Top News: Conflicting Reports Over Attacks in Aden

Attacks in Aden, on a hotel used by Yemen’s Prime Minister Khaled Bahah and on two military installations, have killed eighteen Saudi-led coalition troops and pro-government fighters. Explosions rocked the Qasr hotel, the headquarters of the UAE’s forces in the city, and a residence early on Tuesday. Prime Minister Bahah and members of his government escaped unharmed. While the Yemeni government spokesman Rajeh Badi said the that rockets were fired at the three locations from outside the city limits, reports from witnesses in Aden indicate that the hotel and buildings were targeted by car bombs and mortar attacks. Military official Major General Ahmed Sayf said one of the car bombs detonated at the gate of the hotel, and the second exploded in the garden. The attacks highlight the security challenges for the government as it seeks to reestablish itself in Yemen. [NYTBBCAden al-Ghad (Arabic), AP, 10/6/2015]



Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson Gehad Haddad’s family: We don’t know if he’s alive or dead
The family of prominent Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson Gehad Haddad say they haven’t been allowed to visit him or receive any information about him since he was taken to Tora Prison Hospital on Sunday. Haddad collapsed on Sunday because of “malnutrition and deprivation of basic needs,” according to a post on Twitter by his brother Abdullah Haddad. Since then, “the family [has been] given no information or visitation rights to see if [he is] alive or dead,” Abdullah added. Haddad’s wife Basma Abu Zeid told Mada Masr that she tried to visit him in hospital but was informed that a permit is required from the prosecution to visit inmates in maximum-security facilities. She added that authorities also refused to allow in food or medication. “I have no information whatsoever,” she said, “I don’t even know why he was transferred to the hospital, I only find things out from Facebook.” [Mada Masr, 10/6/2015]

Women rake ground-breaking 44 percent of seats in Egyptian Democratic Party’s top positions
In an unprecedented outcome for Egyptian political parties, women won 19 of 43 seats in the Egyptian Democratic Party’s high committee elections on Friday, exceeding the 33 percent women’s quota by 10 percent. The results surpass the representation of women in the Free Egyptians Party’s political bureau, which was at the forefront at 33.3 percent, followed by the Tagammu party, where women occupy 21.4 percent of the top positions and the Dostour Party at 11.11 percent. At the bottom of the list comes the Wafd Party with 3 percent and finally a single seat is occupied by a woman on the Salafist Nour Party’s high committee of fifty. [Aswat Masriya, 10/5/2015]

Amnesty urges prosecution to halt retrial of eyewitnesses to Shaimaa al-Sabbagh murder
International human rights group Amnesty International issued an action alert on Monday advocating for the seventeen eyewitnesses to the fatal shooting of activist Shaimaa al-Sabbagh during a peaceful protest on January 24, 2015. The eyewitnesses will be retried this month for violating the protest law after receiving an acquittal on May 23 during their original trial for illegally protesting and disturbing public order. The prosecutor general appealed the acquittal three days later. In a statement, Amnesty called on the authorities to drop all charges, which the group decried as “retribution for testifying about abuses carried out by the security forces.” [Mada Masr, 10/6/2015]

Twenty terrorist operations, eighty-nine protests in September says ANHRI
September witnessed eighty-nine protests carried out by various political groups, as well as twenty terrorist operations across Egypt, according to a report by the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) released Monday. Protest activity was divided among various political factions; with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamist Anti-Coup Alliance responsible for 82 percent of these activities. Workers and students carried out the remaining protests, while pro-government groups organized one event. The report showed that 30 percent of the Brotherhood’s activities were ambushed by security forces. The second section of the report focused on trials that took place throughout September. Thirty-five death sentences were issued in different cases; the latest of which was given to Adel Habara. Additionally, five trials were being adjudicated in military courts, with 387 defendants. The report also stated that twenty terrorist operations resulted in fifty injuries and twenty-three deaths throughout the month. Security campaigns targeting terrorist hideouts resulted in 578 deaths and the arrest of 677 individuals. [DNE, 10/5/2015]

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Libya’s HOR extends own mandate, complicating peace talks
Libya’s House of Representatives (HOR) voted on Monday to extend its mandate, due to expire on October 20, in a move likely to complicate UN-led negotiations to reach a final political deal between the HOR and the General National Congress (GNC). Of the 131 present, 129 members voted to extend the parliament’s mandate until power is transferred to another elected body. HOR spokesman Faraj Hashem said that the HOR still supports the UN-backed negotiating process and its delegates were in meetings with UN Envoy Bernardino Leon in Skhirat, Morocco on Monday. “The HOR has amended the constitutional declaration to extend its mandate to avoid a vacuum in the country,” said lawmaker Tarek Juroushi. There was no official reaction from the GNC. [Reuters, AP, Libya Herald, 10/5/2015]

