rebels. However, in Aleppo, sources report army shelling of a market on Monday, resulting in the deaths of eight civilians, including three children.
Over 100,000 people have been killed in Syrian civil war, with a further 1.7 million Syrians forced to seek shelter in neighbouring countries.
Protesters Demand Government Resignation
Tens of thousands of protesters have swarmed Tunis to mark the six-month anniversary of the assassination of prominent secular opposition leader Chokri Belaid, and to demand the resignation of the Ennahda government.
Public outrage escalated following the assassination of a second prominent opposition leader two weeks earlier. Mohamed Brahmi was a member of the National Constituent Assembly (NCA), a group charged with working on the development of a new Tunisian constitution. Brahmi, a member of the opposition party, was shot on 25 July, nearly six months after Chokri Belaid was killed. It was later discovered that the two victims were killed by the same gun, suggesting that one group was responsible for both murders.
Following the assassinations, nearly 70 members of the ANC withdrew in protest, staging sit-in outside its headquarters in Tunis. On 7 August, the Ennahda Party accepted the suspension of the works of the NCA. The work was frozen until the dialogue between political parties resume. The protesters called for the complete dissolution of the assembly and the resignation of the government.
Following completion of the constitution, elections were to be held in December, however, it is likely they will be delayed, as the NCA is eight months behind its deadline.
The turmoil in Tunisia is at its highest levels since he ouster of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011.
Yemeni authorities foil al Qaeda Plot
On 7 August, Yemeni security officials announced they had halted a plot by al Qaeda to seize an important port and kidnap or kill foreigners working there. According to Yemeni officials, al Qaeda had planned to take control of the Mina al-Dhaba oil terminal, in the Mukallah region on the Arabian Sea in Yemen’s south-eastern region. The officials continue that al Qaeda operatives intended to conduct the attacks while wearing fraudulent Yemeni military uniforms. It is unclear how the Yemeni government halted the plan.
Yemen has been in a state of high alert following an intercepted call in which al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri announced the promotion of Yemen-based Nasser al-Wuhayshi to the No. 2 position of the organisation. The US and Britain withdrew embassy staff from Yemen and encouraged all foreign nationals to leave the country. The US has conducted a series of drone strikes in the last two weeks. On 6 August, a stroke killed four people, and on 7 August, a targeted drone killed seven members of a Bedouin tribe in southeast Yemen.
The al Qaeda group in Yemen, al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) makes frequent threats. In the midst of economic woes and political tensions, Yemen remains under international pressure to show that it is working to counter the terrorist threat.
Algeria builds military zone along Tunisian Border
9 June 2013- Algeria has made plans to build 20 military zones along the Algerian-Tunisian border to minimize terrorist infiltration and arms smuggling. The move comes after success following similar efforts along the Libyan and Malian borders. The military zones are off-limits to civilians without a permit. In mid-May, Algerian military leadership began implementations of plans to protect over 80 border crossing points, covering 956 kilometres. Algerian-Tunisian Security agreements include military cooperation and exchanges of information, and well as tracking of suspects and mutually aiding in investigations related to “Jihadist” networks.
Bouteflika Suffered Full Stroke
13 June 2013- A statement released by the Algerian government admits that President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika suffered a full stroke, rather than the “mini-stroke” that was officially reported. Bouteflika suffered the event on 27 April and was immediately flown to France for treatment at Val de Grace Hospital. In early June, he was relocated for recuperation. Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal and Army Chief of Staff, General Gaid Salah have visited Bouteflika, and report he is in good condition. The Algerian president gave orders to ensure that markets have adequate food supplies as the month of Ramadan approaches in three weeks time. A portion of the meeting was released on Algerian national television in order to show that Bouteflika is improving, in hopes of quelling growing rumours that the president was in grave condition. Despite the images of Bouteflika’s improving condition, speculation is increasing that he will not run for election in April of 2014.
44 Terror Suspects arrested
13 June 2013- The Bahraini Interior Ministry announced the arrest of forty-four suspects, including two women, for committing terrorist activities in Bahrain. The investigation led to the identification of members and leaders of the terrorist group, the February 14th organization, as well as the “Al Imam Army”, which has trained others in the use of weapons and explosives with the aim of disrupting security and endangering lives.
