Top News: Assailants Fire Shots on US Consulate in Istanbul

Two assailants opened fire at the heavily protected US Consulate building in Istanbul on Monday, sparking a gunfight with police before fleeing the scene. One of the female assailants, identified by Turkish police as a member of the banned leftist Revolutionary People’s Liberation Army-Front (DHKP-C), was captured at a nearby building and hospitalized. A separate bomb attack at a police station in Istanbul’s Sultanbeyli neighborhood on Sunday injured five police officers and two civilians. The attack caused a fire that collapsed part of the three-story building and damaged neighboring buildings and cars. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. Leader of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtas called on the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) Saturday to “remove its finger from the trigger” and for the Turkish government to halt a surge in violence by launching talks between the parties. A Turkish news agency reported Sunday that nearly 400 members of the PKK have been killed and hundreds more injured in two weeks of Turkish air strikes on positions in northern Iraq. Six US F-16 fighter jets arrived at Turkey’s Incirlik air base on Sunday to join the US-led coalition’s fight against Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) militants. [AP, 8/10/2015]



Egypt courts issue twenty-four preliminary death sentences
Cairo Criminal Court sentenced on Monday ten people to death over charges of forming an al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist cell led by the brother of al-Qaeda’s chief. Mohamed al-Zawahiri, brother of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, is not among those who were given a death sentence. The court referred the files of the ten defendants to the Grand Mufti to approve the sentences, while postponing the final verdict to September 27. An additional eight sentences were issued by a Minya criminal court to supporters of former President Mohamed Morsi for killing two security personnel and storming Samalout police station in Minya, Upper Egypt, following the dispersal of two Islamist sit-ins in Cairo in August 2013. The eight, believed to be supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, were facing trial alongside 111 others. The court set September 4 as the final verdict date regarding the remaining 111 defendants in the same case. Qena Criminal Court also sentenced three policemen to death on murder charges, following a violent street fight between two families in the village of Awlad Amr in 2013, which left six people dead. The policemen include one from the Luxor Security Directorate and two conscripts from the Qena Security Directorate, along with two civilians. They were convicted for murder and possession of weapons, while a sixth defendant was sentenced in absentia, and five further defendants were acquitted, state-run news agency MENA reported Monday. [Ahram Online, DNE, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, 8/10/2015]

Ajnad Misr claims responsibility for blast; Four officers killed in weekend attacks
On Monday, a bomb exploded outside the Heliopolis Courthouse in eastern Cairo, wounding two police officers and a civilian. A traffic police director, a policeman, and a passerby were hospitalized, a security source said. Explosives experts defused a second device they found while searching the vicinity. Militant group Ajnad Misr claimed responsibility via Twitter for the bombing, which occurred under a traffic sentry post. On Sunday, the deputy head of a Suez police station was killed in a gunfight with two assailants. Walid al-Sadek, deputy at the Faysal Police Station in Suez, was gunned down when two assailants opened fire on elements from the Third Field Army, military spokesman Mohamed Samir said. The military cadets who were attacked responded instantly, killing one assailant. The second is still at large. Prosecutors in Suez ordered urgent autopsies on Sadek and the body of the dead gunman, who has been named as Ahmed Mahrous. A police officer and police recruit were also killed after a roadside bomb targeted their vehicle in al-Arish in North Sinai. Three police recruits were wounded. On Saturday, one policeman was killed and three others injured after assailants fired shots early Saturday at a prisoner transfer truck on the Cairo-Fayoum desert road. Six alleged militants also died in a police raid on Friday in Abou Na’oura village, Snoros district, Fayoum. [Reuters, AP, Mada Masr, 8/10/2015]

Egypt ‘rejects Qatari interference’ after call for political dialogue
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry rejected statements by the Qatari Foreign Minister suggesting that Egypt should have a political dialogue with all parties. Egypt “rejects Qatar’s interference” in its domestic affairs, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid stated on the foreign ministry’s official Facebook page on Saturday. Abu Zeid said that such interference is “unacceptable,” adding that the Muslim Brotherhood is officially a terrorist group “according to Egyptians.” On Friday, Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah said in a televised interview that Qatar wishes Egypt to have a political dialogue, including all its political parties. Attiyah said that Qatar is in constant contact with political parties in Egypt and is willing to be a mediator if asked to be so, but would never interfere in Egypt’s internal affairs. Attiya downplayed scathing Egyptian media criticisms of its policies. [Ahram Online, AP, Aswat Masriya, Egypt Independent, 8/9/2015]

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Congress in Tripoli agrees to join Geneva but rejects draft agreement
After more than a month of boycotting the UN-brokered Libya Dialogue negotiations over the draft agreement presented by UN Special Envoy Bernardino Leon, the General National Congress (GNC) in Tripoli agreed to send its team to the latest round due to begin later today in Geneva. The GNC made it clear, however, that while it wants to continue with dialogue, it rejects the draft and expects the UN to agree to make changes. The presence of the GNC team appears to be conditional on Leon accepting the demand. [Libya Herald, 8/10/2015]

