Top News: Egypt’s Sisi Orders Review of Criminal Procedures after Court Drops Charges on Former President Mubarak

Egypt’s presidency issued its first official reaction to Saturday’s court verdict on former autocrat Hosni Mubarak, saying the president has full confidence in the country’s judicial system. The presidency would not comment on the court’s judicial verdict, but gave orders to Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab to look into procedures for compensating the families of those killed and injured in the January 2011 uprising.

The president also delegated a legislative reform committee to study the court’s suggested amendments to criminal procedures. The ruling was met with mixed reactions by Egyptian politicians and activists. Two people died and nine were injured on Saturday night when security forces dispersed hundreds of demonstrators near Tahrir Square in central Cairo, the health ministry said. Around three thousand protesters had gathered after the court dropped all charges against the ousted president.




Egypt’s Sisi Orders Review of Criminal Procedures after Court Drops Charges on Former President Mubarak
Egypt’s presidency issued its first official reaction to Saturday’s court verdict on former autocrat Hosni Mubarak, saying the president has full confidence in the country’s judicial system. The presidency would not comment on the court’s judicial verdict, but gave orders to Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab to look into procedures for compensating the families of those killed and injured in the January 2011 uprising. The president also delegated a legislative reform committee to study the court’s suggested amendments to criminal procedures. The ruling was met with mixed reactions by Egyptian politicians and activists. Two people died and nine were injured on Saturday night when security forces dispersed hundreds of demonstrators near Tahrir Square in central Cairo, the health ministry said. Around three thousand protesters had gathered after the court dropped all charges against the ousted president. [Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, 11/30/2014]

Sisi decree establishes ‘forbidden’ areas along Egypt’s borders
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued a decree Saturday on the demarcation of areas adjacent to the western, southern and eastern border areas of Egypt, in an effort to secure them. The decree authorizes the armed forces to safeguard areas contiguous to the borders by prohibiting individuals “to go over or under the land.” The latter indirectly refers to the smuggling tunnels connecting the town of Rafah to the Gaza Strip. The resolution sets forth rules regulating the presence of foreigners and Egyptians in the restricted areas. It allows the armed forces to take all actions and measures against anyone who violates the rules of the areas demarcated by the decree. [DNE, 11/30/2014]

Court dismisses case demanding ban on religious parties
The Alexandria Court for Urgent Matters dismissed a case demanding banning religious parties from running in the upcoming parliamentary elections, citing a lack of jurisdiction. The lawsuit, filed by Tarek Mahmoud, the legal advisor to the Popular Front Against the Brotherhoodization of Egypt, called for the dissolution of all religious parties, including the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and the Salafi Nour Party. Meanwhile, a Cairo appeals court upheld on Sunday a decision to ban the Islamist Istiqlal (Independence) Party. The party was primarily banned in September, but it had challenged the verdict. The challenge was turned down on Sunday. [Egypt Independent, 11/30/2014]

Egypt’s Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis claims killing of US citizen
The Sinai based militant group Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis (ABM) has taken responsibility for killing a US citizen in Egypt’s Western Desert in August of this year. ABM, which recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and changed its name to the Sinai Province, said on its social media sites that it had abducted and killed William Bill Henderson, a production expert working for Texas-based Apache energy company in the Western Desert. The group published photos of Henderson’s US passport and two ID cards issued by Apache and Qarun Petroleum. Meanwhile, a video released on YouTube Wednesday claimed by militant group Ajnad Misr has threatened continued attacks against Egyptian security forces until Islamic rule is enforced in Egypt. [Ahram Online, DNE, AP, 12/1/2014]

For more in-depth Egypt news, please visit EgyptSource


About 400 killed in six weeks of fighting in Benghazi
About 400 people have been killed in six weeks of heavy fighting between Libyan pro-government forces and Islamist groups in the eastern city Benghazi, according to medical staff said on Saturday. Backed by former general Khalifa Haftar’s forces, the newly formed government army launched in mid-October an offensive against Islamists in Benghazi, expelling them from the airport area and retaking several camps they had lost during the summer. The last three weeks of fighting has centered on Benghazi’s commercial port, which has had to close, disrupting food supplies. [Reuters, 11/29/2014]

Leading Libyan figures targeted in Tripoli as political divide escalates
Leading Libyan imam and preacher Sheikh Mohamed al-Jaafari, a prominent member of the League of Libyan Ulema, was abducted as he left his local mosque in a suburb of Tripoli. The League, comprising Maliki, Sufi, and Ibadi scholars, is in conflict with the largely Salafist Dar al-Ifta led by Sheikh Sadek al-Ghariani, who is supported by Operation Libya Dawn and the rival government in Tripoli. In another incident, gunmen beat up a university professor in the capital after he reportedly refused to appear on television and condemn Khalifa Haftar’s Operation Dignity. [Libya Herald, 11/30/2014]

Tunisian security officer decapitated after kidnapping in Kef
The Tunisian ministry of interior on Monday confirmed that a missing security officer, Mohsen Soltani, was found dead early Monday after he was kidnapped by a militant group Sunday night in the town of Touiref, nine miles from the Kef governorate. A spokesman from the ministry of interior stressed that security officers were investigating the officers death but did not immediately identify the group suspected of the attack. [Tunisia Live, 12/1/2014]