The arrested individuals are suspected of a list of charges including: conspiring to plant a bomb during the recent Formula One race, blowing up ATMs, conducting arson attacks on car showrooms, and placing explosives around Manama, which have resulted in the deaths of two Asian expats. Three were arrested for using a homemade bomb planted in a car near the Bahrain Financial Harbour.
The February 14 organisation was created following incidents stemming from the uprising in Bahrain in February 2011. The Bahraini Interior Ministry have also named the cell’s masterminds in Bahrain and in London. The masterminds are known to frequently travel between Iran, Iraq and Lebanon to obtain financial and moral support.
Nationwide Protests Scheduled for 30 June; Interior Ministry Closes Routes between Sinai and Mainland
18 June 2013- Egypt’s Interior Minister has announced the closing of tunnels and ferries across the Suez Canal and the halt of any traffic between the Sinai Peninsula and mainland Egypt ahead of the upcoming anti-government protests on 30 June. The move is an effort to prevent the crossing of militants into the mainland of Egypt.
Nationwide protests against president Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are expected across Egypt on 30 June, the anniversary of his first year in power. Opposition groups have joined together to call for his removal.
Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim is specifically concerned with the possible invasion of prisons and subsequent release of prisoners, which has occurred several times during protests since the ousting of former president Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Ibrahim is also concerned with securing Itihadiya Palace, where the president resides, and pre-empting clashes between supporters and opposition to President Morsi.
Security forces will also be deployed to the Egyptian Media Production City on the outskirts of Cairo, however national security services will not be provided to offices of any political parties.
Opponents of President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood come from both liberal and secular movements, and believe that the 30 June protests are the last opportunity to drive him from power. Public discontent is widespread, ranging from concerns over failed infrastructure, food shortages, high prices and lack of security. One protest campaign has started a petition drive called “Tamarod” (Translation: “Rebels”) which has collected over 15 million signatures calling for Morsi to step down and early elections to be held.
Many of Morsi’s backers are planning counter-protests, calling the planned demonstrations an attempt to overturn democracy. A senior Brotherhood leader has stated that the protests are not actually backed by genuine popular support, and believes that the Tamarod signatures are forged. Some hard-line clerics have also issued fatwas, calling organizers and participants in the protests “kuffar,” or non-believers, who deserve to be killed.
Egyptian police, who have been angry with Morsi’s administration for being treated like a “tool of the political party”, have intoned that they wish to stay out of the conflict. The Egyptian military has not voiced an opinion, but has been visibly at odds with the ruling party.
Morsi names ex-militant as governor of Luxor
17 June 2013- Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has appointed Adel el-Khayat as the new governor of the ancient city of Luxor, raising anger among Egyptian tourism workers and residents. El-Khayat is a member of the political arm of ex-Islamic militant group Gamaa Islamiya. In 1992, the group staged an insurgency against the state, attacking police, tourists, and Coptic Christians. In 1997, Gamaa Islamiya claimed responsibility for what became known as the “Luxor Massacre”, when 58 tourists and four Egyptians were killed at the 3,400 year old Temple of Hatshepsut outside Luxor. In the 2000s, Gamaa Islamiya renounced violence and in 2011, the group turned to politics, aligning themselves closely with Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Leaders of the organization have threatened an “Islamic revolution” if liberals try to unseat the Islamist president.
Workers and political opposition to the appointment have planned to seal off the governor’s office to prevent Adel el-Khayat from entering. Tourism workers fear that el-Khayat’s ties to the former militant group and his hard-line Islamist stance will deter tourists, which are the lifeblood of the region.
El-Khayat’s appointment is one of several new appointments for provincial governor positions. On 16 June, Morsi made seventeen appointments, including eight from his party, the Muslim Brotherhood. The appointments mean that the Brotherhood controls 10 of Egypt’s 27 provinces. Nine additional provinces are still run by military and police, stemming from the Mubarak era.
Hassan Rouhani wins Iranian election, replaces Ahmadinejad
14 June 2013- In a relatively calm election process, Hassan Rouhani has won the Iranian elections, and will be replacing outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Rouhani was a participant in the Islamic Revolution of the 1970s and was linked to Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic republic. Rouhani was the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council for 16 years, and the nation’s chief nuclear negotiator from 2003 to 2005. Rouhani won just over 50% of the vote, and called his election a “victory of moderation over extremism.” After his victory was announced, Iranians took to the streets in tens of thousands, wearing purple, the colour of Rouhani’s election campaign.
