Top News: EU Observers Call Tunisia Vote “Transparent and Credible”

Annemie Neyts-Uytterbroeck, head of the European Union observer mission in Tunisia, called the country’s elections “transparent and credible.”

She added, “The Tunisian people have reinforced their commitment to democracy with credible and transparent elections that gave Tunisians of all political tendencies a free vote.” The Islamist Ennahda party conceded defeat to the secular Nidaa Tounes party Monday and called for a coalition government. “Polling day passed off in a calm and orderly fashion. Everything was really very normal,” she said.



Army operations in Sinai lead to arrests and casualties
Additional troops from the armed forces and police have been deployed to the Sinai Peninsula to assist forces already present in the “war on terror.” This new military operation, launched after deadly attacks in North Sinai on Friday that left at least thirty-three soldiers dead, has so far eliminated eight “terrorists” including one who is implicated in the Friday attack. Armed Forces Spokesman Mohamed Samir said in an official statement that the army also arrested seven suspects. They also destroyed three houses, which Samir said belong to terrorists, and three arms warehouses “used by terrorist groups in their criminal operations against armed forces and police personnel.” [DNE, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, SIS, 10/28/2014]

Expelled students cannot enroll in private schools, subjected to military trials
Students suspended from government universities will not be permitted to enroll in private universities, Cairo University President Gaber Nassar said following a meeting with the High Council of Universities on Monday. Any private university that violates this stipulation will be dealt with accordingly, Nassar added. Students accused of sabotaging educational facilities will be tried by military courts under a new law issued on Monday. The law also stipulates that soldiers will assist the police in guarding vital “public facilities and institutions.” Those who attack or sabotage such institutions will be referred to the military prosecution and tried by military courts. Universities and schools are considered public facilities under the new law, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab said on Monday. [Mada Masr, Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, Ahram Gateway (Arabic), 10/28/2014]

US signals it might back Egypt bailout
US Treasury Secretary Lew indicated that Washington will go ahead with international emergency loans for Egypt if Cairo pushes further to repair the country’s economy. The United States has long viewed Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, as a linchpin for regional stability. Bailout talks between Egypt and the International Monetary Fund have been stalled for years since reliable economic recovery plans were lacking in Egypt. [WSJ (subscription), 10/28/2014]

US urges Egypt to quickly complete its review of the demonstration law
The United States is “deeply troubled” by the sentencing of twenty-three Egyptian activists to three-years in prison for violating the protest law, US State Department spokesman said in a Monday press briefing. Spokesperson Jen Psaki described the sentences as “harsh” and said US concerns also includes activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah who was detained, along with twenty-three others, on Monday after a retrial for violating protest law. “We urge Egypt’s leadership to quickly complete its review of the demonstration law and to release an amended version that will enable full freedom of expression and association,” Psaki added. [Ahram Online, 10/28/2014]


House of Representatives ‘to move to Benghazi’
The House of Representatives is reportedly planning to relocate to Benghazi, where it was originally meant to be based. The move will apparently happen within ten days upon “the liberation of Benghazi,” according to a source, referring to the recent offensive by Khalifa Haftar’s forces battling Islamist groups. Meanwhile, as the Tobruk-based government struggles to assert its authority, the rival administration in Tripoli, which has been tightening its grip on the ministries, announced it will dispense funds to local councils. [Libya Monitor (subscription), 10/28/2014]

Libya now has two state news agencies as disorder deepens
The Tobruk-based, internationally recognized Libyan government announced it will launch a new state news agency to replace the one seized by armed factions that have set up a rival government. The new Tripoli rulers have appropriated several ministries and state television, cementing their grip on power. To regain some semblance of authority, Prime Minister al-Thinni’s administration has decided to set up a new state agency called LANA, the same name as the original, in Bayda. [Reuters, 10/27/2014]

Parliament president denies foreign involvement in Libya conflict
House of Representatives President Ageela Saleh has emphatically denied allegations of foreign intervention in Libya, saying that such false rumors were perpetuated by those who wish to undermine Libya’s stability. His remarks were viewed as a response to reports about Egyptian and Emirati warplanes carrying out strikes against Islamist militants. Meanwhile, an Operation Dignity fighter claimed that the only international military help the forces had been receiving is ammunition from Egypt. [Libya Herald, 10/27/2014]

Khalifa Haftar accused of war crimes
The Geneva-based Libyan Human Rights Solidarity (LHRS) organization has warned that the targeting of families related to members of the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council (BRSC) constitutes a war crime and must be stopped by the United Nations before it grows into full-blown “genocide.” In a statement, the group said that campaigns had been conducted by parties loyal to Khalifa Hafter via social media, calling for violent revenge against families based on class and ethnicity, though the BRSC is not an ethnicity-based organization. [Libya Herald, 10/27/2014]


