Top News: Drone Kills Three Suspected al-Qaeda Militants in Yemen

A drone attack killed three suspected al-Qaeda militants on Saturday in Hadramawt. Three armed men were traveling in a vehicle along a desert stretch between Yemen and Saudi Arabia’s border when the drone shot two rockets at them. All three are dead.



Egypt arrests six ‘terrorist cells’ over bombing of electricity towers
Police forces arrested six alleged terrorist cells over various incidents of bomb blasts in electricity towers, the ministry of interior announced on Saturday. The suspects are allegedly members of the Muslim Brotherhood. In a statement, the ministry said that the cells included forty suspects accused of “targeting electricity towers and transformers, assaulting security and judiciary personnel, and sabotaging public transportation.” Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab said that the electricity problem was due to several factors including lack of maintenance of power stations. He added that those responsible for the vandalism are attempting to handicap the state, and that the government will be able to fight back using the law. In an interview, Hafez al-Salmawy, head of the Egyptian Electric Utility and Consumer Protection Regulatory Agency, said that fuel shortages are the reason behind power outages in Egypt. [DNE, Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, 8/16/2014]

Egypt seeks $10.4 billion loan from IMF
Finance Minister Hani Qadri Demian started serious attempts to convince the government to file new requests to the International Monetary Fund to resume talks to get $10.4 billion by 2015 with a 1-2 percent interest rate. The fund praised the steps taken by the government regarding energy and commodities as well as the new tax measures that would increase the state resources. [Egypt Independent, 8/17/2014]

Sisi meets with US Congressman Darrell Issa
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met with a delegation from the US House of Representatives headed by Congressman Darrell Issa Sunday at the Ittihadiya Palace. Issa arrived in Cairo on Saturday for a two-day visit and held talks with senior Egyptian officials over recent regional developments and ongoing events, including the current conflict in Gaza. In their meeting, Sisi and Congressman Issa discussed a number of bilateral issues, including the Egyptian economy and Egypt-US economic relations. Congressman Issa said that the US does not believe that Sisi’s visit to Russia last week poses any threat to Washington. “The US allocated half a billion dollars as military aid to Egypt this fiscal year and the number will increase to one billion next year,” he added. “Relations with Egypt are still strong.” They also discussed ways of fighting terrorism in Egypt’s Sinai. [DNE, 8/17/2014]

First parliamentary alliance formed: Egyptian Front Coalition
A group of leftist, liberal parties, and syndicates formed Sunday the Egyptian Front coalition, in preparation for Egypt’s upcoming parliamentary elections. The coalition includes the leftist al-Tagammu Party, the liberal Ghad Party, the Conference Party, My Homeland Egypt Party led by former MP Mostafa Bakry, the Egyptian Patriotic Movement founded by former prime minister and 2012 presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq, and the Modern Egypt Party. Also joining the coalition are the Egyptian Trade Union Federation, the Federation of Craft Unions, and the General Union of Peasants. The coalition’s agenda constitutes ten major points on state reform, national security, and economic development. Other political parties have said that they are in negotiations to join the electoral alliance led by the country’s oldest liberal party, the Wafd Party. Ahmed al-Boraie, a former minister of social solidarity and a leading official of the liberal Dostour Party, said on Friday that a meeting is scheduled this week between the Democratic Current and the Egyptian Wafd electoral alliances. [Ahram Online, DNE, 8/17/2014]


Unidentified war planes and explosions heard in Tripoli
Unidentified war planes flew over Tripoli early on Monday and explosions could be heard, according to residents in the capital. A Libyan TV channel said planes targeted positions where militias have been fighting for control for several weeks. None of the militias is believed to own war planes, and government officials could not be reached for comment. New UN special envoy Bernardino Leon, due to start his job officially on September 1, said he was aiming to end fighting and might travel to Tripoli as early as this week. Meanwhile, a Libyan militia spokesman says six people were killed by rockets targeting Islamist-led militias in Tripoli, and Egypt cancelled all flights to Libya, saying Libyan authorities had closed the country’s airspace. [Reuters, 8/18/2014]