Rouhani’s election brings a shift in Iran’s power structure, as he ushers in a mix of both conservative and moderate beliefs. As the former chief nuclear negotiator, Rouhani is supportive of Iran’s nuclear agenda, pledging in the run-up to elections to try to ease international sanctions imposed over Iran’s nuclear programme. His dealings with the West are expected to be significantly different from those of Ahmadinejad, whose brand of ultimatums and threats increased tensions with the West, resulting in heavy sanctions and economic strain for Iran. Rouhani is expected to take a more pragmatic tact in dealing with both foreign and domestic powers.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu maintains that Iran’s nuclear program should be stopped “by any means.” He added, “The international community should not fall into wishful thinking and be tempted to ease pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear programme.” Israeli President Shimon Peres is more hopeful, believing that Rouhani will not go toward extreme policies.
Although Israel will still consider military action if Iran continues its nuclear program, Western powers have indicated that they are willing to engage with Rouhani, providing he lives up to his obligations under the UN security council resolutions.
Rouhani has already begun discussions on his cabinet with Ali Larijani, speaker for Iran’s parliament. The Iranian Parliament must approve his selections when he takes office in August.
Suicide Bombers Target Mosque; 24 dead, 52 wounded
17 June, 2013- Two suicide bombers blew themselves up inside and near a Shiite mosque in Baghdad, killing 24 people and wounding 52. The bombing is the latest in a string of escalating sectarian violence over recent months. Since April 2013, nearly 2,000 have been killed, including over 220 in June.
The first bomb was detonated at a security checkpoint near a mosque in Baghdad’s Qahira district, a predominantly middle class, Shiite-majority neighbourhood. It is believed the first bombing was an attempt to distract the authorities as a second bomber went into the mosque and blew himself up while worshippers were performing midday prayers.
While no party has claimed responsibility yet, al Qaeda’s Iraqi division has conducted suicide bombings and attacks against Shiite citizens frequently.
On 16 June, 51 people were killed in coordinated bombings. On Monday, fifteen people were killed in bomb attacks, including deaths caused by a suicide bomber who set off his explosives among a group of policemen in Fallujah.
Bombings kill 13 ahead of vote
19 June, 2013– A provincial party leader and four of his relatives were killed in a suicide bombing attack in northern Iraq. Yunus al-Ramah, the leader of the United Iraq party, was hosting an event at his home in Al-Hadhr when a suicide bomber targeted people gathering in his garden. The attack happened just days before local elections are to be held on Thursday in Sunni-majority Nineveh and Anbar provinces, where polls had been delayed since 20 April due to security concerns. Ramah was not running in the upcoming election, although several members of his party are.
Later in the evening, back-to-back roadside bombs killed eight youths and wounded 25 near a football pitch in Muqdadiyah.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack; however Sunni militants linked to Al-Qaeda previously attempted to intimidate candidates in order to derail elections in majority Sunni provinces. Analysts believe that Shiite-led authorities are not exerting enough effort to address the underlying causes of the demonstrations. This lack of action has given militant groups opportunities to carry out terrorist tactics.
Libyan Judge Assassinated; Clashes in Benghazi
17 June, 2013- Unidentified militants have assassinated Judge Mohammed Naguib in a drive-by shooting in front of a courthouse. Naguib was a senior Libyan judge in the eastern city of Derna, which is a known stronghold of Islamic militants, including Ansar al-Shariah, the group suspected of involvement in the September 11 attacks on the US mission in Benghazi.
In Benghazi, Libya’s General National Congress has postponed the vote on a new president following another round of clashes in Benghazi, which erupted in the early hours of 15 June near the city centre. Libyan Special Forces battled gunmen, resulting in six soldiers dead and several injured. An explosion also occurred at the headquarters of the National Oil Corporation. Authorities are working to identify perpetrators of the pre-dawn assault, through license plates and photographs. One group has been identified; investigations are on-going.