Turkey wants FSA to control Kobani; ISIS releases hostage video from Kobani
Turkey wants the anti-Damascus Free Syrian Army (FSA) to control the Syrian border town of Kobani, rather than Kurdish separatist or Syrian regime forces, if Islamist jihadists there are defeated, said Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. ISIS released a video Monday showing a British hostage apparently in Kobani, in a bid to disprove that it was losing the battle for the disputed Syrian border town. The video was the latest in a series featuring kidnapped reporter John Cantlie, and showed him in a war-damaged town, talking to the camera and rejecting US claims that the “mujahedeen” are in retreat. There was no claim in the video of when it was shot, but Cantlie referred to a news report that was broadcast by the BBC on October 17 and to remarks made by a US military spokesman on October 16. [Naharnet, AFP, 10/28/2014]

Washington announces initiatives to halt ISIS funding, counter online propaganda
The new joint US-UAE financial counter-terrorism task force will be focused on combating extremist fund-raising and financial networks in the region, Abu Dhabi’s ambassador in Washington said. The initiative comes as the United States steps up efforts to choke off money flowing to ISIS from individual supporters, its own oil profits, and its access to the international banking system. Washington also called for the battle against ISIS to be taken to the internet on Monday, while coalition partners vowed to step up efforts to counter the militants’ online propaganda. Retired US general John Allen, who is coordinating the US-led coalition, met with representatives of partner countries including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Britain, Egypt, France, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, and Qatar. Speaking in Kuwait City, Gen. Allen said, “it is only when we contest ISIS’s presence online, deny the legitimacy of the message it sends to vulnerable young people… it is only then that ISIS will truly be defeated.” [The National, 10/27/2014]

At donor conference, UN urges more help for sheltering Syrian refugees
The United Nations issued a clarion call Tuesday for more funding to help countries like Lebanon and Jordan that host millions of Syrian refugees, warning Syria is potentially the world’s “most dramatic humanitarian crisis”. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees told an international conference in Berlin that three million Syrians’ flight from the long and bloody conflict has had an “enormous” impact on Syria’s neighbors. “Economics, public services, the social fabric of communities and the welfare of families are all affected, not to mention the security impact of the Syrian conflict in the whole region.” [Naharnet, Daily Star, 10/28/2014]

German spy agency sees ISIS remaining big threat, luring more German recruits
Germany’s BND foreign intelligence agency highlighted the rising number of Islamist militants inside Germany ready to join ISIS, and warned of an increased risk of violent clashes between rival radical groups on Germany’s streets. In a statement Tuesday, BND said ISIS was still operating successfully in Iraq’s western Anbar province and outside Baghdad, and was working to convince more Iraqi Sunnis to turn against the US-led coalition. Sister agency BfV, which handles German domestic intelligence, said the number of Salafi Islamists and potential ISIS recruits is also rising. Some 450 people have traveled from Germany to join the radical Islamist fighters. BfV also warned of increased clashes in Germany between Islamist groups and supporters of Kurdish separatists in an echo of the Kobani conflict. [Reuters, 10/28/2014]


Nidaa official says Tunisian government may be formed in January
Senior Nidaa Tounes official Lazhar Akremi said in a phone interview that “Government formation talks will start after the official results are announced.” Akremi added that Nidaa Tounes, which clinched a victory in parliamentary elections yesterday and includes businessmen, trade unionists and some politicians from the former Ben Ali government, would likely form a coalition government with like-minded Tunisian parties. “A new government is likely to be in place in January after the second round of presidential elections,” said Akremi. [Bloomberg, 10/28/2014]

EU observers call Tunisia vote “transparent and credible”
Annemie Neyts-Uytterbroeck, head of the European Union observer mission in Tunisia, called the country’s elections “transparent and credible.” She added, “The Tunisian people have reinforced their commitment to democracy with credible and transparent elections that gave Tunisians of all political tendencies a free vote.” The Islamist Ennahda party conceded defeat to the secular Nidaa Tounes party Monday and called for a coalition government. “Polling day passed off in a calm and orderly fashion. Everything was really very normal,” she said. [AFP, 10/28/2014]

Developer plans to harness Tunisian solar power for European electricity by 2018
The head of London-based Nur Energie, a solar power plant developer, said that the company wants to develop a 2,000 megawatt solar export project between Tunisia and Europe by 2018. Nur Energie aims to lay an electric cable from Tunisia to Italy and sell the electricity produced in Tunisia to customers in Europe, according to the company website. CEO Kevin Sara said that the project is currently at an advanced stage. Tunisia’s parliament recently altered its laws on energy transmission monopolization, thus paving the way for the project. [World Bulletin, 10/28/2014]


