Tag Archives: Mohamed Morsi

Egypt Security Update

Posted on in Egypt title_rule

Clashes are expected on Friday, 26 July following an unusual statement by Egyptian General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

On 24 July, al-Sisi, gave a speech at a military graduation ceremony. In the televised speech, he said, “I urge the people to take to the streets this coming Friday to prove their will and give me, the army and police, a mandate to confront possible violence and terrorism. So that in case there was a resort to violence and terrorism, the army would have a mandate to confront this.”

Millions of Egyptians are expected to take to the streets tomorrow in support of the government mandate, as the Muslim brotherhood has been protesting daily, with escalating violence and negative economic impact since the removal of President Mohamed Morsi on 4 July.

While the call for civilian mobilisation is unusual, the reasons behind it may be two-fold. First, it is important for the Egyptian government to prove to Western authorities that they acted legitimately on behalf of the broad majority of Egyptians. The mobilisation of the Egyptians could prove, in a sense, that what the army did on 4 July was not a military-directed coup, but a civilian revolution with assistance from the military. The difference in this language means the difference between deliveries or withdrawals of vital financial aid packages, particularly from the US.

Second, the call for civilian mobilisation follows a bombing conducted in Mansoura  on 24 July, which resulted in the death of 1 office, and the injury of 19 officers and civilians. This is the first time a bomb has been detonated in Nile Valley Egypt since 3 July, and is an alarming escalation. While the military has been tolerant of peaceful and even semi-violent protests, the use of gunfire has instigated reaction. The detonation of a bomb, unusual for the region, signals an impact from outside influence, and directly threatens civil order. Intelligence from the region has indicated that weapons have been sent through the Sinai Peninsula in to Egypt, from Gaza.

Meanwhile, Interim President Adly Monsour has taken a step back from the proceedings. He must walk a fine line between providing hopes of re-establishing dialog with the Muslim Brotherhood in order to create an inclusive new government, and reassuring the West that Egypt is on a path to stability and economic improvement.

In his speech, Al-Sisi  again urged against public unrest, and called for national reconciliation. However, it is likely that a large turnout of Egyptians on Friday will give the military the “permission” they need to crack down on the Muslim Brotherhood. If reconciliation is not a conceivable option for the Brotherhood, who have rejected several opportunities to work with what they term “the false government”, then it is possible that the Egyptian military could consider, once again, driving the group underground as they had done in the 1950s.

As such, clashes and mass arrests are expected on Friday. Those travelling in the region would be advised to refrain from participation in rallies, as violence is expected. Foreigners should also be wary of unscheduled changes to protest destinations or marches between sites.


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Egypt Update: Sinai in Crisis

Posted on in Egypt title_rule

The ousting of Mohamed Morsi on 4 July has caused violent conflicts across Egypt. On 16 July, clashes in Cairo resulted in seven dead and 261 wounded. Leaders of Morsi’s party, the Muslim Brotherhood, have called for a “million-man” demonstration in Cairo on 19 July; it is likely that the march will lead to more hostility. However, some analysts believe that the demonstrations are a diversion.

While protesters are in the streets, anti-government factions appear to be preparing for further violence and the conduct of terrorist activity. Salafist militants in the Sinai, reportedly receiving assistance from Hamas, have already conducted several coordinated attacks in the northern part of the peninsula, and may be intent upon bringing the chaos into mainland Egypt.

Counterfeit Military Uniforms

On 16 July, Egyptian security forces seized a shipment of counterfeit Egyptian uniforms and other equipment worth over a million Egyptian pounds from two tankers at the Ain Sukhna Port in the Suez governate. An unnamed source disclosed that the impounded items were to be used in terrorist attacks within Cairo or in other governorates.

This occurrence marks the fourth discovery of counterfeit uniforms in 2013. In March, Egyptian forces raided a counterfeit military uniform workshop north of Cairo, and also found 10,000 items of military-style clothing with an Egyptian businessman on his way to Benghazi. In another case, 25 tonnes of material, similar to that worn by Egyptian soldiers, was seized from a Chinese shipment to Alexandria.

The seizures have been linked with reports that Hamas is using the material to make counterfeit military uniforms. Hamas has been particularly angered by the removal of Morsi, as they had hoped the Islamist-backed party would provided diplomatic and financial support in its struggle with Israel.  However, Hamas has met with growing opposition as the Egyptian media reports that Hamas fighters were and are being smuggled into Egypt to restore and entrench the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Hamas denies both claims; however, the Egyptian government remains concerned that any group with the ability to impersonate Egyptian military personnel could cause problems within the nation.

Militant Movement in Sinai

Following the removal of Mubarak in 2011, North Sinai became a hotbed for violent activity. Security forces abandoned the area for several months, leaving militants and smugglers to take advantage of tunnels and above ground systems to enter the region and hide out in secluded caves and mountains.

