Category Archives: Oman

MENA UPDATE: 8 May, 2014

Posted on in Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, MENA, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen title_rule


8 May: Approximately 50 illegal migrants have gone missing in the desert along the border between Algeria and Niger after being abandoned by their smugglers. Nigerien authorities alerted their Algerian counterparts to the disappearance of the migrants, including women and children. The Algerian army immediately mobilized ground and airborne units in a wide-scale search operation, however, chances are slim to find them alive due to the harsh weather conditions in the area. The source also indicated that the missing migrants may not have crossed the Algerian border.

7 May: In an ongoing operation, Algerian troops have killed 10 militants near Tin-Zaouatine, bordering Mali. The army also captured eight automatic Kalashnikov-type rifles, an RPG-7 rocket launcher, technical equipment and a “large amount” of ammunition. The operation began after “effective use of information on suspicious movements of a terrorist group.” Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in his first comments since his re-election, called it “an attempted infiltration by a heavily armed terrorist group with elements from Mali, Libya and from Tunisia.” In April, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for an ambush on army patrols in the mountains east. The attack killed 14 soldiers, making it the deadliest attack on the military in years.


8 May: Egypt’s interim government will restore daylight saving beginning 15 May to alleviate a crippling energy crisis. Daylight saving time was abolished three years ago, however, energy crisis, exacerbated by hours-long crippling blackouts in Cairo and other provinces, has prompted its reintroduction. The holy month of Ramadan will be exempt from Daylight Savings time, to help reduce fasting time. Ramadan, which begins in late June this year, is when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset.

The energy crisis is a major platform in the current election campaigns. The candidates— Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi and Hamdeen Sabbahi— have been consistently asked how they plan to deal with the problem, which was a major issue driving the opposition of Mohammed Morsi prior to his overthrow. Sisi has suggested a national program to replace regular light bulbs with high-efficiency bulbs to reduce consumption; while Sabbahi has called for exploration of solar energy.

Egypt is struggling with diminishing revenues and a growing need to pay for energy subsidies, estimated to comprise one fifth of the nation’s budget. Most of Egypt’s major gas fields are being depleted, and new fields won’t begin to produce for years, particularly as oil and gas companies are reluctant to invest due to the past three years of instability and economic crisis; the government currently owes at least $4.5 billion to international oil and gas companies. Further, electricity consumption increases at a rate of seven percent per year because of a combination of energy-heavy industries, steady population growth and increasing technology use.


7 May: A huge explosion has occurred near a nuclear facility in the northern Iranian city of Qazvin. The explosion was said to have taken place in a storage facility near a reportedly secret nuclear enrichment plant in Abyek. The Iranian government said no casualties were reported, however Iranian opposition says scores of people have been killed. At least 50 people were injured, and a fire has swept through the city. Fire-fighters are seeking to prevent the fire from spreading to a nearby car oil storage facility. The Iranian army has closed off much of the city. Authorities are uncertain whether the explosion was targeted. Opposition members have said that Iran’s nuclear facilities have been repeatedly targeted by Israel and the West. A Western intelligence source said, “There could be a small facility in the [Qazvin] area, but it is not regarded as major.”


7 May: Jordanian military clashed with at least 10 militants along the Syria border, marking the second high-profile incident in the border region in less than a month. Jordanian border guard traded fire with an unidentified group of individuals as they attempted to illegally cross into Jordan from Syria. Two gunmen were injured in the clashes. Sources suggest that the gunmen were Jordanian citizens returning to the country after fighting alongside Islamist militants in southern Syria. They were reportedly returning to seek medical attention for wounds sustained while fighting alongside Al Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front.

In late April, the Jordanian air force targeted a convoy of unidentified armoured vehicles attempting to cross into Jordan after they failed to heed a series of warning shots. Jordan has conducted a security clampdown on the nation’s 370 kilometre shared border; security forces have arrested over 50 Jordanian and alleged foreign jihadists over the past two weeks. More than 2,200 Jordanians are currently fighting alongside Islamist militias in Syria, predominantly serving under Al Nusra or Al Qaeda affiliate the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).


7 May: The UN agency for Palestinian refugees said Lebanon is denying entry to Palestinians fleeing the war in neighbouring Syria, despite its insistence there was “no decision” to keep them out. “UNRWA has been monitoring the situation at the crossing point at Masnaa between Lebanon and Syria and can report that no Palestine refugees from Syria have been allowed into Lebanon today and that some families trying to cross have been refused entry.” said UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness, adding that they have received assurances from Lebanese authorities that these restrictions are temporary. On Tuesday, Lebanese security chiefs agreed “there is absolutely no decision to bar them from entry, and the border is open to them.”

The statement came after the UN and Human Rights Watch expressed concern over “increased restrictions” on fleeing Palestinians entering Lebanon. While Lebanon has not signed the international refugee convention, the nation has generally kept its border open to people fleeing the conflict in Syria despite the scale of the influx. Lebanon currently hosts over one million refugees from Syria, more than any other country. The nation has the highest refugee population per capita in the world; among their number are 52,000 Palestinians.