Tunisia minister quits over ‘lack of will’ to fight graft
Tunisia’s Parliament Relations Minister announced his resignation on Monday, protesting the unwillingness to battle corruption. “I can no longer be part of a government that lacks the political will to confront graft,” Lazhar Akremi said. In his resignation letter to Prime Minister Habib Essid, Akremi said his efforts to expose corruption “were crushed by corruption that multiplies daily.” Akremi, a founding member of Tunisia’s ruling party Nidaa Tounes, asked whether “there really is a will to fight against corruption in a country where the share of the shadow economy has reached 54 percent of [gross domestic product].” According to a 2014 World Bank report, corruption costs Tunisia the equivalent of two percent of gross domestic product. [AFP, 10/6/2015]

Tunisia busts ISIS recruitment cells, arrests eleven suspected recruits
The Tunisian police has broken up three cells recruiting fighters for the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) and arrested eleven people suspected of trying to join ISIS in Libya, the Tunisian Ministry of Interior said. Last week, Tunisia seized two car bombs and weapons on the border with Libya. In July, the government began building a wall along the border in an effort to stop Islamist militants from crossing between Libya and Tunisia. [Reuters, 10/6/2015]


Russian planes strike ISIS in Syrian city of Palmyra
Russian warplanes have bombed targets in and around the Syrian city of Palmyra, Syrian state television said Tuesday, in Moscow’s first strikes against the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) in that area. “The Russian air force in coordination with the Syrian air force targeted positions held by the Islamic State group in and around the city of Palmyra,” state television said. It said the strikes had destroyed “[twenty] armored vehicles, three ammunition warehouses, and three rocket launchers.” The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said the Palmyra strikes took place overnight and killed at least fifteen ISIS fighters and injured dozens more. [AFP, 10/6/2015]

UN asks Iran to help in pressuring Syrian regime
UN Chief Ban Ki-moon urged Iran on Monday to pressure its ally Syria to reach a peaceful resolution to the Syrian civil war. During a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, Ban “reiterated that there is no military solution to the conflict and asked Iran to exercise its influence in promoting a political solution.” The statement added that Ban also “underscored the need for Lebanon’s presidential vacuum to be filled as quickly as possible.” [AFP, 10/6/2015]

Hezbollah preparing for Quneitera counteroffensive
Hezbollah and the Syrian regime have been preparing their fighters for a counteroffensive in northern Quneitera following recent rebel gains in the province bordering Israel. “A number of regime forces officers and commanders in the Hezbollah militia are meeting in the headquarters of Quneitera’s 90th Brigade base,” a Syrian opposition source said. “[They are] discussing a military plan to launch a battle against the rebels [and] recapture villages and towns in Quneitera that have fallen into the hands of rebel battalions,” the source added. According to the source, the regime has summoned a large number of troops as well as dozens of soldiers from the 90th Brigade base, with support from members of Hezbollah. “Over [forty] vehicles bearing Hezbollah flags have arrived at the base, and most of them are there for the launch of the battle which is expected to begin tomorrow.” [NOW, 10/6/2015]

Turkey claims Russia violated its airspace a second time; NATO chief says no accident
Turkey complained late on Monday that a Russian warplane had violated its airspace on Sunday, the second such breach in three days. The incursion prompted Ankara to summon Moscow’s ambassador again. Russia is looking into the incident. Russia has denied another Turkish assertion that one of its planes locked its radar onto two Turkish fighter jets on Monday. NATO’s Secretary-General rejected Moscow’s claim that its military incursion into Turkey’s airspace was not intentional, saying there were two separate incidents and “the violation lasted for a long time.” In Syria, Russian warplanes reportedly continued hitting targets in the country. NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference in Brussels that recent breaches of Turkish airspace by Russian warplanes were serious and even dangerous. “It doesn’t look like an accident, and we’ve seen two of them over the weekend.” [Reuters, 10/6/2015]

Anti-PKK raids, curfews continue in Turkey’s southeast
Turkish security forces lifted a three-day curfew in Silvan, Diyarbakir on Monday night, after conducting operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The Bismil, Diyarbakir district governor’s office announced a curfew in four neighborhoods of the town on Tuesday until further notice. A five-day curfew over the town of Nusaybin in Turkey’s Mardin province was lifted Tuesday morning. Counterterrorism forces carried out raids across six provinces on Tuesday, including in Istanbul, Ankara, Konya, and Van provinces, specifically targeting the PKK and its supporters. Twenty-two suspects were detained, including teachers and university students. Six executives of the Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) are reportedly among those detainees. [BGN, Hurriyet, 10/6/2015]


