Top News: Al-Qaeda-claimed attack in Yemeni capital kills fifty-two

At least fifty-two people were killed and 167 wounded after a car bomb rocked the defense ministry in the capital Sana’a on Thursday, an Al Arabiya correspondent reported. Six doctors, including a Venezuelan and two from the Philippines, were among the people killed, Agence France-Presse quoted medical and security sources as saying.

The death toll also includes three Yemeni doctors and five patients, among them a judge, at a hospital within the ministry’s complex that took the brunt of the attack, a medic said. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) media arm, al-Mallahem, claimed the attack early Friday morning on its Twitter account, saying it targeted the Defense Ministry building because it “accommodates drone control rooms and American experts.” It said security headquarters used by the Americans in their war are “legitimate targets.” On Friday afternoon, a military source in the ministry of defense said that the task force charged with dealing with the militants completed its mission, killing all those involved with the attack. [Al Arabiya, 12/6/2013]




Egypt no longer allows visits to ousted president
Egypt’s Interior Ministry says it will no longer allow visits to the country’s ousted president, now held in a remote desert prison. Ministry spokesman Col. Gamal Mokhtar said Friday that Mohammed Morsi had delivered four messages “inciting violence” against the interim government during a first meeting with his lawyers on November 13. [AP, 12/6/2013]

New protest venue designated to host no-notice Cairo demonstrations
On Friday, Cairo Governor Galal Mostafa designated a space of 20 feddans (84,000 square meters) in Al-Fustat Garden in Old Cairo for peaceful demonstrations, marches or general meetings that have not been pre-authorized, as Egypt’s new protest law requires. According to state-owned news agency MENA, security forces will ensure the safety of citizens protesting in this newly allocated venue. The interior pathways of the park have been paved, and efforts have been made to ensure the park has all of the necessary facilities for protesters. Protesters entering the garden’s southern gate will not be asked to pay for entry tickets. [Ahram Online, EGYNews (Arabic), 12/6/2013]

Egypt’s public sector fails to pay LE11 billion in electricity bills: Spokesperson  
Public sector companies failed to pay roughly LE11 billion in government dues this year, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Electricity told Ahram Online on Thursday. The ministry’s main creditor is the Holding Company for Water and Waste Water, with delayed payments of up to LE3 billion in 2013. Other public sector companies with delayed payments of electricity bills include the Egyptian Company for Metro Management and Operation, the Egyptian Radio and Television Union and the government’s business sector. The ministry’s spokesperson, Aktham Abu El-Ella, said that they were unable to take any measures such as cutting power in order to force the public sector to pay its electricity bills. [Ahram Online, 12/6/2013]

April 6 member detained for distributing anti-army flyers
The Suez prosecution has ordered fifteen days of detention for Ahmed Ibrahim for possession of documents, papers, and leaflets inciting against the government, police, and armed forces, according to state owned Al-Ahram. Ibrahim, a member of the Alexandrian branch of the 6 April Democratic Front, was arrested when traveling from Alexandria to a Belayim Petroleum site in the Sinai Peninsula, a security source told Al-Ahram. The 6 April Democratic Front reported Ibrahim’s arrest on Thursday night, stating, “It has now become a punishable charge to belong to the movement now.” The statement said the front believes there is a “dirty and systematic campaign against the movement and its members,” adding that the aim is to “eliminate us”. [DNE, AMAY (Arabic), 12/6/2013]


AECOM to resume work on multi-million dollar contract
AECOM, an American Fortune 500 company, has signed a $209 million contract with the Libyan housing ministry to resume work on pre-revolution housing and infrastructure projects. The contract is the remainder of an original contract suspended during the revolution, that of a project with a total value of over $36 billion. Ambassador Deborah Jones and Minister of Housing Ali Sharif said the agreement signaled the good relationship and growing economic cooperation between the United States and Libya. [Libya Herald, 12/06/2013]

