Four separate bomb attacks took place in Greater Cairo on Friday morning, killing at least six people and injuring dozens of others, on the eve of the anniversary of the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak. The terrorist attack began when a large blast ripped through a police building in central Cairo, killing four and injuring seventy-six others, according to the health ministry. The façade of the Museum of Islamic Art in central Cairo was completely destroyed in the attack. The blast of the bomb also destroyed the façade of the nearby Egyptian National Library and Archives building. Hours later in Giza, one person, a policeman according to some reports, was killed when a primitive bomb exploded after being thrown at a moving police vehicle near a metro station, deputy Giza security chief Mahmoud Farouk told state TV. At least eleven others were reportedly wounded in the attack. In a third explosion, a small bomb went off later on Friday morning at a police station in Talbiya district, also in Giza, near the pyramids. The attack did not cause any casualties, the interior ministry said. A fourth bomb went off in Haram Street near at Radobis Cinema, with reports of one death according to state TV. Hours before the first bombing, the Sinai-based militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis released an audio recording in which a spokesperson called on Egypt’s security forces to take their government-supplied arms and turn on their superiors, or face the consequences. The statement warned, “What is coming is going to be much worse.” [Ahram OnlineAhram Gate (Arabic), DNEAswat MasriyaEgypt Independent,  ReutersMada MasrAP, 1/24/2014]


Egyptian blogger sentenced to three months for insulting interior ministry
An Egyptian court sentenced Ahmed Anwar, a blogger, to three months in prison on Thursday for “insulting the interior ministry” and “deliberately provoking others using the internet.” Anwar had posted a video posted to YouTube last year which mocked the ministry of the interior. The video, titled “The Relationship Between Marwa, the Ministry of the Interior and Deteriorating Security” focused on a ceremony held by the ministry honoring several singers and actors who had “raised policemen’s morale.” Tanta Economic Misdemeanor Court, which is responsible for crimes that deal with the internet or other communication tools, sentenced Anwar to three months in prison and a LE10,000 fine. [Ahram Online, 1/24/2014]

Egypt’s Prime Minister and IMF chief discuss cooperation
Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawy held a meeting yesterday with International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde to discuss the latest economic developments in Egypt and mutual cooperation. Beblawy briefed Lagarde on investment policies adopted by the Egyptian government to create a favorable legislative environment for attracting more investments along with the financial procedures that are meant to address the budget deficit. He hailed as significant the role played by the IMF to support Egypt’s economic situation. An agreement was reached to enhance cooperation between Egypt and the IMF during the coming period to take advantage of its unique expertise in the field of technical cooperation, Beblawy said during the meeting. [SIS, 1/24/2014]

Ban Ki-moon addresses Egyptians on revolution anniversary
As Egyptians mark the third anniversary of their revolution, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon encourages them to renew their commitment to peaceful dialogue and non-violence. He reiterates the commitment of the United Nations to support Egypt in building a future for all Egyptians with dignity, freedom, responsible governance and development that inspired the uprising of 2011. The Secretary-General believes that one of the central challenges moving forward is pluralism: the guarantee that all voices are heard, represented and have a stake in the system, regardless of political or religious affiliation. [DNE, 1/24/2014]


General National Congress empowers its President  with ‘Commander-in-Chief’ duties
The President of the General National Congress (GNC) and his two deputies have been empowered with temporary Commander-in-Chief duties for the next month. This move allows them to better deal with the continued clashes in Sebha and the overall deteriorating security situation especially in the south of the country. [Libya Herald, 1/23/2014]

Warshefana calls on media to witness a “massacre”
Warshefana’s local council has called local and foreign media to witness firsthand what it described as “a massacre” in the town. There are reports of further fighting on Thursday in the area, as Wednesday’s initial agreement between the government and the Warshefana Shura Council seems to have collapsed. Clashes between local armed gangs and government security forces have so far left nine people dead and at least twenty injured. Warshefana is still experiencing clashes with “armed groups” claiming they had been commissioned to arrest criminals who used the town as a refuge. However, Prime Minister Ali Zidan and the Ministries of Defense and Interior specified that no forces had been commissioned to Warshefana. [Libya Herald, 1/23/2014]

Deadly clashes in Sebha as more army units arrive
Renewed clashes in Sebha killed two and injured five on Thursday night as newly-arrived government forces attempted to secure the town. More army units have been deployed in the south, they have been deployed throughout the city and surrounding area, initially securing residential areas and government institutions. The units have been instructed to respond to any gunfire or attacks. Some raids were apparently successfully carried out during last night’s clashes, and arms and ammunition seized. [Libya Herald, 1/24/2014]

Sarir oil field attacked
The Sarir oil field was attacked by an armed group on Thursday evening. Heavy weaponry was used in the attack and missiles were fired into the oilfield. No oil tanks were hit in the clashes, during which army troops were able to repel the attackers, but a main power line connecting the Sarir power station to a number of towns and cities was cut. The attack is thought to have been part of ongoing tribal clashes in the region. These have been destabilizing the area in the past weeks and led already on Monday to workers evacuating the power plant and to its temporary closure. [Libya Herald, 1/23/2014]