Some Libyan activists believe that the national congress lost credibility by adopting the political isolation law at gunpoint and that the government was now losing its credibility as well, as “the state has failed Benghazi.” Locals say the city has become a place to settle accounts, and call on the government to come and conduct affairs in the city. One witness stated, “If Benghazi does not settle down, then Libya will not settle down. The state must meet its responsibilities.”
US- Taliban Talks Cancelled in Doha
20 June, 13- Talks scheduled for Thursday between US officials and Afghan Taliban representatives in Doha have been cancelled due to the Afghan government’s anger at the opening of a Taliban office in Qatar.
The opening of the Taliban office was intended to be a step toward paving the way for peace talks, however, protesters in Kabul argued that the office would develop into a Taliban government-in-exile. US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has been in talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who accused the Obama administration of duplicity. Karzai was particularly infuriated by Taliban officials displaying white Taliban Flag and referring to the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”, and suspended talks on a long-term security deal to keep US troops in Afghanistan after NATO leaves in 2014. The US has asked the Qatari government to remove the sign outside the new office in Doha that claims to represent the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”.
Though the office in Doha is meant only as a base for talks rather than a political platform, Karzai felt the Tuesday press conference was a violation of that agreement. Further, the Afghan government prefers the US to refrain from broad negotiations with the Taliban. Although Washington agrees that the process must be Afghan-led the delegates want to discuss issues including renouncing violence, links with al-Qaida and women’s rights in the country.
On Wednesday, the US suspended plans to attend the talks. Meanwhile, the Taliban also claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on the Bagram air base that killed four Americans on the same day that the tentative deal about talks was announced.
Yemen market suicide bomber kills two
A suicide bomber has struck a market in the north Yemen town of Saada, about 80 miles north of Sanaa. The bomber detonated a bomb-laden motorbike in the town, killing himself and at least two civilians, and injuring eight.
Saada is a mainly Shia city in the north of majority Sunni Yemen. The town has been controlled by the Houthi Shia rebels for years. Fighting between the rebels and government forces had killed thousands of people over the course of a decade, until a truce was agreed upon in 2010. The rebels are involved in a national dialogue, however tensions have recently escalated as the Sunni-dominated government makes claims that the Houthi are backed by mainly Shia Iran. The rebels, who are also in conflict with AQAP, feel they are politically and socially marginalised.
Yemen: Pipeline Bombing
30 April: A main pipeline linking oil fields in Yemen’s eastern Marib province to an export terminal on the Red Sea has been attacked by an armed group, almost halting the flow of oil. The day before, the same group attacked Marib’s power lines, leaving the province in “total darkness”.
The pipeline in question runs 200 miles from Safer oil fields to the export terminal in the western Hudaydah province. It is frequently under attack in the Wadi Abida area; the last such incident occurred on 8 April. Electricity Minister Saleh Sumai has accused tribesmen loyal to the former president of carrying out the attacks.
Yemen produces about 300,000 barrels of oil a day, mostly for export. Production lost due to pipeline attacks has cost the government more than $1 billion in 2012 and more than $4 billion in revenue since February 2011.
Yemen: International Red Cross Workers Kidnapped
8 May: Two Indian employees of the international Red Cross were kidnapped and released by armed members of the Mariakisha tribe in southern Yemen. The gunmen intercepted the workers in Jaar and led them to a mountainous region. Negotiations lasted more than three hours; the victims are now in Aden.
On Monday, gunmen from the same tribe kidnapped two Egyptian technicians working at a cement factory in Abyan. The tribesmen seek the release of a tribe member jailed seven years ago on murder charges.
Syria: Rebels Kidnap UN Peacekeepers in Golan
8 May: Syrian members of the rebel Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade are holding four Filipino UN peacekeepers at the ceasefire line between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The group claims that the peacekeepers were in danger after clashes in the area, and took them for safe keeping.
The peacekeepers were detained as they patrolled Position 86, on the Syria and Israeli-occupied border of the Golan Heights, an area near where 21 Filipino observers were held for 3 days by the same group in March. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the detention and called for the peacekeepers’ immediate release.
While initial reports described the action as hostage-taking, the rebel unit denied it.”The brigade does not want this issue blown out of proportion like the last incident,” said a rebel from the group.