Despite the return of Egyptian security forces, the vast, predominantly desert area is still under-policed. The sparseness of officers, many of whom are unfamiliar with the region, provides militants with secluded operational space from which to carry out extremist plots. Since Morsi’s removal from office, two Salafi-Jihadist groups have announced their presence in North Sinai, and have taken responsibility for violence in the region: Ansar al-Shari’a in the Land of Kinaanah (Egypt) announced their existence on 5 July, vowing to respond to the “war against Islam in Egypt.” On 6 July, a group called al-Salafiya al-Jihadiyah fi’l-Sinai condemned the military for allegedly firing on demonstrators in al-Arish, and called for the “comprehensive and immediate application of Islamic law,” telling Egyptians to abandon the concept of democracy and resist “the enemies of Islam in Egypt.”

On 8 July, Dr. Muhammad Beltagy, a senior leader in the Muslim Brotherhood, stated that the MB is not responsible for the upsurge of violence in the Sinai, but that the attacks will stop when Defence Minister, General al-Sisi, withdraws the coup and restores Morsi to office. While this statement sparked rumours of MB responsibility for growing violence in the region, the MB as an entity has in fact made little headway in the Sinai. According to prominent North Sinai activist Mos’ad Abu Fajr, individuals associated with Hamas and their military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, have been aiding the violence in the Sinai through funds provided by one man, Khayrat al Shater, the deputy leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, who is now imprisoned.

Violence in North Sinai

Following Morsi’s removal, hard-line militants have mounted daily attacks against Egyptian security forces in the region. The strikes have increased in intensity and boldness, and show greater coordination and planning. Since the removal of Morsi, the following events have occurred in the Sinai:

  • 4 July: Gunmen send rocket propelled grenades toward army checkpoints at al-Arish airport.
  • 4 July: Gunmen attack an army checkpoint on a road south of al-Arish.
  • 4 July:  Police stations and a military intelligence headquarters in Rafah attacked, killing one soldier and wounding two, as Egyptian Army closes over 40 major smuggling tunnels along the Gaza border, and closing the Rafah border itself.
  • 5 July: Egyptian border guard killed in a gunfight at Ghornata checkpoint, another wounded hours later.
  • 5 July: A series of coordinated attacks throughout North Sinai, presumably by disparate militant groups working in unity.
  •  5 July: Morsi supporters attack an administrative building in al-Arish carrying the black flag used by al-Qaeda and its subsidiaries.
  • 5 July: Two police officers killed in front of a government building in al-Arish; an additional four officers killed the same day.
  • 5 July: Simultaneous attack on five security checkpoints in Sheikh Zweid.
  • 6 July: A Coptic Christian priest is killed at an outdoor market.
  • 6-7 July: Four simultaneous attacks in Sheikh Zweid.
  • 7 July: Egyptian border guards encountered a group of ten militants emerging from a tunnel from Gaza. The group, suspected Hamas fighters, escape back into the tunnel, leaving behind seven boxes of bombs and munitions.
  • 7 July: al-Arish pipeline is bombed twice, halting natural gas supplies to Jordan. The pipeline has been struck over a dozen times since Mubarak’s removal in 2011, but had no instances of attack for 10 months.
  • 8 July: Israeli sources claim that dozens of Hamas militants crossed into the Sinai and participated in a Muslim Brotherhood attack on an Army post in al-Arish.
  • 8 July: A series of attacks are carried out by gunmen on motorcycles and in vehicles. One officer is killed outside a police station in al-Arish. Fourteen suspected militants were arrested.
  • 9 July: Militants attack a security checkpoint using RPGs and heavy machine guns in Sadr al-Haytan.
  • 10 July 10: Gunmen attempt to assassinate General Ahmad Wasfy, the commander of Egypt’s Second Field Army, responsible for the Sinai.
  • 11 July: Militants abduct and decapitate a Christian merchant in Sheikh Zweid.
  • 12 July: One Egyptian policeman killed and another wounded by militants who fired rocket-propelled grenades at security checkpoints in al-Arish.
  • 13 July: Masked gunmen in an SUV fire at a security checkpoint near al-Arish airport. No injuries reported.
  • 13 July: Egyptian security officials arrest a Palestinian man in relation to the al-Arish pipeline bombings. The criminal was detained in the Sinai Peninsula while trying to return to the Gaza Strip.
  • 14 July: Militants al-Arish fire RPGs, mistakenly targeting a bus full of workers heading to a cement factory, killing three and injuring 17.
  • 17 July: One Egyptian army officer and five soldiers wounded as gunmen attacked three army camps in al-Arish, using mobile anti-aircraft rockets and machine guns.
  • 17 July: Egyptian forces seize a cache of handmade weapons in Port Said
  • 17 July: Egyptian police officer shot in the neck outside of police station in Al Arish.
  • 17 July: Eight people wounded in an attack in Rafah.
  • 17 July: Gunmen killed three policemen in al Arish.
  • 17 July: Forces intercepted 19 GRAD rockets, with a range up to 10 kilometres, heading to Cairo from Suez. Sources believe the rockets were made and supplied by Hamas and originated from the Gaza Strip.

