Top News: At Least Twenty-Seven Dead in Sousse Terror Attack

At least twenty-seven people, including foreign tourists, were killed when at least one gunman opened fire on a Tunisian beachside hotel in the popular resort of Sousse on Friday, an Interior Ministry spokesman said. Police were still clearing the area around the Imperial Marhaba hotel and the body of one gunman lay at the scene with a Kalashnikov assault rifle after he was shot in an exchange of gunfire, a security source said. “One attacker opened fire with a Kalashnikov on tourists and Tunisians on the beach of the hotel,” said a hotel worker at the site. “It was just one attacker. He was a young guy dressed in shorts, like he was a tourist himself.” [ReutersTunisia Live, 6/26/2015]



Egypt issues scathing statement on US State Department human rights report
The US Department of State issued its 2014 Human Rights Report on Thursday. The Egypt report identifies the country’s most significant human rights issues as “excessive use of force by security forces, including unlawful killings and torture; the suppression of civil liberties, including societal and government restrictions on freedoms of expression and the press and the freedom of peaceful assembly and association; and limitations on due process in trials.” Egypt’s Foreign Ministry, in a statement issued on Friday, expressed its rejection of the report. The Foreign Ministry statement said that, despite acknowledging terror attacks in Egypt, the report was rife with exaggerations and lies. The Foreign Ministry said that the statement relied on NGOs that lack credibility and are known for their biased stance against the Egyptian government. The report also did not give enough attention to government efforts to improve the human rights situation, working conditions, women’s rights, and the fight against corruption, the statement added. The Foreign Ministry also rejected criticisms of the judiciary, saying that it rejects interference in its internal affairs and that the report reflected a lack of knowledge on the underlying principles of the Egyptian judicial system. [POMED, AP, SIS, Aswat Masriya (Arabic), 6/26/2015]

High Elections Committee approves electoral law amendments in principle
The High Elections Committee (HEC) has approved in principle to amendments to electoral draft laws, Minister of Transitional Justice Ibrahim al-Heneidy said on Thursday. Heneidy added, however, that the committee has yet to decide whether some of the constituencies will be merged. Recommendations made by the State Council to create one or two constituencies in certain areas will be implemented, with the exception of two areas. According to Heniedy, the HEC cited a lack of geographical borders as the reason for their decision. [Aswat Masriya (Arabic), SIS, Shorouk (Arabic), 6/26/2015]

Morsi Qatar espionage trial postponed to June 27
The Cairo Criminal Court has postponed a trial in which ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and ten others are charged with leaking classified documents to Qatar to June 27. Morsi is accused of providing state and security secrets to Qatar and news network Al Jazeera, in order to harm Egypt’s military, political, diplomatic, economic and national interests. This is the fourth trial against Morsi since his ouster. He has already been sentenced to twenty years in the Presidential Palace case, to death in the prison break case, and to life in jail over alleged leaks to foreign powers including Hamas and Hezbollah. [Aswat Masriya (Arabic), 6/25/2015]

Wikileaks cable reveals deal to exclude Saudi prince from Egypt smuggling probe
In May 2011, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal sent a note to the head of the Saudi Cabinet office to inform the king of attempts to end investigations into the smuggling of Egyptian fugitive businessman Hussein Salem’s assets with the aid of Saudi intelligence. This note is one of a number of classified documents obtained and published exclusively from Wikileaks by Mada Masr, as part of a recent release of thousands of confidential cables from the Saudi Foreign Ministry. The document reveals the role played by the Kingdom in influencing Egypt’s prosecution to end investigations into accusations against Prince Mansour bin Moqren bin Abdel Aziz, son of Prince Moqren, the head of the Saudi intelligence services, and his sister Princess Lamia, for allegedly helping Salem to smuggle assets from Egypt to Saudi Arabia in early 2011. [Mada Masr, 6/24/2015]

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At least twenty-seven dead in Sousse terror attack
At least twenty-seven people, including foreign tourists, were killed when at least one gunman opened fire on a Tunisian beachside hotel in the popular resort of Sousse on Friday, an Interior Ministry spokesman said. Police were still clearing the area around the Imperial Marhaba hotel and the body of one gunman lay at the scene with a Kalashnikov assault rifle after he was shot in an exchange of gunfire, a security source said. “One attacker opened fire with a Kalashnikov on tourists and Tunisians on the beach of the hotel,” said a hotel worker at the site. “It was just one attacker. He was a young guy dressed in shorts, like he was a tourist himself.” [Reuters, Tunisia Live, 6/26/2015]