“They are safe and sound and will be handed over as soon as possible. But as happened last time, they were in an area where very heavy clashes took place in the Ghadeer al-Bustan area.” In March, a rebel leader said their “guests” would be returned after government forces retreated from the area.
Bouteflika Recovering from Stroke
7 May: The Algerian government has announced that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is improving from a transient ischemia (mini-stroke), but still needs rest. The president suffered the stroke on 27 April and was flown to the French military hospital of Val de Grace.
Following the announcement of his illness, there were few updates about the president’s health. This latest statement gave no indication of how long Bouteflika would need to rest. Though he had been known to be sick for some time, he was popularly believed to be gearing up to run in next year’s presidential elections.
Algeria and Egypt Strengthen Bilateral Counterterrorism Cooperation
7 May: Algeria and Egypt have established a bilateral contact group to strengthen bilateral security cooperation.
The agreement came at the conclusion of two days of talks on in Algiers between Egyptian Ambassador Hussein Abdul Karim, and Mohamed Kamal Razak Bara, counsellor to the Algerian President. The talks incorporated discussions about the recent situation in the region and the Sahel. The two nations agreed to hold regular meetings for bilateral communication group, with dates to be determined through diplomatic channels.
Morsi Reshuffles Egyptian Cabinet
7 May: Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi swore in nine new ministers in the second cabinet reshuffle since August, in a hope to boost Egypt’s economic portfolio. Morsi believes the changes will aid in completing the development of the public performance in Egypt, and urged citizens to give the new government an opportunity to work on meeting their demands.
Several ministers which bave been appointed are members of Morsi’s political party, the Muslim Brotherhood. Finance Minister Fayyad Abdel-Monem Hassanin, an economics professor Al-Azhar University, and Minister of International Cooperation and Planning Amr Darrag, are both members of Morsi’s party, the Muslim Brotherhood. Darrag is a senior member of Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). Both ministers will be critical in handling negotiations with the IMF for a crucial $4.8-billion rescue loan.
Essam al-Erian, deputy chief of the FJP, stated that the aim of the reshuffle is to “confront the economic crisis and to conclude the agreement with the IMF with a new vision, and to confront the energy crises.”
National Salvation Front (NSF), opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood, sees the reshuffle as a further step toward Islamist domination of the government. One member of the NSF stated, “They control the government more and more and the MB process is going on, and this means they intend to commit electoral fraud in the coming parliamentary elections. We reject domination of the MB and their control over the society, as this cabinet reshuffle puts everything in the hands of the MB’s guidance office.”
Amr Moussa, a leading member of the NSF, believes new cabinet reshuffle is a new step toward “comprehensive MB domination” in Egypt, rather than a step toward national consensus.
Egypt claims successes closing down Gaza smuggling tunnels
6 May: The head of engineering for the Egyptian Armed Forces, Major General Tahir Abdullah, announced that Egyptian security forces had successfully demolished 154 of 276 tunnels between Egypt and Gaza. Around 137 tunnels were destroyed twice. A recent Reuters report states there are around 1,000 tunnels between Gaza and Egypt; other reports claim the number is higher, still others say it is much lower.
In the last few days, authorities have also announced the seizure of a lifeboat and 10 vehicles which were being smuggled from Egypt to Gaza, and a cache of drugs and weapons near the Salloum land port in western Egypt.
Gunmen Surround Libyan Ministry, Present List of Demands
7 May: Armed men in vehicles with machineguns and anti-aircraft guns have surrounded the foreign and justice ministries for over a week, demanding the Libyan government’s resignation. On 5 March, under pressure from gunmen, the General National Congress pushed through a controversial law to exclude members of Gadaffi’s former regime from holding public posts, even if they switched to support the rebels during the course of the 2011 civil war.
A leader of the militias stated, “We are determined to continue our movement until the departure of (Prime Minister) Ali Zeidan.” The militias had promised to lift their siege if the law was passed. Zeidan’s government has recently launched a campaign to remove the militias from Tripoli.
Libya’s defence minister, Mohammed Al-Barghathi had resigned, and then rescinded his resignation on Tuesday in protest over the continuous show of force by the militias, calling it an “assault on democracy and elected authorities.”
On 9 May, the militia added several additional demands, including Zeidan’s resignation, the freezing of a recently released state budget and the right to form a committee to take charge of the Foreign Ministry.