Egyptian Security Reaction

Egyptian forces are losing troops at a rate of one death and six injuries per day. Per the 1979 peace accord, Egypt has requested and received permission from Israel to send additional troops into the Sinai. Two Egyptian battalions will be deployed: one in Rafah, on the border with Gaza, will focus on smuggling, illegal passage, and the defence of the highly targeted town of al-Arish; another battalion will be established in the centre of the peninsula. Forces intend to protect the peninsula and prevent militant activity from sweeping into mainland Egypt. Patrol has also increased in the Suez region to ensure the safe travel through the Canal Zone.

The offensive is expected to last at least a month, as Egyptian military is determined to eliminate the jihadist presence in the region. On the Israeli side of the border, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) has chosen to act only if armed individuals or groups attempt to cross the border, and IDF forces are preparing the soldiers for complex tasks and drilling extreme scenarios. The Egyptian army and government have acted quickly to make its position clear to Israel authorities, receiving an Israel representative for security talks in Cairo hours after Morsi’s overthrow.


Because Egypt is working to regain stability, it is expected that for some time, military forces will more than likely be one step behind militant activities without the aid of outside forces. Attacks appear more united and coordinated than previous attacks over the past two years, and militant actors may also take advantage of Egypt’s tenuous relationship with the Bedouin community in the Sinai, who feel they have not received significant attention from the mainland government for several decades. Certain Bedouin tribes in the region have turned to smuggling as pastoral and other income opportunities have dried out. The result is an increased flow of weapons and contraband, particularly from Libya, which could reach the hands of the militants. If the Egyptian government is intent to set a timeframe on offensive activity in the Sinai, it is likely that the militants are prepared to wait them out.

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MENA Update

Posted on in Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Qatar, Sudan, Syria title_rule


Bouteflika to Return to Algeria

9 July, 2013- President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is expected to leave hospital in Paris and return to Algeria soon. The 76 year old was rushed to a hospital in France on April 27 after a stroke. There has been little information released regarding his health, however Algerian state television released images of his meeting with his prime minister and army chief of  staff in order to quell rumours about his health.

Bouteflika’s return ends the concern over a “presidential vacuum” in his absence. Opposition parties were preparing for the possibility of early elections; however a high-level source indicated that the elections will be held in the fall of 2014 as initially anticipated.

Algeria Steps up Security for Ramadan and Summer

10 July, 2013- Algeria’s security forces have taken preventive measures in counterterrorism during Ramadan and this summer. Ramadan, a lunar holiday, arrives early this year, coinciding with the summer season which is a high season for terrorist activity. The defence ministry has also drawn up permanent plans to secure the country’s borders.

The National Gendarmerie Command and Directorate General of National Security (DGSN) revealed a plan aimed at securing mosques, public spaces, beaches, and entertainment venues in 14 coastal provinces. Security measures include increasing surveillance operations, intensifying patrols, including foot and mobile patrols, particularly on roads with heavy traffic during the summer. Over 150,000 policemen, including 50,000 in the 14 coastal provinces, have been mobilised to secure holiday-makers, and 70 new neighbourhood security centres have been created near the beaches.

Security operations have already resulted in the deaths of 10 members of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. On 5 July, the military conducted a three day sweep in the mountainous area of Bouira, an AQIM stronghold.  Seven terrorists were killed by military helicopters. Two days earlier in Bordj Bou Arreridj, three terrorists were killed during a three-hour gun battle. The military seized weapons, hand grenades and some important documents.


Bahrain Police Tighten Security Measures after Violence

7 July, 2013- Bahraini police have come out in full force following outbursts of violence. On Saturday, the explosion of a homemade device killed one policeman and wounded five. The next day, thugs threw Molotov cocktails at a police vehicle, injuring three officers and destroying their vehicle. The same day, a gang hurled Molotov cocktails at a minibus during a clash with officers.

Police have set up several checkpoints at key entrances to Sitra, checking identities before allowing drivers to pass. Officers have also checked homes, searching for evidence. Since 2011, clashes have escalated in the nation as Shiite demonstrators continue protests against the Sunni dominated government.

Bahraini Forces Raid Homes as Protesters Demand Democratically Elected Government

8 July, 2013- Bahraini forces have attacked dozens of homes over the past three days in a crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. The regime’s main opposition, al-Wefaq, reports that troops used poisonous gases in at least 34 areas to disperse anti-government protesters.

Thousands of Bahraini protesters demonstrated against the Al Khalifa regime outside Manama, demanding the release of political prisoners. The protest was called by the main opposition, Al-Wefaq party, and other political groups.

