Top News: Car Bomb Kills Thirty-Five Outside Yemen Police College

A car bomb exploded outside a Yemeni police college in Sanaa on Wednesday, killing at least thirty-five people and wounding at least sixty-eight others, less than a week after a devastating suicide bombing south of the capital.

Two men were seen getting out of a minibus and walking away shortly before it exploded beside dozens of people queuing to enroll at the academy. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Wednesday’s bombing. [Reuters, AFP, Al Masdar, SABA, Mareb Press, BBC, 1/7/2015]



Sisi first Egyptian president to attend Coptic Christmas mass
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi made a quick appearance at Cairo’s Abbasseya Cathedral on Tuesday evening, making him the first Egyptian president to attend Christmas Eve mass. In a brief speech he gave before leaving, Sisi said that both Egypt’s Muslims and Christians are celebrating this occasion, asserting that they are “one entity” in the world’s eyes. Some parties hailed Sisi’s visit while others were critical. A leading member of the Conference Party praised the visit, saying it shows Sisi is a president for all Egyptians. The Strong Egypt Party criticized the visit, arguing that he was misusing religion for political purposes. In the same vein, April 6 described the visit as an “attempt to beautify Sisi’s tarnished image.”  Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab also visited the Cathedral to meet Pope Tawadros II on Wednesday, delivering a short speech at the cathedral, where he stressed the importance of “national unity” and warned against sectarian “strife.” [Ahram Online, Mada Masr, Aswat Masriya, Shorouk (Arabic), 1/7/2015]

Families of jailed Al Jazeera journalists hopeful that deportation is near
Jailed Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste have reached the final stages in their applications for deportation, according to their families. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Wednesday Australia was engaging daily with the Egyptian government “at the highest level” to bring Greste home. A member of Greste’s Australian legal team said the jailed journalist’s application was “among the first” to petition the Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, for deportation. He added, however, that his release from prison could still be weeks or months away, as the new presidential power to deport foreign prisoners is tested for the first time. On Tuesday Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird also said he is close to reaching a deal with Egypt on deporting Fahmy to Canada. [Mada Masr, DNE, AP, 1/6/2015]

Former Kuwait lawmaker detained for tweets critical of Egypt
Kuwaiti authorities detained a former liberal lawmaker overnight for questioning and on Wednesday ordered him held for ten days for tweets criticizing the Arab Gulf country’s ruler and his support for Egypt’s president, a defense lawyer said. Abdullah al-Ahmad said prosecutors began questioning Saleh al-Mullah late Tuesday about tweets he wrote on Monday, when Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi was in Kuwait for an official visit. Al-Ahmad said his client is being accused of insulting the emir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, insulting Egypt’s president and endangering bilateral relations. [AP, AFP, 1/7/2015]

Election commission to declare date for parliamentary polls Thursday
Egypt’s Higher ‎Elections Committee (HEC) will hold a press conference on Thursday to announce details related to the long-anticipated parliamentary elections. HEC spokesman Medhat Idris said in a statement on Tuesday that the conference will take place at 6:30 pm Cairo local time in the State Information Service headquarters. The committee is expected to announce the time-frame of the elections. The HEC has yet to announce the opening date for candidates to apply. [Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, DNE, 1/6/2015]

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Fighting cannot be Libya’s solution, says House President Ageela Salah
The president of Libya’s House of Representatives, Ageela Salah, said that there cannot be a military solution to Libya’s current crisis. He explained that the UN-brokered negotiations with Operation Libya Dawn were postponed due to a disagreement over the location of the talks. Salah said dialogue is necessary for Libya to overcome its issues. He also repeated that Libya does not need external intervention, rather it needs arms and support to defeat extremists. His statements come as the Libyan Audit Bureau issued a decision to suspend five diplomats from consulates abroad. The move is largely seen as a political maneuver against the Tobruk-based House. [Libya Herald, 1/6/2015]