Morocco captures two terrorist cells
6 May: Morocco’s interior ministry said it had arrested two “terrorist” cells in the northern Nador region. The cells were in contact with Islamist extremists in Mali. The ministry did not revial how many suspects were arrested, but did say that members of the group are being questioned. The cells are accused of committing robberies to finance their cause.The capture comes nearly six months after Moroccan authorities broke up a recruitment cell for al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb December 2012.
China to Host Bilateral talks with Palestine, Israel
6 May: China is hosting both Palestinian and Israeli leaders to display the nation’s desire for a larger role in the Middle East. Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Beijing as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Shanghai ahead of his trip to Beijing on Wednesday, a day after Abbas’ departure.
China’s Foreign Ministry is willing to help set up a meeting between Abbas and Netanyahu if the two men wanted. While China has traditionally kept a low profile in Middle East diplomacy, recently the Chinese government has become more involved as it sees new markets, resources and diplomatic influence.
In a meeting with Xi at the Great Hall of the People, Abbas reviewed the history of Chinese-Palestinian relations and said the two sides shared the “same views on many world problems.” China recognized Palestine state in 1988, four years before establishing diplomatic ties with Israel.
Netanyahu is the first Israeli leader to visit China since 2007, and is expected to use the visit to sign numerous trade deals.
A the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said China would like to see a solution to the decades old conflict that allowed for Israeli security and a Palestinian state based on the handover of occupied territory to the Palestinian Authority.
Saudi Arabia (KSA)
Saudi Arabia Releases 166 Former AQ militants from Rehab
7 May: Saudi Arabia has released 166 former al Qaeda members after undergoing long-term state-sponsored counselling programme, called “Munasaha” to reintegrate them into normal society. Sixty two members of the “deviant group” as they are known, were released in Jeddah after completing the counselling programme at the Prince Mohammed Bin Naif Centre for Counselling and Care. An additional 104 former militants were also released in Riyadh.
The prisoners are required to participate in follow-up programmes for emotional rehabilitation and reintegration. They will be monitored by both government agencies and members of the counselling committees of the centre. The centres will also assist the former militants in getting their original jobs back, or securing new jobs.
Sudanese traders killed by gunmen
3 May: Eleven Sudanese traders were killed by unknown gunmen as they crossed into South Sudanese territory. A South Sudan military spokesman said attackers ambushed three trucks at a trading center near the border town of Renk. The bodies were later discovered by another group of traveling traders; and the South Sudanese military dispatched a contingent of soldiers to seek the attackers. When they caught up to the “gangsters” gunfire was exchanged as they fled to Sudanese territory.
The incident occurs nearly two weeks after an agreement between South Sudan and Sudan to open 10 border crossings to increase the movement of goods and people between the two nations.
The attacks are being blamed on militiamen who do not want peace to prevail between the two nations. However despite sporadic instances of violence, the two countries have worked toward building mutually beneficial relations. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir recently visited South Sudan, stating that he wants to normalize relations with the south.
Tunisian Troops clash with Militants
1 May: Tunisian troops have clashed with around 50 armed Salafi militants in the Mount Chaambi border region, and now have the area surrounded. Last week, Tunisian forces began to hunt for two groups, one hiding in the mountainous region, and another in the Kef region on the Algerian border. Authorities were originally looking for 11 terrorists linked to al Qaeda, but have learned that the group had recruited youths from Kasserine and Mali.
The defence ministry said that the situation near the Algerian border was “under control”, and they were working with Algerian intelligence to gain information. However, in the Mount Chaambi area, the militants have laid homemade land mines throughout the region, which have wounded around 15 soldiers and members of the national guard. The troop have since found grenades, military and homemade bombs, documents on how to make homemade bombs, coded documents, maps and mobile phones being used to make calls abroad. The operations are being carried out primarily by the Tunisian army, who have the only units capable of detecting land mines. The national guard are playing a secondary role.
Bassem Haj Yahia, a guard who lost a leg after a land mine explosion, said the army was facing an organised and well-armed adversary. “It’s like they are installed in a small village where they have their hideouts, a training site and some equipment.”
The currently ruling Ennahda party has recognised the terrorist threat facing Tunisia, verbalising warnings that groups linked to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) were penetrating its borders. To date, 37 people have been caught and jailed, according to the interior ministry.