Leon upbeat as talks on UN draft proposal start in Skhirat
Previewing what he hopes will be the last round of United Nations-backed political talks on Libya, UN Special Representative for Libya Bernardino León said today the fact that all the participants in the dialogue have accepted a fourth draft proposal as the basis for a final political solution is “extremely encouraging” and that agreement could be reached during discussions over the coming days. “We have just started this meeting, which the Libyans first of all, and everybody in the region…really [all of] us, expect to be the last round, the final round of talks,” León told reporters in Skhirat, Morocco, where he is facilitating the talks based on the draft political proposal he presented to the parties two weeks ago. [UN News, Libya Herald, 6/26/2015]

Libya says to discuss EU plan on migrants, sovereignty a “red line”
Libya’s internationally recognized government said on Thursday it will send a delegation to discuss with European Union authorities proposals for controlling migrant smuggling, saying its territorial sovereignty was a “red line” in any operation. EU ministers on Monday approved a naval operation to try to halt the stream of migrants, though it will be limited for the moment to intelligence gathering because it has no authorization from the United Nations. Securing consent from Libya, where both rival factions are wary of international missions in their waters, has been a major concern for European powers who plan to use submarines, aircraft, ships and drones in their operation. [Reuters, 6/25/2015]

Army finds “terrorist” graves on old Benghazi battlefield
Graves thought to be of terrorists killed in fighting have been discovered by the army in the Boatni district of Benghazi. A video shows troops from Saiqa walking over open ground near the Airport Road and pointing out the graves, most of which are marked with small piles of stone. Fadel Hassi of the Saiqa investigation department said it was not yet clear how many people had been buried at the site and in the surrounding farmland. It is presumed that they died in heavy fighting earlier in the year. Ansar al-Sharia generally seek to remove their fallen from the battlefield to give them a proper burial. The Libyan Red Crescent has been given the unpleasant task of exhuming the corpses and transporting them to the coroner where DNA samples will be taken. [Libya Herlad, 6/25/2015]


Kurdish fighters battle ISIS militants in Kobani
Kurdish fighters as of Friday have besieged Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) members who entered Kobani on Thursday. The two days of fighting have left more than one hundred civilians dead, amounting to ISIS’s second-largest civilian massacre in Syria . A Kurdish activist said small groups of ISIS militants are still in the town and have taken civilians hostage in at least three locations. He added that Kurdish fighters stormed an ISIS-held restaurant, freeing hostages and killing several members of the militant group. [AP, AFP, 6/26/2015]

80-plus aid groups blast UN Security Council over Syria [AP, 6/25/2015]
More than eighty international human rights and aid groups published a letter Thursday urging the UN Security Council to take real, immediate action against the continuing use of barrel bombs in Syria’s civil war. The Security Council called for an end to the use of barrel bombs over a year ago, but has not followed up, partially due to Russia’s repeated use of its veto power. The council is set to meet Friday to explore how the international community should respond.

UN says ISIS attack on Hasaka has displaced 60,000
The UN office in Syria said Friday that ISIS’s attack on Hasaka has reportedly displaced 60,000 people, and up to 200,000 people may eventually try to flee. Those fleeing will likely head towards northern areas of the governorate along the Turkish border, including Amuda and Qamishli. [Reuters, 6/26/2015]

Iraqi F-16 pilot killed in crash on US training mission
The Iraqi Defense Ministry said Friday that Iraqi pilot Rasid Mohammad Sadiq was killed Wednesday when his F-16 fighter plane crashed during a training mission in the United States. A US defense official said the accident occurred during an aerial refueling maneuver. Washington agreed to sell thirty-six F-16s to Iraq, but the purchase has been a source of contention, as Baghdad has repeatedly complained that they are not being delivered quickly enough. [AFP, 6/26/2015]

United States to provide additional $360 million in Syria aid
The US State Department said Thursday that the United States would provide an additional $360 million in “life-saving assistance” to victims of the Syrian civil war, bringing its total to $4 billion since the fighting began. The money will partly support various UN programs and other non-governmental organizations in Syria. The State Department said that even with this additional funding, the United Nations appeal remains severely underfunded, and humanitarian needs in Syria are likely to grow in 2015. [AFP, 6/26/2015]


Clashes throughout Yemen leave Houthi leader and militants dead
Gunmen have shot dead a Houthi rebel commander in Sana’a, sources said Friday. The men, on a motorbike, attacked officer Ibrahim Hassan al-Sharfi near his home late Thursday before they fled. The Houthi-run Al-Masirah television confirmed the attack. At least nine other Houthi militants were killed on Thursday, with fighting at a checkpoint north of Sana’a and a clash with government-loyalists in Dhammar province. Saudi-led airstrikes also targeted the cities of Ataq and Lahj in an effort to secure Aden and the oil-rich Marib province in the east. [Daily Star, 6/26/2015]