Libyan officials in Cairo for meetings with Egyptian counterparts
Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed al-Dairi, on his way back from Qatar, and Army Chief of Staff Abdul-Razzaq al-Nazhuri are currently in Cairo for meetings with Egyptian officials. They are expected to focus on security and counterterrorism cooperation. The meetings are also expected to touch upon the latest assaults on Egyptians living in Libya. Meanwhile, Mali is also seeking cooperation from the UN in order to bring calm to Libya and the Sahel. [Libya Herald, 1/7/2015]

Online forum offers Libyans opportunity to discuss constitutional drafting process
A new initiative started by young Libyan professionals based out of Harvard University seeks to provide Libyans worldwide the opportunity to network and discuss the North African country’s new constitution, currently being drafted by an elected committee. The initiative is called the Agora Libyan Constitution Project and will provide online town hall meetings for Libyans to discuss and educate themselves on the constitutional process. The meetings will focus on three main constitutional themes: political structure and institutions; rights and freedoms; and public services. [Libya Herald, 1/6/2015]

Tunisian authorities request Libyans to refrain from any political activity in Tunisia
The Tunisian crisis response unit issued a statement requesting Libyans residing in Tunisia to refrain from political activity or organizing meetings without authorization from the appropriate Tunisian authorities. The request aims to preserve Tunisian stability and to reassert Tunisia’s desire to maintain non-interference in Libyan affairs. The Tunisian government has expressed concern over a spillover from Libya’s crisis and the fate of Tunisian nationals still within Libyan borders.
[All Africa/TAP, 1/6/2015]

Protests hit southern Algeria over shale gas exploitation
Protests broke out this week in the remote south of Algeria over the environmental impact of a shale gas project. Two thousand protesters in the city of Tamanrasset demonstrated in front of city hall demanding the project be stopped and to see the prime minister. People carried banners reading, “Do not endanger our environment and groundwater.” The US Energy Information Agency reports that Algeria has 707 trillion cubic feet of shale gas reserves, the third-largest estimated amount in the world. [AP, 1/6/2015]


UNICEF says education disrupted for 670,000 children
An estimated 670,000 children in Syria are being deprived of education after Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) forces ordered schools closed while the curriculum is made to conform with strict religious rules, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Tuesday. In addition to lack of school access, at least sixty-eight attacks on schools in 2014 killed hundreds of children. The report comes only a few days after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued a decree establishing a university in the Alawi stronghold, Tartus. [Reuters, 1/7/2015]

Syrian refugees struggling to stay warm as storm batters Lebanon
A storm that buffeted the Middle East with blizzards, rain, and strong winds on Wednesday is raising concern for Syrian refugees facing freezing temperatures in flimsy shelters. The heavy snowfall has cut several roads in mountainous areas of Lebanon, where more than a million Syrian refugees are living. The storm is forecast to last several days, threatening further disruption in Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, and Jordan. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) distributed cash and fuel coupons to more than 80,000 refugee families in Lebanon ahead of the storm. [Naharnet, Reuters, Washington Post, 1/7/2015]

Rebels advance in Aleppo a day after clashes in Damascus and Rif Dimashq
Violent clashes took place between rebel battalions against regime forces supported by the National Defense Force (NDF) in the neighborhood of Bani Zeid in the north of Aleppo city. Elsewhere in Aleppo, clashes continue to rage between a coalition of mainstream rebels, Nusra Front, Ansar al-Din, and other Islamic battalions against regime forces. According to the Islamic Front coalition, these opposition forces advanced in the neighborhood, Manasher al-Brej, and killed several regime soldiers. The clashes come a day after street battles in the Damascus neighborhood of Jobar between regime forces supported by NDF and Hezbollah militants against the Nusra Front and other rebel battalions. The same forces also clashed in the towns of Htaytet al-Jarash and Zebdin in the Eastern Ghouta. In other events, the Pentagon states that investigators with the United States Central Command had begun looking into whether coalition airstrikes, which have targeted Islamic State fighters, equipment and oil depots, may have inadvertently hit civilians [SOHR, 1/7/2015]