Rights activists say Palestinians in Syria have been targeted by both sides in the conflict, making them one of the country’s more vulnerable groups. The Yarmuk district in south Damascus, the most populous Palestinian district, has been under blockade by the army since last year. Civilians in the area are trapped and receive very limited supplies of food and medicines, which are organised by UNRWA and other agencies. Turkey and Jordan, which also host large numbers of refugees from Syria, have barred entry to Palestinians.


4 May: The Libyan Congress has appointed, and then rejected a new interim prime minister, hours after he was sworn in. Ahmed Matiq thought he had secured a majority support of 121 deputies after several rounds of voting in Congress; however the process was chaotic, causing Congressional chairman Ezzedine Al-Amawi to later declare the vote illegal because voting continued after he had declared the voting session to be over. Al-Amawi asked former Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani, who resigned in April following a gun attack on his family, to continue as caretaker, Al-Thani has agreed to comply with the request.

The vote was originally scheduled to take place on Tuesday, but it was interrupted when gunmen stormed the General National Congress. Elections for a new parliament that will replace the General National Congress are expected later this year.


7 May: A cap or an outright ban may be placed on recruiting expatriate workers from nationalities deemed to have “negative records”, according to a proposal by Oman Municipal Council members. Elected officials in Muscat governorate have advocated capping the number of expats of certain nationalities in recruitment. Some of the council members have suggested that visas “for certain nationalities, which have negative records”, should be stopped. According to official figures, there are 597,769 Indians, 510,470 Bangladeshis, 222,355 Pakistanis, 43,201 Ethiopians, 31,511 Indonesians, 29,426 Filipinos, 23,021 Egyptians, 12,867 Nepalese and 12,557 Sri Lankans in Oman.

Saudi Arabia

7 May: A Saudi Arabian has sentenced Raif Badawi, the editor of an internet forum he founded to discuss the role of religion in the country, to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes. Badawi, who started the Free Saudi Liberals website, was originally sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in July last year, but an appeals court overturned the sentence and ordered a retrial. He was also fined 1m riyals (£160,000). The website, which included articles that were critical of senior religious figures such as Saudi Arabia’s grand mufti, has been closed since his first trial. Badawi’s defence lawyers called the sentence too harsh; however the prosecutor had demanded a harsher penalty, demanding that he be tried for apostasy, which carries a death penalty in the nation. The apostasy charges were dismissed; the ruling is subject to appeal.

In a separate ruling, the court also convicted the administrator of a website on charges of supporting internet forums hostile to the state and which promoted demonstrations. The administrator was sentenced to six years in jail and a 50,000 riyal (£7,860) fine.


8 May:  Rebel fighters are believed to have detonated a bomb in a tunnel beneath the Carlton Citadel Hotel, near Aleppo’s medieval citadel and souk. The explosion destroyed the hotel and several other buildings. The Carlton Citadel is situated inside a 150-year-old building that faces the entrance of the 13th-Century citadel, which, along with the rest of the Old City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was reportedly being used by government forces. Preliminary reports state the hotel had suffered “huge damage”, but did not reveal any casualties. Opposition activists say that government troops were based there and that a number had been killed. Other sources state that a number of security forces personnel and militiamen loyal to President Bashar al-Assad were believed to have been killed.

Syria’s state news agency reported that “terrorists” had blown up tunnels they had dug underneath archaeological sites in the Old City. A statement from the Islamic Front said its fighters had “levelled the Carlton Hotel barracks in Old Aleppo and a number of buildings near it, killing 50 soldiers”.


7 May: Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki has offered amnesty for Islamist fighters have not committed any acts of murder, saying the “door of hope and repentance is open.” The offer came during his visit to Mount Chaambi, where extremists have been fighting security forces near Tunisia’s border with Algeria. The offer of amnesty is similar to one conducted by Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s in 2005. Algeria’s National Reconciliation Charter lured thousands of insurgents home, although some rejoined their groups later. In addressing the militant groups, Marzouki said, “You are fighting an imaginary enemy” and death won’t lead to martyrdom. The offer applies only to those who haven’t killed. For over a year, security forces have tracked extremists in the Mount Chaambi area. Over a dozen soldiers have been killed in clashes.


8 May: Yemen’s main oil export pipeline has been bombed, halting crude flows. Other gunmen have attacked electricity lines, causing a power outage in most of the country’s northern cities. No group has claimed responsibility but Yemeni tribesmen often attack oil pipelines and power lines. Al-Qaida-linked militants have also carried out such attacks. This latest round of attacks coincided with an offensive by Yemeni government forces to capture of the militants’ main stronghold in Yemen’s southern region. The pipeline, which carries crude from Maarib fields in central Yemen to the Red Sea, was bombed twice in less than 12 hours on Tuesday. In a separate event, gunmen forced the closure of the Maarib gas-fired power plant after twice attacking its power transmission lines on Wednesday. It was the third attack on electricity lines in less than 48 hours.

MENA Report

Posted on in Africa, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia title_rule


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.



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