UN restates position on Yemen
The United Nations Security Council released a statement on Thursday calling for a recommitment to Yemen and UN aid chief Stephen O’Brien on Thursday pushed for more aid and commercial access to the country, where a near total blockade by Saudi Arabia has slowed shipments to a trickle. “Let’s be absolutely clear, it’s vital that we get commercial ships back in,” O’Brien told reporters, adding that a lack of fuel prevented the delivery of aid within the country. The Security Council said a $1.6 billion UN humanitarian appeal for Yemen was currently only about 10 percent funded and urged more countries to contribute. On Friday, it was announced that UN Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who led the Geneva talks, will travel to Kuwait on Saturday and then spend a week in Riyadh before moving on to Sana’a for a further week of consultations. “He intends to spend more time in the two capitals (Riyadh and Sanaa) to discuss the draft principles paper which was developed here in Geneva—as he said, ‘until we reach a preliminary agreement’,” said UN spokesman Ahmad Fawzi. [Reuters, 6/26/2015]

Yemeni Foreign Minister rejects new Geneva talks
Yemen’s exiled Foreign Minister Riyadh Yassin said there was no need for another round of talks with the Houthi movement in Geneva, maintaining that his government will start looking for ways to implement a UN Security Council resolution stipulating the rebels’ withdrawal from the areas they occupied in Yemen. “Should the UN Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed wish to consult with the two sides… there is no need for the UN to host talks between the government and the armed militia,” he said, referring to Houthi insurgents. While Yemen’s government said it wanted Houthis to withdraw from the cities and towns of Yemen, the rebel group insisted that coalition-led airstrikes should end first.
Yassin welcomed Oman’s peace efforts on Yemen, but said that the sultanate had confirmed to the Yemeni government that it did not intend to propose any peace initiative. Yemen’s FM said that his Omani counterpart, Yusuf Bin Alawi Bin Abdullah, “confirmed to us during our meeting in Kuwait that there was no initiative on Yemen from his government’s side.” [Al-Masdar (Arabic), Asharq al-Awsat, 6/26/2015]

ISIS attacks Shia mosque in Kuwait
The Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) claimed responsibility via a statement on social media for an attack on a Shia mosque in Kuwait. The suicide bombing killed thirteen people and injured many others in the al-Sawabir neighborhood of Kuwait City. The statement identified the bomber as Abu Suleiman al-Muwahed and said the target was a “temple of the rejectionists” – a term used by ISIS to refer to Shia Muslims. This is the latest attack on the Shia community in the Arabian peninsula, coming after the bombing of two mosques in Saudi Arabia earlier in the month. [Daily Star, AP, 6/26/2015]


Iraqi Kurds seek to attract investors through bond sale
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is planning to raise cash through its first ever bond sale. The bond seeks to fill a gaping hole in the KRG’s finances due to weaker oil-sale revenues amid an increasingly costly battle with the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). The government’s budget deficit is expected to reach $5 billion this year for the second year in a row. The KRG held fixed-income investor meetings this week in London, organized by Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs International, to gauge appetite for the energy-rich region’s debt. KRG officials are also meeting big institutions and frontier-market investors and will complete the size of the bond depending on demand. [Wall Street Journal, 6/25/2015]

Turkey’s first nuclear plant gains investment green light
Russia-owned Rosatom, the company slated to run Turkey’s first nuclear power plant, has won a preliminary licence for the next three years allowing it to make necessary investments. Turkey in 2013 commissioned Rosatom to build four 1,200 megawatt reactors. Construction is expected to begin at the end of 2016, some eighteen months later than originally planned. Regulatory hurdles and Russia’s financial woes have slowed the $20 billion project’s progress, pushing back the start date until 2022. Aiming to curb annual energy import costs of about $50 billion, Ankara hopes that at least 5 percent of its electricity will be nuclear generated in less than a decade. [Reuters, 6/25/2015]

Egypt’s Banque Misr in talks with banks for dollar loan
Banque Misr, Egypt’s second largest state lender, has invited banks to pitch for arranger roles on a potential dollar-denominated syndicated loan, banking sources said on Thursday. National Bank of Egypt, the biggest state-owned bank, is already in the process of arranging a $390 million thirty-seven month syndicated loan. Sources said it was looking for a three-year loan and had sought feedback from banks by the end of June. Banque Misr is close to finalizing which banks will arrange the loan, hoping to complete the deal this year. Sources added that the lender is expected to raise around $300 million. [Reuters, 6/25/2015]

US fund managers say slow start after Saudis open stock market to foreigners
One week after Saudi Arabia opened its stock market to direct foreign investment, US mutual fund managers say they are interested but not rushing to invest in the Middle East’s biggest economy. Foreign fund inflows are slower than initially expected, in part because US fund companies like Fidelity and Harding Loevner are digesting numerous regulations set forth by the Saudi Capital Market Authority for participation in the $575 billion market. According to Fidelity, the investment stage will come in the next several months. Tadawul chief Adel-al-Ghamdi said that six applications from foreign investors for participation in the market are being processed, but only Ashmore Group and HSBC Holdings have been granted licenses so far. [Reuters, 6/25/2015]