Al-Wefaq’s Secretary General, Ali Salman, says that the protests come after the arrest of over 640 individuals on various charges over the last three months. At least 13 people have been imprisoned for protests against the regime, with sentences ranging from 15 years to life. On Friday, a court in Bahrain sentenced 29 people to one month in prison for trying to enter the area formerly known as Pearl Square (now demolished), which was centre of the Bahrain’s anti-government protests.

A report published by the Bahrain Liberties and Human Rights Department in Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society found a number of human rights violations by the regime in June 2013, including 183 arrests (including 4 women and 9 children), more than 68 injuries due to use of excessive force, and 29 cases of brutal or inhumane torture. In addition, the group reported the raiding of over 263 homes, often occurring after midnight or at dawn, with forces vandalising or stealing the households’ belongings, as well as verbal abuse.

Protesters chanted anti-regime slogans while carrying Bahraini flags, anti-regime banners and placards. They say they will continue to demonstrate until their demand for the establishment of a democratically-elected government is met.


Interim President Appoints Prime Minister and Vice President, Reveals Timetable for Elections

8 July, 2013- Egypt’s interim president, Adly Mansour, has released the timetable for new elections.  Since the removal of Muslim Brotherhood backed President Mohamed Morsi, heavy clashes have occurred between pro- and anti- Morsi protesters, culminating in a deadly clash with the military on Monday, killing 55 people and injuring hundreds. The timetable was released quickly in an effort to quell instability in the nation.

The first action will be the formation of a panel to amend the constitution, which was suspended last week following the removal of former president Mohamed Morsi. The new panel will be formed within 15 days. All changes will be put to a referendum to occur within four months.

Following the referendum, parliamentary elections will be held. These are estimated to occur in early 2014. Once the newly elected parliament convenes, presidential elections will be held. The Brotherhood rejected the plan, with a senior figure calling it a “decree issued after midnight by a person appointed by the putchists, usurping the legislative power from a council elected by the people, and bringing the country back to stage zero”.

On Tuesday, Mansour appointed Hazem Beblawi as his prime minister and directed him to form a new government. Beblawi served as finance minister in 2011, following the overthrow of former President Hosni Mubarak. His sometime alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood has earned him the backing of the Salafist Nour Party, a key improvement after the party’s announcement that they would not participate in the incoming government following the bloodshed on Monday.

Mohamed El Baradei, leader of the National Salvation Front, was initially tapped as prime minister but was met with animosity from anti-Morsi Protesters. He has now been appointed the role of Vice President and the responsibility for foreign affairs.

Gulf States Provide Billions in Aid to Support Egypt

10 July, 2013- Gulf States have provided over $12 billion USD in aid, a great show of support for the Egyptian army’s move to push the Muslim Brotherhood from power. Despite concerns from Western nations such as the US and UK, the Gulf states have eagerly offered support. The United Arab Emirates offered a grant of $1 billion and a loan of $2 billion, while Saudi Arabia offered $3 billion in cash and loans, and an additional $2 billion worth of much-needed fuel. Both nations had promised aid following the removal of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, but withheld it while Morsi was in office. Morsi received backing predominantly from Qatar, which is supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood. On Thursday morning, Kuwait announced they would send $4 billion in support; $2 billion central bank deposit, a $1 billion grant and $1 billion in oil products.

The monetary aid provides Egypt with urgently needed funds to distribute the subsidized fuel and food for its 84 million people. Egypt’s economy has been in steady decline since 2011, as the Arab Spring drove away tourists and investors. The aid also gives the new leaders time to negotiate with the International Monetary fund for a long awaited $4.8 billion rescue loan.


Iraqi Shiite PM Seeks Alliance with Sunni Muslims

8 July, 2013- Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is making efforts to build alliances with moderate Iraqi Sunni groups, believing cross-sectarian cooperation will aid in closing the increasingly violent religious schism.

Shia and Sunni sectarian violence has escalated significantly as a result of the Syrian civil war. Iraq’s Shiite majority lives in the east, closer to Iran, which has supplied weapons and fighters to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Iraqi Sunnis live mainly in the west and north near Syria, where Sunni rebels have received support from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Iraqi militant groups are fighint on both sides of the issue. The Shiite-led Iraqi government has avoided taking sides; concerned with minimizing domestic unrest, particularly after suffering its three deadliest months in five years, and fearing a repeat of sectarian civil war of 2006 and 2007.

Until recently, al-Malaki has taken a hardline approach as the “Shiite defender.” However, as election season nears and the prime minister seeks to regain office, he has taken a more unified stance. al-Malaki’s party has lost support in his Shiite base, however he has approximately 33 percent of the Sunni community’s support. It is possible that al-Maliki could potentially partner with moderate Sunnis to form a governing coalition. To this end, the Iraqi government passed a law in June which transferred significant powers from the central government to the provinces; and al-Maliki approved a bill allowing many former members of Saddam Hussein’s (predominantly Sunni) Baath party to hold government positions.

