Top News: Bombing in Egypt Leaves Top Prosecutor Dead

Egypt’s Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat died following a bomb attack on his vehicle early Monday, medical sources said. Earlier reports had suggested Barakat was stable. One civilian and five members of the security forces were also injured in the attack on the prosecutor’s convoy near the military academy in Heliopolis. Mohamed Gamal, the chief of the bomb squad, saidit was either a car bomb or a bomb concealed underneath a vehicle. Security forces cordoned off the area while explosive experts searched for other possible devices. A little-known group calling itself the “Giza Popular Resistance” claimed responsibility on Twitter. The bombing came after the Islamic State group’s affiliate in Egypt, the Sinai State, called for attacks on the judiciary following the hanging of six alleged militants. The authenticity of the claim has not been verified. Sinai State (previously known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis), released a video showing their attack on a microbus in North Sinai’s al-Arish, which killed three judges and the driver on May 16. The video shows a vehicle following a microbus, then approaching it from its left, after which gunshots are fired at the microbus, shattering its windows and penetrating its door. A title at the bottom of the screen reads “Assassination of five of the tyrant’s judges.” [Ahram OnlineReutersAPThe GuardianDNE, 6/29/2015]



Egypt’s Sisi receives draft protocol for joint Arab force
Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi has received the draft protocol to form a joint Arab military force, a presidential statement said on Saturday. Secretary-General of the Arab League Nabil al-Araby and Egyptian Army Chief of Staff Mahmoud Hegazy met with Sisi to discuss the proposed protocol. The draft protocol is expected to be presented next to the Joint Defense Council of the Arab League. According to the presidential statement, Sisi said the draft was a result of joint Arab efforts intended to combat common challenges and particularly terrorist organizations. He added that this force is for “defense” and not attack, saying it is not formed to be against any faction. [Ahram Online, DNE, 6/28/2015]

Egyptian prosecution imposes gag order on ‘foreign funding of activists’ investigation
Egypt’s Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat imposed a media gag order on Saturday on the investigation of a long list of activists. The activists are accused of receiving foreign funding with the purpose of “destabilizing Egypt during the January 25 revolution.” The case is currently being investigated by the prosecution but is yet to be referred to court. According to the Prosecutor General’s statement, the gag order is imposed on audio and video media, as well as print and online media. The statement added that the gag order would be imposed until the end of the investigations and that the Prosecutor General’s office would issue statements about the case and its updates. [Ahram Online, 6/29/2015]

Human rights lawyer says Esraa al-Taweel to face prosecution on charges of spreading false news
Esraa al-Taweel, the young photojournalist who disappeared earlier in June will face prosecution on Monday. According to Mohamed al-Baqr, a human rights lawyer on Taweel’s defense team, Taweel will face charges of “belonging to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group and spreading false news through her social media account.” Baqr said his team only learned of the charges verbally through legal sources, not through the state security prosecution, who commonly deal with cases of terrorism. The defense is not permitted to see the official police and prosecution reports until they go to court. [DNE, 6/20/2015]

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Libyan politicians meet, but fail to endorse draft UN deal
Representatives of Libya’s rival parliaments held their first face-to-face meetings as part of the ongoing UN peace talks, but failed to sign the latest draft agreement as planned. The first direct talks between the House of Representatives (House) delegation and the General National Congress (GNC) team were held on June 28 in Morocco. UN Envoy Bernardino Leon hoped that both sides would endorse his proposal. But despite holding their first direct talks, the two teams failed to sign the deal. The GNC delegation complained UN mediators had not consulted it about the latest changes made to the agreement. “Three key points of the UN draft agreement had been modified without our consultation,” stated GNC delegation spokesman Ashoh Ashraf. Talks are set to resume on July 2. [Libya Monitor, 6/29/2015]

Most Tunisia hotel attack victims were British, ISIS claims responsibility for attacks
Most of the thirty-nine people killed by a gunman in the Tunisian beach hotel attack were British citizens, Tunisia’s Prime Minister Habib Essid said. Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) militants claimed responsibility for Friday’s assault on the Imperial Marhaba resort hotel in the town of Sousse. “The dead are British, German and Belgian, but most of them are British, without giving any figures,” Essid told reporters on Friday night. [Reuters, 6/27/2015]