Tunisia warns citizens against travel to Libya
As the situation in neighboring Libya deteriorates, the Tunisian foreign ministry has advised its citizens “to defer” any travel there, saying they should go only if their business is absolutely essential. There is continued concern over the fate of two Tunisian journalists arrested almost three months ago near Ajdabiya. Meanwhile, in a seemingly contradictory development, Libyan authorities in Bayda approved a third border crossing between the two countries, which Tunisian officials had approved in principle last year. [Libya Herald, 11/29/2014]

Tunisian presidential candidate sparks protests in Medenine
Large protests erupted last Thursday in the southern city of Medenine in response to comments made by presidential candidate Beji Caid Essebsi earlier in the week. The Nidaa Tounes party chief described Tunisians who had supported Marzouki as “Islamists” and “violent” during an interview on Radio Monte Carlo (RMC). A statement later released by Marzouki’s campaign urged for calm and implored their supporters to abstain from any actions that could further escalate tensions. [Tunisia Live, 11/27/2014]


United States, Turkey reportedly in discussions to create no fly zone
Reports on Monday indicated that US government officials are considering the Turkish government’s proposal for a no-fly zone along the Syria-Turkey border. The new proposal would be called an “air-exclusion zone,” and would create a buffer zone inside Syria manned by Turkish troops and protected by US air power. The buffer zone would give Syrian rebel forces and civilians protection from both the Islamic State and the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and increase the flow of humanitarian aid to Syria. Reports earlier this month indicated that US Syria Envoy John Allen discussed the air exclusion zone with high-ranking Turkish officials during his trip to Ankara earlier this month. [Bloomberg View, WSJ, 11/30/2014]

WFP suspends food aid for 1.7 million Syrian refugees
The UN World Food Program (UNWFP) on Monday announced the suspension of its food voucher program for 1.7 million Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, and Egypt. The agency cited the lack of funds as the primary basis for the program’s termination, noting that it needed at least $74 million to support Syrian refugees through the rest of December. A statement from the agency warned of the devastating effects of the program’s termination as hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees struggle to feed their families during the harsh winter months. [The Daily Star, 12/01/2014]

Thirty US-led strikes hit ISIS in Raqqa; State Department criticizes Syrian airstrikes in Raqqa
US-led coalition warplanes on Sunday carried out as many as thirty airstrikes against ISIS militants in and around the group’s de facto capital in northeastern Syria. The overnight strikes targeted ISIS positions in the city of Raqqa as well as the Division 17 air base, which the militants seized earlier this year from government forces. Last week, Syrian government warplanes conducted airstrikes on Raqqa and the US State Department released a statement criticizing the toll. [ABC News, Reuters, 11/30/2014]

New report identifies 50,000 phantom soldiers in Iraq’s military
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Sunday unveiled the results of an investigation into the payment of salaries to at least 50,000 ghost soldiers in the country’s armed forces. The prime minister said that the investigation had revealed tens of thousands of false names on the defense ministry’s records and follow-up investigations were expected to uncover more falsified identities. The investigation concluded that the enrollment of false soldiers has so far cost the Iraqi government at least $380 million a year though officials note that this estimate was only a fraction of the true expense. [Washington Post, 11/30/2014]

ISIS militants kill fifteen security officers in a border checkpoint attack
Iraqi officials on Monday reported that Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham militants (also known as ISIS or Islamic State) attacked a checkpoint along the border with Syria, killing at least fifteen Iraqi border policemen and wounding five others. A senior army official said the attack took place in the town of al-Walid on the Iraqi side of the border and a government official in Iraq’s western Anbar province later confirmed the report. [AP, 12/1/2014]

Syrian official denies use of chemical weapons in OPCW testimony
Syria’s Vice Foreign Minister Faysal Mekdad denied Monday that his government had used chemical weapons and chlorine gas in the country’s ongoing civil conflict. The minister blamed chemical weapon attacks on armed terror groups and alleged that militants had previously used chlorine gas in several of the regions of Syria and Iraq. The minister was speaking at a meeting of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) as international efforts to prevent the acquisition of chemical weapons by militant groups increasingly focus on the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS or Islamic State) and other designated terrorist groups inside Iraq and Syria. [AP, 12/01/2014]


Three soldiers killed by al-Qaeda in Hadramawt
Al-Qaeda militants killed three soldiers with a rocket in Yemen’s eastern Hadramawt province, a security official said on Sunday. The group confirmed on Twitter that it “targeted an army vehicle…heading from Shibam to Seyun in Hadramawt, destroying it and killing the three soldiers on board.” Security officials said the rocket-propelled grenade attack was carried out on Saturday. This latest attack in Hadramawt comes after al-Qaeda killed twenty soldiers during one attack in the province in October. Al-Qaeda also claimed it detonated two bombs outside the US embassy in Sana’a Thursday night that killed several guards, a US-based monitoring group said. [AFP, 11/30/2014]