House of Representatives forms ceasefire committee
The Libyan parliament’s President Ageela Issa announced that the House of Representatives had formed a committee tasked with attempting to achieve a ceasefire in the fighting between the warring militias in Tripoli. Speaking on live television, Ageela said that the committee would be in contact with “all sides in the conflict” in an effort to achieve that end. Libya’s attorney general issued a decision to investigate crimes committed against civilians as a result of the inter-militia fighting in Tripoli, including war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes that curtail liberty. [Libya Herald (subscription required), 8/17/2014]

House of Representatives president looks at local issues
Speaker of the Libyan parliament, Ageela Issa, has met the heads of municipal councils from across the eastern region, including from Benghazi, Bayda, and Tobruk, to discuss their difficulties. Topping the agenda was the issue of funding for local government. A lack of cash and delays in sorting out the budget hinder many councils from operating and providing services for their constituencies. Issa said the House and its members would to do all in their power to help the municipal councils. The council heads reaffirmed their full support for the new parliament, which they said was the sole source of legitimate authority in the country. [Libya Herald, 8/16/2014]

Benghazi clashes as Saiqa attacks from Benina
Fighting erupted in Benghazi’s Buatni district as Saiqa Special Forces pushed outward from Benina airport, their only remaining stronghold in the city. The head of the forces said Saiqa had wrested control of the airport road from Ansar al-Sharia. There has been in recent weeks an increasing rift between Khalifa Haftar’s Operation Dignity and Saiqa Special Forces. After Operation Dignity forces were routed from their main base in the eastern city, a senior figure said they were no longer fit for the campaign. [Libya Herald, 8/17/2014]


Kurdish militants train hundreds of Yazidis to fight ISIS
Kurdish militants have trained hundreds of Yazidi volunteers at several camps inside Syria to fight ISIS forces in Iraq, a member of the armed Kurdish YPG and a Reuters photographer who visited a training camp said on Sunday. The photographer spent Saturday at the training camp at the Serimli military base in Qamishli, northeastern Syria on the border with Iraqi Kurdistan, where he saw fifty-five Yazidis being trained how to use assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades to fight ISIS. “The Yazidi civilians want to stay in Syria because it is safer but the volunteers really want to go back to Iraq to fight,” he said by phone. [Reuters, 8/18/2014]

ISIS executed 700 people from al-Sheitaat tribe
The Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS or IS) has executed 700 members of a tribe it has been battling in eastern Syria during the past two weeks, the majority of them civilians, a human rights monitoring group and activists said on Saturday. Sources reported beheadings were used to execute many of the al-Sheitaat tribe, which is from Deir Ezzor province. The conflict between ISIS and the al-Sheitaat tribe, who number about 70,000, flared after the militants took over two oil fields in July. [Reuters, 8/16/2014]

Government air strikes target ISIS in Raqqa
Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad hammered the eastern city of Raqqa with more than two dozen air strikes on Sunday, targeting areas controlled by ISIS. At least thirty-one ISIS fighters were killed and dozens wounded in twenty-six strikes against ISIS buildings, including the military court and bases in the city. Until this summer, Assad’s forces held off from targeting ISIS, allowing the group to thrive and weaken less hardline opposition groups that are backed by the West. [Reuters, AFP, 8/17/2014]

Druze-Bedouin violence erupts near Syria’s Lajat region
An eruption of violence around the village of Dama, in southern Syria, between Druze and Bedouin living in the area—the Bedouin backed by rebel groups—killed at least fifteen people Saturday. The Lajat lies on the border of Swaida and Deraa provinces, and is a rocky area traditionally used as a base by smugglers, fugitives from justice, and insurgents. The violence was preceded by several weeks of kidnappings and murders, undertaken by Bedouin, targeting Druze locals, and Druze paramilitaries. Rebel groups from next-door Deraa province and Nusra Front militants joined the Bedouin in the attack on Dama. [Daily Star, 8/18/2014]