Friction grows between two sides in Geneva; Regime delegation threatens walkout
Syria’s first peace talks were on the verge of collapsing on Friday before they began, with the opposition refusing to meet President Bashar al-Assad’s delegation and the government threatening to bring its team home. The opposition said it would not meet Assad’s delegation unless it first agreed to sign up to a protocol calling for a transitional administration. The government rejected the demand outright and said its negotiators would return home unless serious talks began within a day. “If no serious work sessions are held by Saturday, the official Syrian delegation will leave Geneva due to the other side’s lack of seriousness or preparedness,” Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said. Friday was meant to be the first time in three years of war that Assad’s government and foes would negotiate face to face. But plans were ditched at the last minute after the opposition said the government delegation must first sign up to a 2012 protocol, known as Geneva 1, that calls for an interim government to oversee a transition to a new political order. [NYT, Reuters, Al Arabiya, AFP, 1/24/2014]

Iranian FM urges all foreign elements out of Syria; Saudi royal calls for Shia exit
Speaking on a panel discussion about the Middle East at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Iran’s foreign minister called for all “foreign elements” to leave Syria so its people can decide their future themselves. A senior member of the Saudi royal family attacked the United States on Friday over its policy on Syria, and called for a United Nations resolution to pull “Iraqi and Lebanese Shiite militia” out of the war-torn Middle Eastern country. Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former intelligence chief and an outspoken critic of the Obama administration since it started secret nuclear talks with Iran, said the world was disappointed with the “sense of no direction” in US foreign policy. [The Daily Star, 1/24/1014]

Kerry says Assad not ready for solution; Offers assurances to Alawite population
In an interview with Al Arabiya from Geneva, US Secretary of State John Kerry ramped up his criticism of President Bashar al-Assad, calling him “the single biggest magnet for terrorists” and the only person who stands in the way of peace. “Assad needs to put Syria in front of Assad. This should not be about one man, one family; this should be about all the people of Syria and the future of Syria.” Kerry added that that the world would protect the Alawite religious sect from persecution if Assad steps down. “I say to any of the Alawites who are fighting with the belief that somehow only Assad can protect them: that is not true; Assad is putting them at risk today. He is putting all of Syria at risk today. He is responsible for the potential disintegration of Syria.” Speaking to reporters Thursday, Kerry said that some countries might be prepared to send peacekeeping troops to Syria, as part of a UN peace agreement. [Al Arabiya, 1/23/2014]


National Constituent Assembly finished voting on each article of the constitution
The National Constituent Assembly (NCA) completed voting on each of the 146 articles of the draft constitution on Thursday. Most of the final votes were in regards to amendments to articles rather than individual articles. On Saturday, the NCA will vote on the constitution as a whole. A two-thirds vote in favor is needed in order for it to pass. The completion of article-by-article voting is seen as a significant step forward for Tunisia on its roadmap towards democracy. [AFP, 1/24/2014]

Jomaa to meet with the Quartet on Friday
Caretaker Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa is expected to meet with the National Dialogue Quartet Friday afternoon. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss Jomaa’s cabinet, which he is expected to announce on Saturday now that the article-by-article voting on the constitution is complete. Jomaa’s cabinet will likely include a number of ministers from Larayedh’s cabinet, including the Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou. [Tunis Afrique Press, 1/23/2014, TAP, 1/24/2014].

Article 6 of the constitution is finalized and passed
The plenary session of the NCA resumed on Thursday after a forty-eight hour suspension. The session was suspended in order to reach consensus between presidents of parliamentary groups and blocs. Article 6 addresses freedom of conscience and came under debate this week due to a proposed amendment that bans insulting religion. Under the new version of article six, the State is committed to protecting sanctities and banning any insult to them and accusations of apostasy (takfir). [Tunis Afrique Press, 1/23/2014]

Army arrests one of Tunisia’s most-wanted terrorists
The ministry of the interior announced that troops arrested one of Tunisia’s most-wanted terrorists, Farid Ben Salah Barhoumi. Ben Salah Barhoumi is wanted in connection with the Jebel Chaambi killings. The arrest, however, does not represent a significant success for Tunisia’s security sector, which is struggling to tackle the growing challenge that terrorism is posing to the country. [All Africa, 1/24/2014]


UN Special Advisor Omar says NDC will lead to radical change
In an interview with Asharq al-Awsat, UN special advisor on Yemen Jamal Benomar speaks with high hopes about the the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC), saying that as the country moves forward “the foundations will be laid for radical change in state institutions.” Benomar identified many priorities for Yemen’s transition, including security sector reform and the inclusion of previously marginalized social groups. [Asharq al-Awsat, 1/24/2013]

Hadi announces project to develop Hodeidah port as secessionists dispersed
Just days after security forces dispersed a secessionist rally in Hodeidah province, President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi directed approximately $93 million to develop Hodeidah port and make it a competitor to other regional ports. The project is part of the 2014 budget passed last week. Secessionists claim that the central government has marginalized the province and waged a crackdown on dissidents there. [Al-Masdar (Arabic), 1/24/2014]

US drone strike kills four
A US drone strike hit a group of people driving in the central province of Marib last night, killing at least four people—including one al-Qaeda suspect—and injuring several others, a Yemeni interior ministry official said. The interior ministry subsequently released a statement claiming that the ministry had prevented an al-Qaeda attempt to seize government institutions in Marib. [Xinhua, 1/24/2014]


UN says Anbar displacement worst in Iraq since 2006-08
More than 140,000 people have fled Anbar province due to deadly clashes between security forces and anti-government fighters, resulting in the worst displacement in Iraq in years. 65,000 fled Anbar in the last week alone. [AFP, 1/24/2014]

Canada announces aid to help Jordan with Syrian refugees
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II to discuss the Syrian conflict and its impact on Jordan. Following the meeting, Harper stated that Canada will provide $90 million to Jordan over the next five years to assist with development and security challenges. [AFP, 1/23/2014]