Experts claim that Tunisian government ignored security warnings
The Tunisian security forces are facing a flow of criticism following Friday’s brutal terrorist attack in Sousse.The news comes just three months after the Tunisian government pledged to beef up security following the March 18 Bardo museum attack. The incident has sparked fury among analysts who accused the government of ignoring advice on how to tighten the country’s security. Security Analyst for the Tunisian Centre for Global Security Studies Mazen Cherif said, “Here in Tunisia we still haven’t learned our lesson since the Bardo attacks. The current government lacks a clear security strategy and they refuse to look into the future or learn from previous mistakes. Until they do, incidents like Sousse or Bardo will continue to happen.” On Friday, Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi vowed again to improve security across the country. [Tunisia Live, 6/27/2015]

Tunisia deploys 1,000 officers to protect resorts and says to close eighty mosques
The Tunisian government established a new tourist police unit entrusted with the protection of hotel resorts after the recent attack in Sousse. Authorities announced the deployment of approximately 1,000 armed officers in hotels on the coast, establishing a new model of tourist police. Tunisian Interior Minister Najem Gharsalli stated on his Facebook profile, “We are ready to deploy 1,000 officers to defend resorts.” Tunisia also plans to close down eighty mosques that remain outside state control for inciting violence, Prime Minister Habib Essid said on Friday. [ANSAmed, Reuters, 6/29/2015]

Peaceful demonstration in Sousse to denounce terrorism
A major peaceful demonstration took place Friday in Sousse called by Tunisian political parties to denounce Friday’s terrorist attack. The demonstrators marched Friday evening through the main roads of Sousse, chanting anti-terror slogans. They called for an urgent adoption of a terrorist law. They also urged the government to take firm measures to fight terrorism and the groups that protect and finance such organizations. [AllAfrica/APS, 6/27/2015]


Fierce clashes rage in Hasaka
The Syrian government sent reinforcements to Hasaka in response to an attack by Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) militants. Opposition sources say that regime forces appear to be gaining ground against ISIS in the provincial capital. The Syrian Army said Monday that it had recaptured a major residential quarter. On Sunday, ISIS militants detonated three car bombs in Hasaka, killing twelve Syrian troops and militiamen. Syrian Kurdish fighters said Saturday that they had fully secured Kobani and killed more than sixty ISIS militants, two days after ISIS launched an incursion into the city. [Daily Star, 6/29/2015]

Turkey looking to construct more walls on Syrian border
Turkish officials said Saturday that Turkey is considering adding portable concrete walls to the existing ten kilometers of wall along its Syrian border in an attempt to strengthen security against ISIS militants and crack down on illegal border crossings. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly said Saturday that Turkey would never allow the formation of a Kurdish state in southern Turkey and northern Syria. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu added, “If any harm is to come to Turkey’s border security…[Turkey] is prepared for any eventuality,” a statement interpreted by some as willingness to intervene militarily. [Reuters, 6/27/2015]

Putin urges all to fight ISIS, backs Syria’s Assad
Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem on Monday, pledging his support for President Bashar al-Assad and calling on all Middle East nations to join forces to fight ISIS militants. Russian news agencies quoted Putin as telling the Syrian envoy that Russia’s “policy to support Syria, the Syrian leadership, and the Syrian people remains unchanged.” Syrian state media reported that Mohammad Nasif Khayrbik, a senior Syrian government security official who advised Assad on Syrian relations with both Iran and the United States, died Sunday morning of illness. [AP, 6/29/2015]

Istanbul police use teargas to break up Gay Pride parade
Turkish riot police used teargas and fired rubber pellets to disperse thousands of participants Sunday in Istanbul’s thirteenth annual Gay Pride march. The scene turned violent after participants in Taksim Square denounced “the fascism” of President Erdogan, causing police to use force to break up the crowd. Pro-government protesters also attacked a group of journalists covering the event. Police reportedly did nothing to stop the attack. [AFP, 6/28/2015]

United States and allies conduct air strikes in Syria and Iraq against ISIS
The United States and its allies staged air strikes against ISIS Saturday, hitting seventeen positions in Syria and ten in Iraq. The strikes in Syria hit ISIS positions near Kobani, Aleppo, and Tal Abyad, and in Iraq struck targets near Mosul, Tal Afar, Sinjar, Fallujah, Baiji, Makhmur, and Habbaniya. US military officials said Friday that fewer than one hundred Syrian rebels are currently being trained by the US military to fight ISIS, falling short of its stated goal of producing 5,400 fighters a year. Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said that the United States “set[s] the bar very high on vetting,” and only recruits rebels who will prioritize the fight against ISIS over the opposition’s original goal of fighting President Bashar al-Assad. [Reuters, 6/28/2015]