One killed, eight wounded in southern demonstrations; independence not announced
Demonstrators for southern independence in Aden marched on the province’s governorate building, prompting security forces to fire on the protesters. Activists reported that one person was killed and eight others wounded in the clashes. Tens of thousands of people gathered to protest on the forty-seventh anniversary of the end of British colonial rule in 1967, which created an independent state that lasted until union with the north in 1990. “Police opened heavy fire with live rounds and tear gas to disperse us as we tried to advance towards the governorate building to raise the flag of (the former) South Yemen,” an activist of the separatist Herak movement said. A senior Herak source told reporters that internal divisions prevented the group from presenting a “unified front” and making the expected announcement of independence on Sunday. [Asharq al-Awsat, 12/1/2014]

Houthis begin further southward movements
Officials said that the Houthi group was seeking to expand its presence in southern Yemen by moving gradually through Taizz province toward Aden. Overnight Thursday, a sixteen-vehicle convoy of Houthi fighters entered an eastern suburb of Taizz city and deployed near its airport and a local radio station, local officials said. The Houthis did not enter the city itself per an agreement with its administrators, but “this agreement no longer stands because the local authorities have not honored their commitment to arrest fourteen extremists,” a source close to the Houthis said. The Houthis have been fighting al-Qaeda in Taizz and its neighboring provinces for months. [AFP, 11/28/2014]

Houthis and Islah representatives meet in Saada
Representatives of the rival Houthi group and Islah party met in the Houthis’ northern stronghold of Saada according to statements released Saturday. The meeting between Houthi leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi and Islah party delegates took place late Thursday, the Houthis said on their website. Islah issued a statement saying both sides “expressed willingness to cooperate and coexist in accordance with the precepts of Islam advocating brotherhood, love and peace.” The statement said that because of “the dangers threatening Yemen, it was agreed to continue contacts to end the tension and contain the impact of recent events.” An Islah official said the two sides were “negotiating a draft agreement” that was meant to “defuse the risk of sectarian conflict” in Yemen. [AFP, 11/29/2014]

Pro-government bloc dominates Bahraini elections
Pro-government candidates won the vast majority of races, though fourteen Shia candidates won seats in the second round of Bahraini parliamentary elections on Saturday. The Wefaq-led opposition continued its boycott, which led to a decline in the number of Shia-held seats compared to Bahrain’s last elections. Among the winners were three women, and four seats went to candidates from Sunni Islamist blocs, including two from the Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamic Menbar group. Wefaq dismissed the elections as a “sham” and said voter turnout did not exceed thirty percent. The government said voter turnout was almost fifty-three percent. [AP, Asharq al-Awsat 11/28/2014]

Abu Dhabi’s crown prince visits Qatar to discuss reconciliation ahead of GCC summit
Abu Dhabi’s crown prince visited Qatar Friday to cement reconciliation with the United Arab Emirates before the GCC summit in Doha next month. The trip by Sheikh Muhammad bin Zayed Al Nahayan was the first since the UAE along with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar in March, accusing Doha of undermining their domestic security through its support of the Muslim Brotherhood. The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain agreed in Riyadh on November 16 to return their ambassadors to Qatar, easing tensions among the GCC states. The rift had threatened to undermine the December 9-10 summit. [Reuters, 11/28/2014]


New chairman of Libyan state oil firm appointed; rival government warns against divided country
Libya’s internationally recognized government appointed a new head of state National Oil Corporation (NOC), making the announcement in a crowded Vienna hotel lobby hours before an OPEC meeting. The new chairman is Al-Mabrook Bou Seif, who is from the same tribe as Ibrahim Jadhran, a self-styled federalist leader whose supporters seized major oil ports to push for regional autonomy. It is unclear how the new chairman would take control of the NOC based in Tripoli. The rival administration in Tripoli, led by Omar al-Hassi, warned that attempts by the government in the east to assert control over the energy sector could break the country apart. [Reuters, 11/28/2014]

Egypt pays back $2.5 billion deposit to Qatar
According to Egyptian Central Bank officials, Egypt has paid back $2.5 billion to Qatar. The Qatari deposit had been made in an effort to help prop up the Egyptian central bank’s hard currency reserves. The payment brings the amount Egypt has returned to Qatar to $6 billion. Only $500 million remain outstanding which are reportedly expected to be repaid in the second half of 2015. [Reuters, 11/28/2014]

Jordanian government likely to seek renewal of IMF arrangement
The Jordanian government is likely to request an extension of the three-year stand-by arrangement (SBA) by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which expires in August next year. The SBA enables Jordan exceptional access to $2 billion, representing 800 per cent of Jordan’s quota in the IMF. [The Jordan Times, 11/27/2014]

Yemen faces economic crisis as Saudi Arabia mulls pulling plug
In a move that could tip the country further towards economic collapse, Saudi Arabia is considering stopping financial support to Yemen. Saudi Arabia, which has provided around $4 billion dollars to keep the Yemeni economy afloat since 2012, has been reviewing its economic support to Yemen. One of the key disbursements put on hold is a $700 million military aid package. [IRIN, 12/01/2014]