Although the alliance depends on several factors outside of politics, al-Malaki hopes that the outreach will stem the tide of internal sectarian clashes.


Jordan receives Abu Qatada after Deportation from UK

7 July 2013– Jordan has received convicted Islamist Abu Qatada, whose real name is Mahmoud Mohammad Othman, after he was deported by Britain to face trial in the Kingdom.  Qatada will be interrogated and retried in on terror charges stemming from 1999 and 2000.

The transfer follows the ratification of a treaty between Britain and Jordan aimed at easing human rights concerns that had blocked previous attempts to deport the Jordanian preacher. Although Britain had tried to deport Abu Qatada since 2001, courts have blocked extradition, fearing that evidence obtained under torture could be used against him.

In 1999, the Jordanian government sentenced Abu Qatada was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment with hard labour for conspiracy to carry out terror attacks targeting the Modern American School, and a major hotel, with bombings which caused minor property damage but no casualties. In 2000, he was sentenced to a further 25 years for involvement in a plot to bomb tourists attending Millennium celebrations in Jordan.

In Britain, Abu Qatada is accused of links with Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person charged in the United States over the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and with shoe bomber Richard Reid. He was detained in 2002 under anti-terrorism laws, which at the time allowed suspected terrorists to be jailed without charge. When the law was overturned in 2005, he was released but kept under close surveillance and detained in various ways. He most recently was being held at London’s Belmarsh prison after breaching a bail condition in March which restricted the use of mobile phones and communication devices.

Jordanian Minister of State for Media Affairs, Mohammad al-Momani, says that Abu Qatada will receive a fair trial in accordance with the Jordanian law and in line with international agreements and human rights accords.


Kuwait Bans Expats from Driving and Hospitals

9 July, 2013- The Kuwaiti government has restricted expats from using public hospitals and driving. In early June, the Kuwaiti government barred foreigners from attending a major public hospital in the morning, freeing it for locals who have complained about overcrowding. The move is part of a six month trial to ease congestion for Kuwaiti patients. If it is successful, the plan will be rolled out nationally, allowing foreigners to receive morning treatment only in cases of emergency.

Kuwait is also ending subsidies to foreigners for public services such as electricity and water, calling them “a burden on the state”.

Earlier this year the Kuwaiti government said it relied too heavily on expats and wants to reduce their numbers, as expats outnumber Kuwaitis 2 to 1. Over the next decade, the nation plans to cut its 1.8 million expats by 100,000.

Kuwaiti authorities have also tightened restrictions on foreign drivers by withdrawing licences from students and housewives. Under current laws, most foreigners can only drive on public roads if they hold a university degree, earn 400 dinars (£910) a month and have lived in the country for at least two years. Students and housewives with children exempted from the conditions, as were judges and doctors. Kuwait’s traffic department is reviewing exemptions, and licences for students when they graduate and housewives who get a job.

In addition, over a thousand expats have been deported within the past two months for minor traffic offences. The anti-foreigner stance has caused Kuwait to drop down the World Economic Forum’s rankings for friendliness to tourists and visitors, falling to 137th place out of 140 countries.


313 Brigade Claims Responsibility for Car Bomb in Hezbollah Stronghold

10 July, 2013- A powerful car bomb exploded in a southern suburb in Beirut, wounding at least 53 people. The blast occurred in the heart of a highly secured Hezbollah territory, and was one of the biggest in the capital’s southern suburbs since the end of Lebanon’s 15-year civil war in 1990. The bombing raises fears that the Syrian war is spilling into the region and causing increases in sectarian violence, as is occurring in Iraq. On Wednesday, a group called the 313 Brigade took responsibility for the attack, blaming Hezbollah and parts of the Lebanese government for intervening in the Syrian civil war on behalf of the Syrian government.  In late June, the claimed responsibility for an attack on a Hezbollah convoy in eastern Lebanon. The 313 Brigade has released a statement warning that Hezbollah must withdraw from Syria or it would experience further attacks in Lebanon.

The car bomb occurred in a commercial and residential neighbourhood in Beir el-Abed, as many Lebanese Shiites began observing Ramadan. The blast went off in a parking lot near the Islamic Coop, a supermarket usually packed with shoppers. Beir el-Abed is only few hundred metres from what is known as Hezbollah’s “security square,” where many of the party’s officials live and have offices.

Many believe that Hezbollah is facing retaliation for its role in fighting alongside Assad’s troops. Hezbollah fighters aided Assad’s troops in gaining a critical victory in the strategic town of Qusair, near the Lebanese border, where rebels held sway for more than a year. They are currently aiding the Syrian military in Homs. Syrian rebels and militant Islamist groups have threatened to target Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon in retaliation.