US Senate Foreign Relations Committee to discuss US role in Yemen
Congress shifts its attention to the war in Yemen this coming week amid rising concerns about the civilian death toll. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on October 8 on the US role and strategy in Yemen and the Gulf counties. The hearing will address the increasing civilian casualties resulting from the conflict between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi fighters. The rising death toll, 4,500 people killed through late September, puts pressure on lawmakers to play a bigger role in overseeing US support for the coalition. The Obama administration remains supportive of the offensive against the Iran-backed rebels and declined to support Dutch calls for an independent UN probe this past week, ensuring passage of an alternative Saudi plan for a national investigation by Yemen. [US News, Yemen Online, 10/6/2015]

King Salman reaffirms Saudi support for President Hadi
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz received Yemeni President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi in Jeddah on Monday where they discussed the latest developments in the conflict-torn country. King Salman congratulated President Hadi on his return to the city of Aden last month. He emphasized Saudi Arabia’s full support for Yemen and its government and President Hadi thanked the Saudi king “for standing by the side of the Yemeni people and their legitimate government.” King Salman also said that the security of Yemen was an integral part of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States’ security. [Al Arabiya, Middle East Monitor, 10/6/2015]

Saudi-led coalition gains strategic island from Houthi fighters
The Saudi-led coalition won a strategic victory over Houthi fighters on Sunday by gaining control of Perim Island at the entrance to the Red Sea. This victory marks the Gulf forces complete control of Bab al-Mandab and denied the Houthis a symbolic foothold on trade routes in the Arab world. In 2013, more than 3.4 million barrels of oil per day passed through the strait linking the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden. “The island has now been completely secured by the coalition and the resistance forces from among its people,” Rami Fahmy Mayuni, a tribal chief of the island’s original inhabitants and commander of its militia fighters. [Reuters, 10/5/2015]


World Bank suggests new strategy for Middle East
The World Bank has suggested a new strategy to help countries in the Middle East achieve stability that will be based on four axes, according to the Bank’s Vice President for Middle East and North Africa region Hafez Ghanem. The four axes will involve efforts to provide youth with job opportunities and better living conditions, regional cooperation, assistance to countries hosting refugees, and rebuilding countries affected by war. Ghanem noted that the Middle East suffers from little economic cooperation, and that the Bank will seek to promote regional cooperation in the areas of education, water, and energy. The World Bank projected the region’s overall gross domestic product in 2015 at about 2.8 percent, while “low oil prices, conflicts and the global economic slowdown make short-term prospects of recovery unlikely.” On Monday, the World Bank released a report exploring why the region’s aggregate export performance has been consistently weak over the past two decades. [DNE, Ahram Online, 10/6/2015]

Libya’s oil output down to 300,000 bpd
Libya’s oil production has dropped to 300,000 barrels per day (bpd)–less than a quarter of what it produced before the 2011 fall of Muammar Qaddafi–due to insecurity and closed pipelines, according to the head of Libya’s eastern National Oil Corporation Naji Moghrab. “The main problem behind the low production is insecurity and of course the presence of Daesh near the oilfields,” Moghrab said, referring the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) militants who have gained ground in Libya. Gunmen allied with ISIS attacked forces guarding one of Libya Es Sider port on Thursday and attempted to detonate a car bomb. Es Sider and the nearby Ras Lanuf oil terminal have been closed since last year due to clashes between forces loyal to the country’s rival governments. [Reuters, Libya Monitor (subscription), 10/5/2015]

Egypt plans new Mediterranean gas exploration round in first half 2016
Egypt is preparing to launch a new bidding round for gas exploration off the Mediterranean coast in the first half of 2016, head of the state gas company EGAS Khaled Abdel Badie said on Tuesday. His comments come after Egypt announced it had awarded four new licenses to explore for oil and gas off its Mediterranean coast, weeks after Italy’s Eni discovered the giant Zohr gas field. Eni predicts Zohr could hold 30 trillion cubic feet of gas, covering an area of about 100 square kilometers. EGAS said in a statement that it had awarded licenses to Britain’s BP, Italy’s Edison, a consortium of BP and Eni’s Egyptian subsidiary, and another consortium of BP, Eni, and France’s Total. EGAS said the companies would make investments of at least $306 million, conduct seismic studies, and sink eight discovery wells. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail pledged to end a factory gas shortage by November. [Reuters, 10/6/2015]