Buhulaiga killed in traffic accident
Commander of the Zawiya Martyrs Brigade in Sirte, Colonel Salah Buhulaiga, was killed early Friday morning in an apparent car crash. While intelligence contacts and brigade members confirmed the death was an accident, there had been attempts on Buhulaiga’s life in recent weeks. The Zawiya Martyrs Brigade is the main state military presence in Sirte but has come under growing pressure from Ansar al-Sharia, which has a base nearby. [Libya Herald, 12/06/2013]

No contact with government, says Derna council leader
Hussam al-Nuwaissary, head of the Derna Local Council, has refuted Prime Minister Ali Zidan’s statement that the government was in close contact with various security bodies in the town, accusing it of only taking interest in Derna because of popular protests against lack of security. At a press conference yesterday, Zidan said the army and police would be sent into Derna when the time was right. In a signal to militias, he also said that the state security apparatus would not target anyone unless they targeted the sovereignty of the state. Derna is second only to Benghazi in the number of politically-motivated murders in the past year. [Libya Herald, 12/05/2013]

Libya falls sharply in corruption perceptions index
Transparency International has ranked Libya 172 out of 177 countries in its global corruption perceptions index. The North African country has fallen twelve places in the index, putting it ahead of countries such as Sudan and Somalia and behind ones like Iraq and Turkmenistan. [Libya Business News, 12/05/2013]


Report: Syrian rebel group demands hostage swap for abducted nuns
A Syrian rebel group calling itself “Free Qalamoun” has claimed the kidnapping of twelve nuns and said it wants to trade them for a thousand female detainees held by the government, a pan-Arab newspaper reported on Friday. Rebel spokesman Mohannad Abu al-Fidaa told Asharq al-Awsat that the nuns were safe but “will not be released until several demands have been implemented, most importantly, the release of 1,000 Syrian women held in regime prisons.” [Reuters/Al Arabiya, 12/6/2013]

British FM says Assad must quit for settlement in Syria
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Friday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must stand down to allow for any peaceful settlement to the thirty-three-month-old conflict in his country.  “We have always been very clear that a peaceful solution in Syria must require the departure of President Assad,” Hague told a press conference in Kuwait City after talks with his Kuwaiti counterpart Sheikh Sabah Khaled al-Sabah. “It is impossible to imagine after so many deaths, so much destruction, a regime oppressing and murdering its own people on this scale” should remain in power, Britain’s chief diplomat said. The reiteration of Britain’s call for Assad’s ouster came just weeks ahead of an international peace conference on Syria slated for January 22. [AFP/Al Arabiya, 12/6/2013]

Suicide bomber kills five outside Syria militia HQ
A suicide bomber blew up a vehicle outside a pro-government militia headquarters in northeastern Syria, killing at least five people on Friday, a monitoring group said. Another ten people were wounded in the bombing outside the National Defense Forces base in the Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli on the Turkish border, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. State television reported that a blast in the Hasakeh province city resulted in deaths and injuries but made no mention of it being near the militia headquarters. [AFP/NOW, 12/6/2013]

Syrian activists accuse regime of poison gas use in Qalamoun
Syrian activists late Thursday accused the Syrian regime of using poison gas in the embattled Qalamoun town of Nabak despite the OPCW’s October 31 announcement that all declared chemical weapons in Syria had been placed under seal. Two shells bearing poison gas fired from a regime post in nearby Deir Attiyeh hit Nabak and lead to seven injuries, activists told Reuters. “Seven men are reported ill so far. They have swollen limbs and foam coming out of their mouths,” activist Amer al-Qalamouni told the news agency. “No doctors have got to them yet because Nabak is under ferocious bombardment and there are very few medical staff left.” [Reuters/NOW, 12/6/2013]


NCA members urge state to assume responsibility in transition period
On Thursday in Carthage a delegation of elected members of the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) met with caretaker President Moncef Marzouki, where the deputies stressed the need for the state to assume its responsibilities in the current democratic transition period, NCA member Habib Hergam declared after the talk. The encounter is part of a communication initiative with the government institutions, he said, underlining an imperative to involve all categories of people in the national dialogue and to move away from narrow political partisanship. [TAP, 12/5/2013]