Immediately following the explosion, about 100 outraged Hezbollah supporters stormed through the area, carrying posters of Nasrallah and chanting sectarian slogans. Hezbollah operatives wearing red caps and holding radios kept watch as Interior Minister Marwan Charbel came to inspect the scene of the blast. They fired into the air to disperse protesters who were pelting him with stones, trapping him for 45 minutes in a building before he was escorted through a backdoor. Charbel is seen by some Shiites as sympathetic to Sunni cleric Ahmad al-Assir, who has agitated against Hezbollah for months and is now on the run.

The European Union condemned the Beirut bombing, calling it an “appalling act of violence (that) underlines the need for all Lebanese to maintain their national unity.”


Libyan Protesters Demand Disbanding of Militias

8 July, 2013- Hundreds of Libyan protesters called for the disbanding of militias that have plagued Tripoli since the end of the 2011 war. The Libyan government is currently attempting to regain control of the interior ministry after it was besieged by an armed group that entered the building on Tuesday and ordered staff to leave.

Armed groups have grown in power and ambition since the removal of Muammar Gaddafi’s, and the weak government has struggled to impose its authority over them. A ministerial committee has been in talks to regain control of the interior ministry from a militia, and government officials are drawing up plans to disband them, but have not released details.

Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said the Libyan government would raise salaries as a way to lure former rebel fighters into the state forces. Nearly 19,500 men would be sent for police and military training in the United States, France, Britain and Italy. 


Istiqlal Party quits Islamist Led Government, Joins Opposition

9 July, 2013- A spokesman for the Istiqlal party, a secular centre-right party and the second largest in Moroccan parliament, has announced that its six Cabinet members have tendered their resignations, and the party announced it is formally joining the opposition.

The resignations come during domestic disputes over subsidy cuts, and as the dominant Islamist party in Morocco, the PJD, watches as Egyptian ally Mohamed Morsi is deposed. The PJD were supporters of the Muslim brotherhood, while Morocco’s king expressed support for Morsi’s replacement.

An Istiqlal leader Hamid Chabat has said that he hopes for the end of Moroccan Prime Minister Benkirane, similar to what happened to Morsi. Prime Minister Benkirane must now either dissolve the government and call early elections, or try to form new alliances to fill the empty seats.

The government crisis is compounded by a struggling economy. Morocco is facing a large deficit and a slowdown in growth after public spending to defuse popular discontent during the 2011 Arab Spring protests. The current government is struggling to rein in spending and reform a costly system of subsidies and state pensions. In May, Istiqlal threatened to quit over the Islamists’ plans to cut subsidies, however those cuts were a demand of the International Monetary Fund, which extended Morocco a $6.2 billion precautionary line of credit with the condition that it would undertake these reforms. The cutting of subsidies is likely to elevate social tensions in a nation where demonstrations over the high cost of living are common.


Angry Taliban Abandon Doha Office

9 July, 2013- Following the removal of the Taliban flag, and the plaque of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan from their ‘political office’ in Doha, Taliban negotiators have stopped visiting the office. Their absence dashes hopes for an early resumption of the peace process.

Following the inauguration of the office, Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s administration raised objections, calling the office an attempt to install a parallel government. In response, Qatari officials removed the Taliban’s white flag and plaque inscribed with ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ – a name the Taliban used for their regime before it was toppled by the United States in 2001.

Two spokesmen for the Taliban switched off their mobile phones and stopped replying to emails. Qatari officials that were present at the inauguration have gone silent on the controversy.

Karzai, angered at the prospect of being sidelined in any Taliban-US agreement, refused to send members of his High Peace Council to Doha.

A senior member of the High Peace Council said that the Taliban must hold exploratory talks with the US regarding prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, or to remove the names of their leaders from the UN sanction lists. In turn the US also hopes to discuss release of their prisoners held with the Taliban.

Sudan – South Sudan

20,000 People Neglected in Border Region

8 July, 2013- Over 20,000 people are almost cut off from aid in South Sudan’s Bahr el Ghazal state, after fleeing violence in the disputed border region with Sudan. There is a severe shortage of food and drinking water, and the people in the camps are living in substandard conditions.

The refugees are receiving minimal humanitarian assistance because of the remoteness of the region confusion over whether to call them internally displaced people (IDPs), refugees or returnees. The displaced people have almost doubled the region’s population and are mainly living in 11 makeshift camps scattered across isolated parts of Northern Bahr el Ghazal. Because they have no specific settlements assigned to them, many people have had to move several times.

“When we first arrived in February, many people were actually living in the bush. Thousands of displaced people have arrived in this region but there has been very little action taken to serve their needs,” says Lummis.

Doctors without Borders has set up mobile clinics and is training teams of community-based healthcare workers to help combat diarrhoea, malaria and malnutrition, the three leading causes of death among the population. The group is also running a basic healthcare clinic near the town of Pamat focused on children under five and pregnant women.

In Sudan on 5 July, a UN peacekeeping leader urged parties in Darfur to cease hostilities amid renewed tribal clashes which have caused over 300,000 since the beginning of this year.


