The Yemen-based branch of al-Qaeda said on Monday its attack on a Yemeni army base last month targeted an operations room used by the United States to direct drone strikes against militants, and it threatened more such assaults. A Yemeni official denied that the army base contained a joint US-Yemeni operations room, saying its task was to prevent piracy in nearby Arabian Sea lanes. On Tuesday, a Yemeni military official reported that suspected al-Qaeda militants have killed two security guards and wounded four others in a driveby shooting in the southern Lahij province.  [ReutersAl Masdar (Arabic), 10/14/2013; AP, 10/15/2013]



Latest mediation between Islamists and Egypt government reaches stalemate
Efforts by Islamist figure Ahmed Kamal Abul-Magd to mediate between the Muslim Brotherhood and interim government appear to have reached an impasse. The Islamist thinker and constitutional expert attempted to end the current political deadlock by proposing that Islamists acknowledge the interim “revolutionary authority” as a first step towards national dialogue. His suggestion has been rebuffed by Islamists, who consider it tantamount to legitimising a “coup” against the country’s first democratically elected president. [Ahram Online, 10/15/2013]

Egypt detains fourteen for “homosexual acts” at medical center
An Egyptian prosecutor ordered on Saturday that fourteen suspects be detained for four days pending investigations into allegations that they committed “homosexual acts” inside a medical center in the neighborhood of al-Marg in Cairo. The prosecutor also ordered that they be sent to a pathologist for forensic reports and that the centre be shut down. Egyptian authorities raided the center after it was confirmed that the “immoral acts” were taking place between males aged between eighteen to fifty-seven years old. [Aswat Masriya, 10/13/2013]

IMF praises Egypt stimulus plan, points to challenges ahead
The IMF praised Egypt’s stimulus plan to revive the economy and welcomed support for the cash-strapped country from friendly Arab states, but said introducing much needed reforms to restructure the economy remains a challenge Egypt’s government is yet to tackle. Economic activity in Egypt has slowed since the popular uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011, with sectors such as tourism and real estate being the hardest hit. The state-run Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) said that poverty has risen among Egyptians in the fiscal year 2010-2011, compared with the fiscal year 2008-2009. CAMPAS noted that around 25 percent of Egyptians were poor in the fiscal year which started in July 2010 and ended in June 2011. It says residents in Egypt’s southern provinces are generally poorer than their compatriots in the north of the country. [Ahram, Bloomberg, Reuters, Mada Masr, World Bulletin, 10/15/2013]

US Defense Secretary Hagel, General Sisi discuss Sinai
United States Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel offered his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi warm wishes for the Eid Al-Adha holiday in a phone call Monday. In a statement, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said they tackled a number of security issues. “They discussed the importance of the US-Egyptian relationship to the national security of both countries and to the region,” the statement read. They also discussed the importance of security cooperation, particularly in the Sinai Peninsula. [Ahram Online, 10/15/2013]


Libyan al-Qaeda suspect to appear in court in New York
The alleged senior al-Qaeda figured captured in Libya by US special forces recently is now in the United States and is expected to appear in court in New York. Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, also known as Abu Anas al-Liby, is a suspect in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and faces federal terrorism charges. Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, applauded the decision to try al-Liby, who suffers from chronic health conditions, in a civilian court. [Reuters, Libya Herald, Tripoli Post, 10/14/2013]

Libya PM takes aim at illegal immigration
Prime Minister Ali Zidan said he is “determined” to tackle illegal immigration, just days after another boat carrying migrants sank in the Mediterranean Sea. At a press conference held jointly with Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, he said he has asked for training and equipment from the European Union, as well as “access to their satellite system” to allow Libyan authorities to monitor their maritime and land borders. A Libyan oil tanker rescued 174 Syrian migrants in international waters off the Italian coast on Sunday. Survivors of a migrant vessel that capsized on Friday have claimed that armed Libyans shot at their boat. [Al Jazeera, 10/13/2013]

Libyan PM says kidnapping was bid to topple government
Prime Minister Ali Zidan said that gunmen who abducted him briefly last week were part of a coup attempt by opponents in Libya’s legislature. In a televised national address, Zidan said the incident “was not an attempted kidnapping only of a prime minister…but of the state’s elected legitimacy, the government,” accusing unnamed members of the General National Congress of being involved. [Reuters, Libya Herald, 10/13/2013]