Militants attack military base in Shabwah; clashes between Houthis, tribesmen in Ibb
Local sources reported that a military base in Shabwah was attacked by suspected al-Qaeda militants. The sources said that the militants, based in Mafraq, attacked the base using missiles and machine guns. No casualties were reported as a result of the attack. Meanwhile, local sources in the Radma district in Ibb reported clashes between Houthi fighters and the tribesmen. The number of casualties was again uncertain. The clash began Tuesday afternoon when the Houthis attempted to take a strategic position overlooking Radma’s court. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 10/28/2014]

Benomar holds talks with officials, party leaders to speed new government formation
United Nations Envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar said Tuesday that he had met with Yemeni government officials and the leaders of the some of the country’s political parties in order “to speed the formation of the new government.” Benomar said in an interview that he had met with the president, prime minister, representatives of the JMP coalition that includes the Islah and Yemeni Socialist Parties, and the Houthis to discuss the new government. The envoy’s appeals for unity and progress came as southern parliament ministers held the first meeting of the “southern parliamentary bloc” in Aden Tuesday. The bloc hopes to pursue its “serious and ongoing quest to unite the South behind a unified leadership.” [Al Masdar, 10/28/2014]

Yemen restarts Marib pipeline after repairs; international Red Sea concerns
Yemen resumed exports from its main oil pipeline on Saturday, one day after an attack by tribesmen temporarily halted flows, industry sources said. Tribesmen blew up the pipeline that transports crude from Marib province to the Red Sea for export on Friday. Meanwhile, a high-ranking Egyptian diplomatic source said Tuesday that “major powers” will not allow any faction, an apparent reference to the Houthis, to control the Bab al-Mendab strait or threaten Red Sea trade routes. The source said that Egyptian, Arab, and Western diplomats had recently met to discuss developments in Yemen and determined that “the major powers will not allow any faction control of Bab al-Mandeb, which is the key to the movement of trade between East and West.” [Al Arabiya, Aden al-Ghad 10/28/2014]

Yemen ranks last for gender equality, women lag in economics and politics – report
Yemen ranked the least gender-equal of 142 countries for the ninth consecutive year according to the Global Gender Gap Report. Yemen has no female members of parliament, and only one in ten ministerial positions are held by women. Additionally, Yemen’s gap between the literacy rate and enrollment in education of girls compared to boys is among the widest in the world. [Reuters, 10/27/2014]


Forty-two killed in Iraqi bombings
Final casualty figures for yesterday’s suicide bombing in Jurf al-Sakhar, a strategic town south of Baghdad, put the death toll at twenty-seven killed and over sixty wounded. The attack, believed to be carried out by ISIS, targeted the Shia militiamen who had recently retaken the town from the militants. Meanwhile, a car bomb in Baghdad’s central Karrada district killed at least fifteen people. The bomb was detonated on a residential street with shops and restaurants. [Reuters, 10/28/2014]

Iraqi prime minister agrees to formation of anti-ISIS volunteer force in Anbar
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has agreed to allow the creation of a 30,000-strong force of volunteers from the Sunni-dominated Anbar province to fight ISIS, following a meeting with expatriate tribal leaders in the Amman, Jordan on Monday. While on a state visit to King Abdullah, sources reported al-Abadi promised government training and arms to fighters from Anbar’s various tribes. The prime minister also assured tribal leaders the government would do its best to stem the tide of fighters entering the country from Syria. [Asharq al-Awsat, 10/28/2014]

Three lawyers jailed for criticizing Saudi justice system
A court in Saudi Arabia sentenced three lawyers to five to eight years in prison for criticizing the justice system on Twitter. According to the Saudi Press Agency, the men were convicted of disobeying the ruler and slandering the judicial system. The men took to Twitter to accuse the justice system of carrying out arbitrary detentions, wrongfully convicting defendants, and releasing corrupt people. Saudi Arabia’s top Muslim cleric last week called Twitter “the source of all evil and devastation,” though the Arab Social Media Report says that forty percent of all active users in the Arab world are based in Saudi Arabia. [BBC, 10/27/2014]

Bahraini opposition group banned for three months
A court in Bahrain has suspended Wefaq, the country’s leading Shia opposition group, freezing its activity for three months. The ruling comes only a month prior to Bahrain’s parliamentary elections. Wafeq has been a vocal critic of the monarchy, and planned to boycott the elections amongst concerns that the country’s voting districts favor Sunni minorities and that the results would be “fully controlled by the ruling authority.” [BBC, 10/28/2014]