United Arab Emirates
Three Emiratis arrested in Tanzanian church bombing
8 May: Three UAE citizens have been arrested in Tanzania in connection with the bombing of a church in Arusha. The Vatican’s ambassador to Tanzania, Archbishop Francisco Montecillo Padilla, was attending the official church opening when the explosion occurred. He escaped unharmed, though the attack killed two people and wounded six.
One Saudi and three Emeratis were arrested on Tuesday. Investigators are working to determine the type of device used in the attack on the church. UAE foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed condemned the attack.
Saudi ambassador Hani Abdallah Mo’mena said he was on his way to Arusha, believing that the group was there as tourists and the issues is “mere suspicion”.
Japan and UAE sign nuclear cooperation agreement, agree on oil concessions
3 May: Japan and the United Arab Emirates signed a nuclear cooperation agreement during a visit to the UAE by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The agreement, which called for peaceful use of nuclear energy, was signed in Dubai, and the UAE also agreed to extend an oil concession agreement with Japan’s Abu Dhabi Oil Co. adding a new zone.
In mid July, the UAE will begin building two of four nuclear power plants, which will being produce electricity by 2017. Each plant will have a capacity of 1,400 megawatts. The project is expected to be completed and fully operational by 2020. The UAE hopes that nuclear energy will provide up to a quarter of the nation’s electricity needs.
Approximately one third of UAE crude oil and petrol derivatives go to Japan. The UAE exports 800,000 barrels of oil to Japan daily, and 5.5 million tonnes of natural gas.
Abe said that “stability and prosperity of the Middle East is directly connected to the prosperity of international society and Japan.”
AQAP Members Assassinate Director of Military Intelligence
27 April: Two masked gunmen, members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), killed the director of military intelligence in the Hadramout province. The shooters were riding a motorcycle and fired at Colonel Ahmed Abdul-Razzak outside of his home in Mukalla.
Approximately 60 military and security officials have been killed in Yemen over the last two years. Yemeni officials place the blame on the Yemen based AQAP, mostly in the southern region of the nation. AQAP is considered the most strategic threat to the Yemeni government and its neighboring oil-rich Saudi Arabia.
President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who came to power in February 2012, is charged with restoring security in the nation, and protecting oil shipping routes in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
Southern Leaders Quit National Dialogue meeting
4 May: Two leaders of Yemen’s Southern Movement have quite national dialog as talks failed to reach a solution to the secessionist issue. Ahmed bin Farid al-Suraimah and Ali Ba-Odah left the talks due to the belief that their aims toward secession had been marginalized, and the dialog will not meet the needs of southern Yemenis. Other leaders from the south have refused to join the talks until the Sanaa government withdraws its troops from the south.
The talks, which began on 18 March, are scheduled to run for six months. The dialog is intended to mend the split between the northern and southern regions, and draft a new constitution in time for general elections in February 2014. The secession issue dates back to the start of the Yemeni civil war in 1994, when southerners complained of being politically and economically marginalised and discriminated against.
Illegal Weapons Seizure
5 May: Yemen’s Defence Ministry announced a seizure of a boat carrying 20,000 guns in the southwestern Taiz province on Yemen’s Red Sea coast. The boat was seized after soldiers in Bab el-Mandeb strait clashed with the armed crew members on the boat, and managed to capture the boat’s captain after a gunfight. Some of the crew members fled.
In the last six months, Yemeni forces have seized four boats loaded with arms. The weapons are suspected to have originated from Turkey. In December, a shipment came through Aden Port carrying guns hidden in biscuit containers. The guns were made using false brand names, which has slowed down investigations. The Yemeni government has not stated who is responsible for smuggling arms into the country.
Three Military Pilots Killed in AQ Ambush
8 May: Militants, suspected to be members of AQAP, killed three Yemeni air force pilots as they travelled to Al Anad air base in the Lahj province. Two militants on a motorcycle opened fire with a machine gun as the car containing the pilots slowed for a road bump. The three pilots all held the rank of colonel in the airforce. Two were trainers.
According to officials, the gunmen fled the scene, and believe that the attackers had been monitoring the pilots’ route and schedule to plan their ambush.