Rebel Blockade Causes Food Shortages in Aleppo

9 July, 2013- As Syrian rebels intensify a blockade of government-held areas in Aleppo, residents face severe food shortages. The tactic is aimed at weakening supply routes of President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, but activists believe that indiscriminately punishes over 2 million people residents who live in the part of the city still held by the army.

Last year, rebels launched an offensive and seized nearly half of the city. For months, they have been working to block roads into the government controlled western part of the city. Food scarcity became a serious problem this week as fighters blocked a highway once left open to civilians. A rebel fighter called the problem an unfortunate side effect of rebel clashes with the army. Activists say food is now cheaper in rebel areas, as food prices have increased to over ten times their original level and basics such as bread and flour have become harder to find. A main road that is still passable is near Bustan al-Qasr, but has become so dangerous that it is referred to as “The Crossing of Death.”

Since 2011, over 100,000 Syrians have been killed in the conflict. Sectarian violence is also increasing, as opposition, led by a Sunni majority, combats the country’s minorities, particularly Assad’s Alawite sect. Many members of minority groups live in the districts now being blockaded by rebels.

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Violent Clashes Between Army And Pro-Morsi Protesters

Posted on in Egypt title_rule

8 July, 2013 – An investigation has begun into deadly clash in Cairo earlier today which left 42 civilians and one soldier dead, and 322 civilians and 40 soldiers injured. The clashes occurred between the Egyptian Army and supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi at the Republican Guard headquarters. Pro-Morsi supporters have been staging planned protests and sit-ins around the country since Friday in hopes of returning the ousted president to power.

Conflicting reports have emerged regarding how the clashes started. The Egyptian army has released an official statement claiming that an armed terrorist group attempted to break into the headquarters of the Republican Guard early on Monday and attacked security forces.  However, the Muslim Brotherhood has released a contradictory statement claiming that peaceful protesters were performing the Fajjr (dawn prayers) when the army fired tear gas and gunshots at them, “without any consideration for the sanctity of prayers or life.” The Brotherhood goes on to state that women and children sought shelter in a nearby mosque, which was besieged by security forces who then “arrested anyone who came out of it.”The army states that it arrested 200 people who had “large quantities of firearms, ammunition and Molotov cocktails.”

The  pro-Morsi umbrella group, the National Alliance for Supporting Legitimacy, is continuing sit-ins at Rabaa Al-Adawiya Mosque in Nasr City, and other groups are protesting in several other locations, including Nahdet Misr Square in Giza.

Following today’s events, Strong Egypt Party leader Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh, a critic of former President Morsi, called on interim president Adly Mansour to step down. The Salafist Nour Party, which had initially backed the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi, announced that it will withdraw from the political process in response to the incident. The party released a statement saying, “We wanted to avoid bloodshed, but now blood has been spilled. So now we want to announce that we will end all negotiations with the new authorities.”

Constitution Party leader, Mohamed El Baradei, has called for an independent investigation into clashes. El Baradei was set to be appointed as interim Prime Minister for Egypt but the appointment has been delayed after heavy backlash from Morsi supporters.

Also on Monday, two army soldiers fled from kidnappers, accusing pro-Morsi supporters of capturing them in Cairo’s Ain Shams district. The army says a group of armed Morsi supporters kidnapped soldiers Samir Abdallah and Azzam Hazem. They forced the soldiers to chant pro-Morsi slogans and insults to the army, and beat them. The soldiers say the incident was filmed.

The Islamic month of Ramadan begins today. Generally, this month sees quiet mornings, with people engaging in social activities in the evening after breaking fast. It is likely that evening activities will continue to center around political differences, which may result late night/early morning clashes centered around areas near mosques.

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Egypt Update: Monsour Sworn in as Interim President

Posted on in Egypt title_rule

On 4 July, head of the Egyptian High Constitutional Court (HCC), Adli Monsour, has taken the oath of office as Egypt’s Interim president, following yesterday’s overthrow of former President Mohamed Morsi. Immediately following his swearing in, Monsour gave his first speech to the people of Egypt, thanking the youth for leading the charge to gain back the 2011 revolution. “I look forward to parliamentary and presidential elections held with the genuine and authentic will of the people. The youth had the initiative and the noblest thing about this glorious event is that it was an expression of the nation’s conscience and an embodiment of its hopes and ambitions. It was never a movement seeking to realise special demands or personal interests.”

Monsour, who had been deputy head of the Supreme Constitutional Court from 1992, had been chosen by President Morsi to be the leader of the Supreme Constitutional Court upon the retirement of its former leader, effective 30 June.

He had been in office only two days when the army named him leader of Egypt

Monsour is a 67-year-old father of three, French educated at the Ecole Nationale de l’Administration. He was a long-serving judge under the former president Hosni Mubarak, serving in state sponsored religious courts as well as civil and criminal courts. Monsour helped to draft the supervision law for the presidential elections that brought Morsi to power in 2012, which included setting a legal timeframe for electoral campaigning.