Militants die in Sirte munitions explosion
A munitions explosion at a camp outside Sirte has killed four militants believed to belong to Ansar al-Sharia. According to a local Sirte resident, one of the four may in fact have been Egyptian. Meanwhile, another security official was killed in Benghazi by a car bomb, and an imam died from injuries in an attack on Friday. A member of Zliten’s Counter Crime Agency member, who had played a key role in arresting large numbers of alcohol and drug users, was gunned down Saturday. In Tripoli, Colonel Mohamed Abdullah Suwaisi has been appointed the new head of the National Security Directorate, which is in charge of the police and security plans in the capital. [Libya Herald, 10/14/2013]


Wheat starts to reach Syria as frozen funds unlocked; 2014 government budget released
Deliveries of wheat are starting to reach Syria’s ports as its bank accounts abroad are gradually being freed from sanctions, with grain traders detecting a greater willingness from European governments to allow deals to go ahead on humanitarian grounds. As civil war grinds on, Syria is facing its worst wheat harvest in three decades. Trade sources familiar with commercial deals said at least 500,000 tons of bread-making wheat that Syria had tried to obtain months ago, but which could not be paid for because its foreign bank accounts were frozen, were now starting to be delivered. Syria’s government has agreed to a 2014 budget of $8.18 billion, a marginal increase on this year’s spending despite the economic devastation wrought by more than two years of civil war. [Reuters, 11/15/13]

Syria fighting rages on despite Muslim holiday
Syrian warplanes have been bombing the suburbs of Damascus while rebels have fired mortar shells at the capital on the first day of a major Muslim holiday. Tuesday’s fighting shows how entrenched both sides in Syria’s civil war have become. Earlier in the fighting, the sides occasionally attempted to observe holiday ceasefires. In the rebel-held northern town of Darkoush near the Turkish border a car bomb killed twenty on Monday. In Homs, kidnappings plague the divided city. In Syria’s vast northeast, rival al-Qaeda-linked groups are entrenching their efforts with mix of pragmatism and militancy. In the last two days, 5,000 people, mostly women and children, have fled Moadamiya, in the Damascus countryside. [Al Arabiya, 10/15/13] 

Several kidnapped aid workers freed in Syria, risks to humanitarian effort grow
Four of seven aid workers abducted in Syria have been freed, the International Committee for the  Red Cross (ICRC) said on Monday, but there was no word on the fate of the rest of the group whose kidnapping highlights the risk to continuing humanitarian work in a country fragmented by war. The ICRC said the aid workers had been released in the Idlib region, a near-lawless area in northeast Syria where hundreds of militia operate, but did not elaborate on the circumstances. The six Red Cross workers and local Red Crescent volunteer were abducted by gunmen as they were returning to Damascus after a four-day mission to deliver medical supplies. [Reuters, 10/15/13]

Syrian rebels urged to let inspectors see arms sites
Pressure intensified on Syrian rebels on Monday to permit access to chemical weapons sites in areas under their control, as officials said the rapidly shifting lines in the civil war made it difficult for inspectors to reach some locations and called for all parties to ease the process of dismantling Syria’s toxic arms. [NYT, Haaretz, 10/14/13]


Election oversight committee established, set to begin work this week
On Sunday, the UGTT labor union mediating government talks announced the creation of a technical commission to support and supervise the formation of a board of elections in addition to two other committees in charge of the constitution and government process. Tunisia’s National Front party secretary on Sunday told TAP news agency that these committees will begin work this week after the Eid al-Adha holiday, while UGTT confirmed that “final” preparatory procedural meetings took place Monday. [TAP 10/13/2013, Tunisia Live 10/14/2013]

Ali Larayedh says roadmap ‘cannot be implemented in full,’ reform needed before transition
In a televised Saturday evening interview interim Prime Minister Ali Larayedh said “the roadmap, as disclosed in its first draft, cannot be implemented in full,” adding that the Ennahda coalition government will resign after the elections board is set up, the election law is finalized, and the constitution adopted. He said that he does not consider the government to have failed its duties, or neglected to pursue the murder case of Mohamed al-Brahmi. [TAP 10/13/2013, Tunis Times, 10/12/2013]