Leftist group says it carried out Istanbul suicide bombing
A Turkish leftist group is claiming responsibility for a suicide bombing at an Istanbul police station Tuesday that killed an officer and wounded another. In a statement, the leftist Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKPC) said it carried out the attack, calling the bombing “an act of sacrifice.” It was the second attack on police in a week in Istanbul claimed by the group. In February 2013, DHKPC attacked the US Embassy in Ankara, killing one guard and wounding others. [The Daily Star, 1/7/2015]


Houthi militia storms newspaper editor’s residence, demands resignation

On Tuesday, Houthi forces stormed the residence of Faysal Makram, the chief editor of Yemen’s Al Thawra newspaper and demanded his immediate resignation. The Ministry of Information has strongly condemned the attack. If Makram does not resign, the Houthis have threatened to take more violent action against his family. [Al Masdar, 1/6/2015]

Hadi views the new draft constitution
After months of crafting a new constitution, President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi received the first draft from the constitution committee. In a public address, he stressed that the contents of the new constitution represent all segments of Yemeni society as a result of the wide political and social base that provided input into the document. While calling the document a huge victory for the country, Hadi stated that the country has a long road ahead on the way to a prosperous future. Despite the drafting committee’s success, the Houthis have refused to approve the new constitution because of a clause dividing the country into six regions.  [Al Masdar, Mareb Press, 1/7/2015]

Anti-corruption officials to investigate land scandal
The Supreme National Authority for Combating Corruption has referred senior Yemeni officials for investigation over converting parts of the Hodeida airport land into private properties. The official agency SABA quoted a statement by the authority as saying on Tuesday that nine military and civilian officials were involved in violating anti-corruption laws. The authorities in Hodeida accused the officials and soldiers from the air force of seizing thousands of kilometers of airport property. [Al Masdar, SABA, Yemen Post, 1/6/2015]


IMF ready to support next Tunisian government
According to International Monetary Fund (IMF) Director, Christine Lagarde, the IMF is ready to support the efforts of the next Tunisian government as part of the state’s continuity and democratic transition. She underlined that the IMF was satisfied with Tunisia’s accomplishments and also commended the indicators achieved by the country in 2014, notably the reduction of the the budget deficit and inflation, mastering and rationalizing the subsidy expenditures and the recapitalization of public banks, in accordance with the provisions of the 2015 finance law. [TAP, Zawya, 1/6/2015]

Libya pays heavy economic price as fighting takes toll
Factional fighting in Libya has caused a collapse in oil revenues that threatens to tear the country apart. The Libyan central bank is burning through its foreign reserves and many government services are being cut as a consequence. Experts say the bank, which is struggling to remain neutral amid the fighting, might have to devalue the dinar by 50 percent to offset the loss of oil revenues and pay public salaries. Exports have fallen below 300,000 barrels a day, less than one fifth of the 1.6 million barrels Libya was pumping before 2011. [Reuters, 1/6/2015]

Egypt issues $1.5 billion international bonds, first time in over four years
For the first time in over four years, Egypt’s cabinet approved the issuance of international bonds worth $1.5 billion. According to a statement, the issuance is per a recommendation by the cabinet’s economic committee which expects to lure foreign capital into the country and to fill the financial gap in the state budget. Egypt’s state deficit is expected to reach 11 percent in the fiscal year 2014/15, and is to be financed through local debt and petroleum shipments from the United Arab Emirates in addition to the international bonds. [AllAfrica, Ahram Online, 1/6/2015]

Yemen and World Bank discuss absorbing $90 million grant
Yemen and the World Bank discussed a mechanism to absorb a grant of $90 million allotted from the Bank to the poorest groups in Yemen through the Social Welfare Fund (SWF). Specifically, the distribution of those cash aids and an increase of the social security amounts by 50 percent were reportedly discussed. A company tasked with implementing the new survey of poverty in Yemen is to be identified later this month. [SABA, 1/7/2015]