Immediate Fallout

As the swearing in proceeded, dozens of Mohamed Morsi-supporters protested outside the High Constitutional Court. Security forces formed a barricade to prevent clashes with celebrating citizens, and arm tanks and soldiers surrounded the HCC.

Following the swearing in, several ministers from Egypt’s Cabinet who belonged to the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and Muslim Brotherhood presented their resignations in protest. These include the Ministers of Local Administration, Youth, Labour Force, Investment, Supply, Planning and International Cooperation, Education, Information, and Transportation. Declining an offer by Interim President Monsour to work on developing a unified government, Sheikh Abdel Rahman El-Bar, a member of the Brotherhood’s executive board, stated that the group will not work with “the usurper authorities.

In Damanhour and Beni Suef, thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters held rallies against what they are calling “a coup against legitimacy,” holding photos of Morsi and chanting, “Down with military rule.” Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood issued a statement Wednesday announcing their refusal of the former president’s removal, calling the military’s move a “coup d’etat.”In Beni Suef, reports say that protesters have stormed and are currently occupying the governorate building.

In a press conference on Thursday, The National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, an umbrella group for several Islamist parties, has issued a call for “peaceful protests on Friday in all of Egypt’s provinces to denounce the military coup against legitimacy and in support of the legitimacy of President Morsi.” The statement was echoed on the Muslim Brotherhood’s official website, Ikhwanweb.

Egyptian Army’s Overnight Actions

In the early hours of July 4, several hundred arrest warrants were issued for Muslim Brotherhood figures who were accused of inciting violence or posing a threat to national security. Among those arrested were the Muslim Brotherhood’s former Supreme Guide Mahdi Akef, and the group’s current Supreme Guide, Mohamed Badie. Badie was arrested for the murder of eight protestors in Marsa Matrouh, near the Libyan border. The army has taken them to Tora Prison on the outskirts of Cairo, where ousted president Hosni Mubarak and his sons are detained.

Security forces also stormed Al Jazeera’s Egyptian offices, arresting five employees for reportedly showing “only pro-Morsi” demonstrations. Several other stations were also taken off the air, including the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist networks in al-Nass, al-Hifaz and al-Amjaad. The Army states that it is a precautionary measure to prevent the media from inciting violence. It is unknown if or when they will resume broadcasting.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s legislative chamber, the Shura council, has been dissolved due to suspension of the constitution, and will not reconvene until a new constitution is drawn.  In June, the council’s election was ruled unconstitutional by the HCC, but was granted immunity from dissolution by the now suspended constitution. The lower council was dissolved earlier in the year by a separate court ruling. Following the draft of the new constitution, new presidential and parliamentary elections will then take place. A timeline is yet to be determined.

Hope for Egypt

Despite these setbacks, Egyptians are in high spirits at the prospects of rebuilding the nation. Protesters celebrated into the night, with fireworks and cheers. In the morning, Egypt’s main stock exchange index, the EGX30, which had been in decline for a month, rose by 7.3 percent, cutting year-to-date losses to just 2.3 percent as the market reacted to the ousting of Morsi from power. Egyptian investors, relieved by the removal of Morsi, purchased a net LE140.3 million worth of stocks, and total turnover reached a relatively high LE459 million. Egypt saw a market capital gain of LE20 billion in the first hours of trading.

International Reaction

There has been mixed reaction to the events in Egypt. In the Middle East, formal congratulations came from Saudi Arabia; however, leaders in Qatar, a supporter of Islamists in the Arab uprisings, sent a more muted statement, saying they would “respect the wishes of the Egyptian people.” Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad called Morsi’s ouster the “fall of political Islam”, and said, “Syria’s people and leadership and army express their deep appreciation for the national, populist movement in Egypt which has yielded a great achievement.”

Rached Ghannouchi, head of Tunisia’s ruling Islamist an-Nahda party, called the removal “a flagrant coup against democratic legitimacy,” and Turkey has lamented the loss of a valuably ally, calling it “unacceptable.” Iran called for respecting the legitimate demands of the people, but warned of “foreign and enemy opportunism”.

In the African Union, an unidentified senior source has stated that the group is likely to suspend Egypt from all its activities following Morsi’s removal from office. Members of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council will meet on Friday, and may implement the AU’s response, which is suspension for any country where an unconstitutional change has taken place.

Western foreign governments are still working through semantics to determine whether Morsi’s removal was a coup, or a military intervention. UK Foreign Secretary William Hague criticized military intervention but called it a popular move, urging fast and inclusive transition: “We have to recognise the enormous dissatisfaction in Egypt with what the president had done and the conduct of the government over the past year.” The United States is considering using the annual $1.3 billion aid package as encouragement for civilian

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