Opposition calls for protests on October 23
Tunisia’s opposition alliance on Monday called for country-wide protests next week, accusing the ruling Ennahda party of holding up the start of negotiations and delaying the formation of a new government. The National Salvation Front (NSF), a coalition of opposition parties, called on Tunisians “in all regions, especially the capital” to take part in a “massive demonstration on October 23 to demand the appointment of a competent government.” The date marks the second anniversary of the election of the National Constituent Assembly. [AFPTunisia Daily (French), 10/14/2014]

Ennahda chief calls agreement to resign a ‘great concession’; anticipates spring elections
In interviews over the weekend Ennahda party chairman Rached Ghannouchi said that elections could “realistically” be held in spring 2014, while adding that “the Tunisian people will decide at the elections whether this government has failed or not.” When asked what concessions his party might make for the current national dialogue to succeed in establishing election rules and a new constitution, Ghannouchi replied that “we have already made the largest concession by accepting the principle of the government’s resignation. Now, what did the opposition? Nothing.” [Reuters 10/12/2013, Tunisia Daily (French) 10/14/2013]


Thousands rally for southern independence in Yemen 
Thousands of separatists demanding secession took to the streets of Aden Saturday to mark the anniversary in 1967 of the independence of former South Yemen. Some protesters chanted slogans denouncing national dialogue talks aimed at drawing up a new constitution and preparing for elections, which have faltered partly because of the southern issue. [Ahram Online,10/12/2013; Yemen Post, 10/13/2013]

Yemen on the right path, but key reforms necessary to give aid, says IMF
Yemen needs to implement more reforms to ensure it receives the international aid pledged to it, International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials said this week. Khaled Sakr, IMF adviser on the Middle East and Central Asia noted the important steps the power-sharing government has already taken to address the budget deficit and dual employment. However, the country continues to face key challenges including improper spending on oil subsidies and widespread tax evasion, said Sakr. “Yemen needs to carry out more reforms at least to protect gains made so far,” he added. [Saba Net, 10/14/2013]

Hadi rejects al-Iryani’s resignation
Yemen news agency Saba Net reported that President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi rejected the resignation of second vice president of the General People’s Congress (GPC), Dr. Abdulkarim al-Iryani. President Hadi also withdrew his approval of the political isolation agreement put forth by the conciliation committee. Al-Iryani resigned because of criticism from leaders in his party who are loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, after an agreement on the text of a proposal to end the political isolation of the former president. Saba added that President Hadi accepted al-Iyrani’s apology for what happened within the conciliation committee of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) but rejected his resignation. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 10/11/2013]


Morocco’s King Mohammad VI appoints new government
Morocco’s king on Thursday named nineteen new ministers after the Islamist prime minister reached a deal to form a new coalition and end months of deadlock, according to the state news agency. As part of the changes, the center-right National Rally of Independents (RNI), a new partner in the coalition, will replace ministers from the conservative Istiqlal party, which left in July in a dispute over subsidy cuts and other issues. [Al Arabiya, 10/11/2013]

Algeria supports ‘intensified efforts’ by Western Sahara envoy
Algeria said Monday it supports “intensified efforts” by the UN envoy to Western Sahara, as he began a new tour of the region, while underlining the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination. Christopher Ross flew to Rabat over the weekend on the first leg of his latest mission to break the deadlock over the disputed territory. Ross’s mission should “help the two parties to the conflict, namely Morocco and the Polisario Front, to find a solution that allows Western Saharans to freely determine their future within the framework of a referendum that is fair, transparent and unhindered,” foreign ministry spokesman Amar Belani said. [Naharnet, 10/14/2013]

Israel suspends building supplies to Gaza
Israel on Sunday froze shipments of building materials to the Gaza Strip after discovering an alleged “terror tunnel” into the Jewish state from the adjoining territory, a defense official said. “Due to security reasons, (the army) decided to stop for now the transfer of building materials into Gaza,” Guy Inbar said. Inbar, spokesman for the Israeli defense ministry unit responsible for civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories, did not say how long the ban would remain in force. [Al Arabiya, 10/13/2013]