Scholarships, educational exchange programs worth $5.5 million announced
Two new scholarship and educational exchange programs were announced on Friday, pursuant to an agreement on Science and Technology Cooperation between Tunisia and the United States. The first program is the new $4.75 million Fulbright Tunisia Tech+Scholars Program that will send approximately forty Tunisian graduate students to the United States to obtain master’s degrees in science, technology, and business fields. The second will make available $800,000 to establish three new linkages between US and Tunisian educational institutions in the fields of technological innovation and business development. [TAP, 8/15/2014]

Poor presence of women on electoral lists raised at meeting in Monastir
Participants in a meeting held Saturday in Monastir on women and elections focused on the poor presence of women as heads of electoral lists. They deplored the gap between discourse and practice among most of the Tunisian politicians. [TAP, 8/17/2014]

All Egyptians fleeing Libya through Tunisia returned home
All Egyptians fleeing Libya through Tunisia have arrived home. The government has been facilitating the departure of Egyptian workers fleeing the violence in Libya. The governor of Egypt’s Matrouh governorate, which borders Libya, said last week that nearly 50,000 Egyptians–almost 4,000 per day–have arrived at the Salloum border crossing in the last month. [Ahram Online, 8/18/2014]


Drone kills three suspected al-Qaeda militants in Yemen
A drone attack killed three suspected al-Qaeda militants on Saturday in Hadramawt. Three armed men were traveling in a vehicle along a desert stretch between Yemen and Saudi Arabia’s border when the drone shot two rockets at them. All three are dead. No details were given on whether it was a US or Yemeni drone. [Reuters, 8/16/2014]

President Hadi forms tribal army to fight Houthis and reassigns meditation committee
Following an announcement on Friday that President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi ordered the establishment of a pro-government tribal army to oppose the Houthis in Jawf. Officials revealed that President Hadi reassigned a committee formed to mediate a ceasefire. Clashes flared up again in Jawf on Friday, one day after the mediation committee declared failure to consolidate the ceasefire and withdrew from the disputed areas. At least fifteen Yemeni tribesmen were killed over Friday and Saturday clashes. [Yemen Post, 8/18/2014]

President Hadi justifies oil subsidy reform in Yemen as a patriotic decision
President Hadi said on Sunday that the recently approved oil subsidy reform was a patriotic decision that was aimed at preventing the fall of the national currency against foreign currencies. Hadi’s remark was given at a meeting with tribal dignitaries from Haraz and Sa’afan in Sana’a and coincided with calls by Houthis to hold massive demonstrations against the rise in fuel prices. [Yemen Post, 8/18/2014]

UN Special Adviser on Yemen arrives in Sana’a
The United Nations (UN) Special Adviser on Yemen ‎Jamal Benomar arrived in Sana’a on Saturday. Upon his arrival, Benomar said that he would meet with President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi and several governmental officials and political leaders to discuss the latest developments in Yemen. Benomar will prepare a brief on the situation in Yemen to be submitted to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) session on August 25. [Saba, 8/16/2014]


Kurds retake Mosul Dam
Kurdish forces moved to retake the strategic Mosul Dam on Sunday night, with the support of Iraqi Special Forces and US airstrikes. The assault on Mosul dam is the most significant challenge yet to the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) advance in northern Iraq. In the past two days, US forces have conducted thirty airstrikes across Iraq, with many striking near the dam. The White House on Sunday said President Barack Obama had informed Congress that he has authorized US air strikes in Iraq to support the effort in retaking the dam. [NY Times, Reuters, 8/18/2014]

Gulf nations set to blacklist citizens from travel due to UN resolution
Saudi Arabia and Kuwait agreed to comply with a UN resolution aimed at stopping financing for Islamist militant groups in Syria and Iraq. The agreement comes after four Saudi and Kuwaiti nationals were named among the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) which is blacklisted by the United Nations. Western officials believe that wealthy Gulf Arabs have been a main source of funding for groups like ISIS and al-Nusra Front. [Reuters, 8/18/2014

Australia to take 4,400 refugees from Syria and Iraq
Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said his country will offer to resettle around 4,400 people fleeing violence in Iraq and Syria. The minister said a minimum of 2,200 places would be for Iraqis, including ethnic and religious minorities fleeing the violence in the north of the country and a minimum of 2,200 places for Syrians. [AFP, 8/18/2014]