Amnesty wants International Criminal Court to intervene in Libya
Amnesty International faulted the International Criminal Court (ICC) for failing to undertake any investigations into crimes under international law committed by armed groups in the last four years in Libya. Amnesty urged the international community to increase its support to the ICC to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity in Libya. [All Africa/IPS, 8/7/2015]

Car bomb kills at least seven in Libya; Tarhouna militia leader shot
A car bomb exploded in Derna in eastern Libya on Sunday, killing at least seven people and wounding nineteen others as Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) militants pressed an offensive to retake the city. It was not immediately clear whether ISIS was responsible for the car bomb. An Islamist commander opposing ISIS was killed but no further details were immediately available. Meanwhile, The leader of Libya Dawn in Tarhouna Salah Marghani is reported to have been shot and flown to Turkey for urgent treatment. Marghani heads a family-controlled militia. [Reuters, Libya Herald, 8/9/2015]

ISIS commander killed in Benghazi fighting; ISIS fires at women’s demonstration
The ISIS branch of Barqa paid public condolences to the death of one of their leading commanders, Imad Zway, who was killed during fighting with Libyan National Army forces led by Haftar in Benghazi. ISIS said that Zway died during fighting in the Buatney district of Benghazi. Meanwhile, ISIS opened fire on a group of women demonstrators in Sirte, injuring some and arresting five. The women were demonstrating against the sentences passed by a Tripoli court on members of the former Qaddafi regime. [Libya Herald, 8/9/2015]

Four die in anti-Saif al-Islam death sentence demonstrations in Libya
Members of Misrata’s Third Force backed by a local force, the Bahir Eldeen brigade, killed at least four pro-Qaddafi protesters in Sebha on Friday. A number of other demonstrators were wounded in the incident. The protesters were demonstrating against the death sentences passed by a court in Tripoli last week on Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, Abdullah Senussi, and seven other prominent members of the former regime. [Libya Herald, 8/8/2015]


Syria’s Nusra Front withdraws from area near Turkish border
The Nusra Front said Monday that it is withdrawing from areas along Syria’s border with Turkey where Ankara and Washington hope to drive out the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). It was not immediately clear from which areas the Nusra Front has already withdrawn, but a monitoring group reported the Shamia Front rebel coalition replacing Nusra Front fighters in two areas including the northern village of Dalha on the front lines of the battle with ISIS. Rebel forces battled ISIS on Sunday for a series of key villages in northern Syria’s Aleppo province that lie along the rebels’ supply line from Turkey. Two suicide bombers reportedly began the assault Saturday night and the ensuing clashes left at least ten ISIS militants and thirty-seven rebel fighters dead. A monitoring group said that ISIS’s aim in this assault is to cut the rebels’ supply route between Aleppo city, its outskirts, and the town of Azaz on the Turkish border. [AP, 8/10/2015]

Syrian regime releases journalist Mazen Darwish

Syrian authorities on Monday released prominent human rights activist and journalist Mazen Darwish from prison. Darwish, the Director of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, was imprisoned more than three years ago for reporting on the government’s crackdown on protesters in the early days of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. He is reportedly still standing trial on charges of “publicizing terrorist acts” and is scheduled to attend a court hearing on August 30. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday reportedly vowed to punish family member Suleiman Assad who was accused of killing army officer Col. Hassan al-Shaikh in Latakia over a traffic dispute. The killing sparked a rare protest in the coastal city of Latakia on Saturday night, with a monitoring group reporting over 1,000 people gathered Saturday night holding up pictures of the slain officer and calling for the execution of the alleged killer. [AP, AFP, 8/10/2015]

Syrian regime releases journalist Mazen Darwish
Syrian authorities on Monday released prominent human rights activist and journalist Mazen Darwish from prison. Darwish, the Director of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, was imprisoned more than three years ago for reporting on the government’s crackdown on protesters in the early days of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. He is reportedly still standing trial on charges of “publicizing terrorist acts” and is scheduled to attend a court hearing on August 30. [AP, AFP, 8/10/2015]


Anti-Houthi fighters seize districts in central Yemen
Fighters opposed to Yemen’s dominant Houthi movement seized four districts in the central province of Ibb Monday, residents and local officials said, bringing the armed resistance closer to the group’s stronghold in the capital Sana’a. These latest gains by local militias, including those who are loyal to the ousted Yemeni government, are the latest in a series of northward territorial acquisitions. Pro-government forces captured al-Radma in the north and the capital city of Abyan province, Zinjibar, in the southeast. Zinjibar is the third southern provincial capital to have been liberated from Houthi control. Heavy clashes between Houthis and a host of anti-Houthi fighters resulted in dozens of casualties, including at the Labouza military base in the Lahj province. [Reuters, The Daily Star, 8/10/2015]