Tunisia rapper jailed for four months at retrial
A Tunisian rapper who went on the run after receiving a twenty-one-month jail sentence in absentia in August for songs deemed insulting to police was jailed for four months at a retrial Thursday. Weld El 15, whose real name is Alaa Yacoubi, had surrendered to the authorities at the courthouse for the hearing. The court found him guilty of affront to public decency and insulting behavior towards public servants in his songs, and ordered him taken straight to the cells to serve his sentence. [AFP/Al Arabiya, 12/5/2013]

Foreign journalists implicated in Ben Ali press deals
A document leaked last week implicates multiple foreign journalists of collaborating with Tunisia’s former regime, accepting money in exchange for positive coverage. The “black book,” according to a copy leaked online and confirmed by Tunisia Live, includes a section on foreign journalists who “cooperated with” the former Ben Ali government and another of “journalist friends” of former leader Ben Ali’s propaganda wing, the Tunisian Agency for External Communication. [Tunisia Live, 12/5/2013]


NDC Secretary General: the NDC will definitively conclude in December
Secretary of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak said on Wednesday that he expects that the NDC will conclude in this month, December. “The national and historic responsibility and the current circumstances experienced by the Yemeni people, as well as the international community and the UN Security Council, emphasize the need to conclude the NDC,” he said. “We have to work seriously towards completing the NDC’s tasks. In particular, the NDC must decide on all the remaining issues that need adjudication,” the NDC Secretary General stated. [NDC, 12/5/2013]

Jamal Benomar responds to defense ministry attack and returns to Sana’a to facilitate the NDC
UN Envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar said that Yemenis will overcome any attempts at intimidation, in response to the attack on the ministry of defense that occurred Thursday. He said in a statement to state news agency SABA upon his arrival in Sana’a today, “I am sure that Yemenis will work hand in hand for the success of the national dialogue and for the best interests of their country.” He said that during this visit he would facilitate discussions on outstanding issues in the national dialogue in order to agree on a final document of decisions for the future of Yemen. [NDC(Arabic), 12/6/2013]


US to keep up robust military role in Gulf
The United States has no plans to scale back its strong military presence in the Gulf despite a diplomatic opening with Iran, US Secretary of State for Defence Chuck Hagel said on Friday.
Speaking to sailors on the deck of a US ship at a naval base in Bahrain, Hagel said the American military would maintain its high-profile role in the region during a six-month interim deal with Iran.
“I will assure our partners that we’re not going anywhere,” he said before talks with leaders from Bahrain and other Gulf states. [AFP/Gulf News, 12/6/2013]

Mideast talks ‘difficult and complicated,’ Palestinians say
A top Palestinian negotiator on Thursday said peace talks with Israel were “difficult and complicated”, after a meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and US Secretary of State John Kerry. “The situation is still very difficult and matters are complicated,” Saeb Erakat told AFP. “Abbas met Kerry for four hours… and discussed issues including security. We hope Israel will stick to its commitments and be forced to stop settlement building. Settlements are the reason for the difficulties in negotiations,” he said. [AFP/Ahram Online, 12/5/2013]

Manama Dialogue to open amid cautious optimism
Top international diplomats and defense and security officials will gather on Friday evening in the Bahraini capital Manama for the first major international security conference following the interim accord between the world’s powers and Iran in Geneva last month. “With some twenty foreign and defense ministers and dozens of senior national security officials already confirmed to participate, this year’s summit is poised to address key themes of Gulf and Middle East security including Syria, Egypt, regional conflict resolution, the management of political Islam and sectarianism, as well as the future of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) integration and military cooperation,” IISS (International Institute for Strategic Studies) said. [Gulf News, 12/6/2013]

Image: Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, center, listens to military commanders at the Defense Ministry complex after an explosion at the complex in Sanaa, Yemen, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013. (Photo: Yemeni Ministry of Defense)