Fighting in Yemen erupts at oil refinery
An oil refinery in Aden has been shelled multiple times in the past three days, as a result of clashes between the Popular Resistance and the Houthis. The battles came after Houthi forces fired missiles at storage tanks at an Aden oil refinery, starting a large fire. Elsewhere in the country, air raids hit several targets in Jawf, Saada, Taiz, and Hodeida, and ground fighting raged in Marib. On Saturday, Houthi forces withdrew from parts of Aden in order to reinforce their positions in Sana’a and Saada. [AP, Al Arabiya, Reuters, 6/29/2015]

Water prices hit all-time high in Yemen
Many of Yemen’s gas-powered water pumps are now inoperable, contributing to the growing water crisis in the war-torn country.  “Ordinary Yemenis now pay more than 30 percent of their income just to get water in their houses, the highest rate in the world,” said Abdulkhaleq Alwan, a senior expert at Yemen’s water and environment ministry. Prices have more than tripled since March, reaching 10,000 Yemen rials ($47) for a four cubic metre tank of water, Alwan noted. The price of water has risen steeply due to the unprecedented increase in the price of diesel used to pump water from the wells and petrol to run the trucks. This latest crisis comes only days after the United Nations issued a new appeal for emergency aid, calling for $1.6 billion in assistance. [Reuters, 6/29/2015]

Man responsible for Kuwaiti mosque bombing identified as Saudi national
The Kuwaiti Interior Ministry released on Sunday the name of the bomber who carried out the attack at a Shia mosque earlier in the week. The bomber, Fahd Suliman Abdul-Muhsen al-Qabaa, was identified as a Saudi national who entered the country through Bahrain. Al-Qabaa appears to have responded to the Islamic State’s (ISIS or ISIL) call for increased attacks against non-Muslims during Ramadan. The group, seeking to expand from strongholds in Iraq and Syria, says its priority target is the Arabian Peninsula and in particular Saudi Arabia, from where it plans to expel Shia Muslims. In a statement released posthumously through ISIS channels, al-Qabaa criticizes Shia and says they can expect revenge for what he terms insulting Islam. [Reuters, 6/29/2015]

Emirati women sentenced to death for jihadist activity
A United Arab Emirates court sentenced an Emirati woman to death on Monday after convicting her of the jihadist-inspired murder of an American teacher. Alaa Bader al-Hashemi was found guilty of stabbing to death teacher Ibolya Ryan in a shopping mall toilet and “creating a handmade bomb” she placed in front of an Egyptian-American doctor’s home. The court further ruled that al-Hashemi “was guilty of sending money to al-Qaeda in Yemen, knowing the funds would be used in terrorist acts.” [Al-Arabiya, 6/29/2015]


Gunmen kill senior Iraqi oil official in Iraq’s Kirkuk
Gunmen shot dead a senior oil official working for Iraq’s state-run North Oil Company (NOC) on Sunday, police and company officials said. NOC’s Chief of Operations Saad al-Karbalaie was killed in Kirkuk when gunmen shot him after forcing him to stop his vehicle as he was leaving his office. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack on Karbalaie, who was supervising production and export facilities in Kirkuk. [Reuters, 6/28/2015]

UAE to offer Egypt grant for 10-year slum development project
The UAE will provide Egypt with a grant to aid in the development of 10,000 housing units over ten years, Minister of Urban Renewal and Informal Settlements Laila Iskandar said. The project, for which an agreement has yet to be signed, is set to begin within the next fiscal year. The company in charge of implementing the project has not yet been chosen, the minister said. The project will prioritize slum areas in Upper Egypt’s Minya governorate and Cairo’s Manshiyet Nasser district. The ministry’s technical support manager said on Sunday that the eradication of slums in Egypt, which make up 40 percent of its urban areas, would cost around EGP 250 billion. [Ahram Online, 6/28/2015]

Saudi foreign reserves drop for fourth month to $672 billion
Saudi Arabia’s foreign reserve assets fell for a fourth month to about $672 billion, as the kingdom grapples with lower oil prices and a costly war in Yemen. Net foreign assets fell about $6.6 billion (24.7 billion riyals) in May, bringing their decline since January to more than $50 billion, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency said in its monthly report. The reserves had plunged by 180 billion riyals in the previous three months. The government is using its deposits at the central bank to finance the shortfall, though analysts say it may soon turn to bond sales. [Bloomberg, 6/28/2015]

Tunisia bourse falls moderately on reopening after attack
Tunisian stock prices fell moderately in thin trade early on Monday as the market reopened after Friday’s attack on a resort that killed thirty-nine people. The attack is expected to slow Tunisia’s economy and hit reserves by damaging its tourist industry, a major source of foreign currency. However, the modest scale of the stock market’s fall suggested investors are not panicking. [Reuters, 6/29/2015]