ICRC head visits Yemen to assess humanitarian situation
The President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) began a three day visit to Yemen on Saturday to assess the dire humanitarian situation in the war-torn country. Peter Mauer flew into the rebel-held capital Sana’a where Houthi rebel officials welcomed him. The ICRC said in a statement ahead of the visit that Mauer’s trip would focus on the “dire humanitarian situation” in Yemen and that he would hold talks with unidentified leading officials. “The human cost of this conflict is such that no family in Yemen today has been left unaffected … We are particularly concerned about attacks on medical facilities and personnel. Moreover, deliveries of food, water and medicine must be facilitated not hampered,” Mauer said. The ICRC also facilitated the exchange of prisoners in Aden between Houthi forces and pro-government militias. [AFP, 8/8/2015]

Saudi foreign minister to visit Moscow to discuss Syria
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir will visit Moscow on Tuesday to discuss the Syria conflict and ISIS with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. The ministers are expected to discuss ways to resolve the crisis in Syria, the sharp growth in strength of various extremist groups, and “the possibility of Russia-Saudi cooperation in fighting terrorism.” The Saudi-owned al-Hayat newspaper reported Saturday that Saudi Arabia is prepared to give up its support for the Syrian opposition in return for Iranian withdrawal from the militias it supports in the civil war. The paper quoted “high-level Saudi sources” as saying that Riyadh believes such a bilateral withdrawal could pave the way for parliamentary and presidential elections overseen by the United Nations. The UN Security Council (UNSC) on Friday unanimously adopted a resolution aimed at identifying those responsible for using chlorine and other chemical weapons in attacks in Syria. Russia’s Lavrov warned against the resolution on Sunday, saying that previous operations to remove chemical weapons were successful and that all claims to the contrary should be checked. [AFP, 8/8/2015]

Bomber identified in Saudi mosque attack
The Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) has released an audio recording purporting to feature the suicide bomber who killed fifteen people at a police compound mosque in Saudi Arabia. The audio, along with a photo of the suicide bomber identified as Abu Sinan al-Najdi, was posted late Friday on ISIS-affiliated Twitter accounts. The speaker on the recording vowed more attacks, saying Saudi rulers and troops “will not enjoy peace” for taking part in the US-led coalition battling ISIS in Iraq and Syria. He urged other militants to carry out suicide bombings, saying explosive belts are more effective than firearms. The Saudi Interior Ministry said Saturday that a twenty-one year old Saudi man carried out the ISIS-claimed suicide bombing, the latest citizen blamed in a wave of extremist violence gripping the kingdom. Saudi Arabia’s crown prince has called for higher vigilance and better preparedness in the kingdom. [Asharq al-Awsat, 8/9/2015]


Saudi Arabia issues bonds in effort to raise up to 20 billion riyals
Saudi Arabia on Monday sold bonds in Monday in tranches of five, seven, and ten years, opening its debt sale to commercial banks for the first time since it returned to the market last month to fill a budget gap caused by falling global oil prices. The government did not say how much was sold, but Saudi Arabia could raise up to 20 billion riyals ($5.33 billion) from the bonds. Saudi Arabia sold bonds last month for the first time since 2007, however the 15 billion riyals worth of notes were sold only to quasi-governmental funds. On Monday, commercial banks were also included in the sale. The Saudi government plans further debt issuance on a monthly basis to the end of the year, although estimates vary as to the total amount of debt the authorities will sell. [Bloomberg, Reuters, 8/9/2015]

Egypt’s urban inflation drops to 8.4 percent in July
Egypt’s annual urban consumer inflation dropped to 8.4 percent in July from 11.4 percent in June, the according to CAPMAS. The figure is the lowest since June 2014, a month before the government slashed energy subsidies and implemented a sales tax on alcohol and cigarettes that drove up prices. Lower inflation could provide Egypt’s central bank with the freedom to reduce interest rates, which the central bank has kept steady ever since in January. However, a long-awaited value-added tax, if passed, could push inflation back into double digits and make interest rate reductions unlikely. [Reuters, 8/10/2015]

Tankers to load 2 million barrels of oil in eastern Libya
Three tankers will load almost 2 million barrels of crude oil at the eastern Libyan ports of Hariga and Brega this week, officials said on Sunday, as the country struggles to resume former export levels after years of conflict and unrest. A tanker docked at Hariga to load 700,000 barrels, one official said. A second tanker had loaded 600,000 barrels at Brega on Saturday and a third will load 600,000 barrels this week, a second official said. The Es Sider, Ras Lanuf, and Zueitina export terminals, also located in the east, remained closed because connected pipelines have been blocked by protests or insecurity. [Reuters, 8/9/2015]

Morocco to shut down sole refinery due to financial problems
Morocco’s Societe Anonyme Marocaine de l’Industrie du Raffinage (SAMIR) will halt production at its 200,000 barrel per day (bpd) Mohammedia refinery due to financial difficulties, the company said in a statement. The refinery is awaiting two deliveries of 2 million barrels of crude oil, scheduled to arrive between August 15 and 18, and will stop production after processing them. The refinery will continue to supply oil products until its stocks run out. As Morocco’s only refinery, its closure would make the country entirely reliant on imports to feed its fuel needs. [Reuters, 8/8/2015]