The first sectarian killings of Sunnis appeared in Iraq on Tuesday, as forty-four Sunni prisoners were killed in a government-controlled police station in Baquba, north of Baghdad. Bodies of four young Sunni men were also found shot to death and dumped on a street in a Baghdad neighborhood controlled by Shiite militiamen.


Egypt’s new cabinet sworn in; Ministry of information scrapped
The first cabinet under Egypt’s new President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi was sworn in on Tuesday morning, headed by Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab. The new government retains twenty-one existing ministers, one of whom will hold a new portfolio, and introduces thirteen new ones. Former Ambassador to the United States Sameh Shoukry replaces Nabil Fahmy as minister of foreign affairs. The full cabinet list showed most other ministers are holdovers from the previous thirty-one member cabinet, including the ministers for finance, defense, interior, planning, oil, electricity, supplies and communications.The formation of new ministerial portfolios also saw the removal of the ministry of information, the creation of the ministry of urban development, and the ministry of investment was split from the ministry of trade and industry. [DNE, Egypt Independent, AP, Reuters, SIS, Mada Masr, EGYNews (Arabic), Aswat Masriya, 6/17/2014]

Administrative court refers protest law appeal to constitutional court
After accepting an appeal against the protest law, a Cairo administrative court referred the case on Tuesday to the Supreme Constitutional Court. The Court has allowed Khaled Ali, a lawyer and a former presidential hopeful, to appeal the constitutionality of the protest law in front of the Supreme Constitutional Court on October 21. “The Administrative Court allowed us to challenge two articles of the protest law in front of the Supreme Constitutional Court,” Ali tweeted on Tuesday. Several political parties, including the Popular Current and Dostour, have demanded that the law be abolished and that all those detained on account of it be released, said a statement they issued on Monday. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 6/17/2014]

Sisi examining 2014/2015 budget
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is currently studying next year’s budget presented to him by Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab’s government prior to the latter’s resignation from the former interim government. The plan corresponded to his economic orientations, according to the Minister of Finance’s Adviser for Public Outreach Mosbah Qotb, who could not confirm amendments to the budget. [DNE, 6/16/2014]  

Al Jazeera journalist Shamy granted medical release; Jazeera trial lawyers make closing arguments
Al Jazeera journalist Abdullah El-Shamy, who has been on hunger strike since January, was granted release on Monday by Egypt’s general prosecutor for health reasons. His release comes 306 days after he was arrested during the violent dispersal of the pro-Mohamed Morsi sit-in in Raba’a al-Adaweya.Twelve other detainees were also released for medical reasons, according to a statement by the general prosecution. Meanwhile, lawyers made closing statements in the trial of three Al Jazeera journalists, Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, along with fourteen other defendants, on Monday.The court is expected to issue its final verdict on June 23. The lawyer for Anas Beltagy, a defendant in the case and son of General Secretary for the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, used his closing argument to make a political statement defending the Brotherhood, prompting outrage from the journalist defendants. [Egypt Independent, AP, Reuters, Aswat Masriya, AMAY(Arabic), Mada Masr, 6/16/2014]


Libya bans car traffic at night in Benghazi to stem violence
Libya has banned overnight car traffic in Benghazi to try to stem rising violence and anarchy, according to security officials. The country is struggling with growing turmoil, as militias, tribes, and Islamists who helped oust Muammar Qaddafi in 2011 now defy state authority. The situation has worsened since retired general Khalifa Haftar declared war on Islamist militias. More than 100 people have been killed since then. In an effort to regain control, authorities are instating a curfew from midnight until 6:00 a.m. A security spokesman added that state forces would set up checkpoints at night. [Reuters, ANSAmed, 6/17/2014]

Libya deploys special forces to protect petrol stations
Libya has deployed special forces to protect petrol stations in Tripoli that have been packed with angry motorists trying to refill their vehicles, the government said. The state oil firm is struggling to bring in fresh supplies, and power cuts worsened in the capital and other parts of the country after the state electricity firm said it lacked fuel for several power stations. The state oil firm says it has sufficient supplies but a lack of security at petrol stations makes it difficult to bring them in. Residents say some of the fuel is being sold on the black market. Meanwhile, severe shortages in fuel supplies have affected output at the Misrata and Sarir power stations, and Libya’s general electric company has told other power stations to increase output to compensate. [Reuters, 6/16/2014]

Decay of Libyan state clears desert trail for Africans to Europe
Libya’s southwestern tip in the Sahara bordering Algeria and Niger has become an open door for illegal migrants from sub-Saharan countries heading for Europe, with the chaotic government in Tripoli appearing to have abandoned all control. According to the Italian coast guard, at least 50,000 people have crossed from North Africa to Italy by boat so far this year. Local Libyan authorities say they have no money to run detention centers built to house migrants that are caught. Smugglers also ship goods, such as petrol and wheat, south into sub-Saharan Africa or west into Algeria, profiting off the lavish state subsidies that keep such goods cheap in Libya. International assistance has been slow to materialize and is having little impact, with, for example, Libyan soldiers being trained to use a satellite monitoring system that Libya does not have. [Reuters, 6/17/2014]

Tensions calm in Germa as ethnic clashes erupt in Sebha
Ethnic violence in the southern town of Germa has been contained as ethnic clashes broke out in Sebha, killing two and injuring nine others. The clashes erupted in Germa on Friday when the imam of an Arab-community mosque allegedly called on his listeners to force out Tuaregs from a compound where they had recently taken up residence. According to sources, the situation in Germa calmed with roads reopening. However, armed clashes between Arabs, Tuaregs and Tebu erupted in Sebha. [Libya Herald, 6/16/2014]


Thirty-one dead in barrel bomb attacks in Aleppo
Two bombs hit Sukkari minutes apart. Tuesday, a car bomb killed five people, as clashes re-erupted in eastern Syria between rebels and ISIS that has captured swathes of territory in neighboring Iraq.  Bombing occurred in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor near the offices of the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and another group, Ahrar al-Sham. [AP, Naharnet, 6/17/2014]

UN: Syrian government making aid delivery more difficult
The government of President Bashar al-Assad is making it harder to deliver humanitarian aid to millions of war-battered civilians in Syria, the United Nations (UN) chief aid coordinator, Valerie Amos, said on Monday. The United Nations was able to deliver food to 4.1 million Syrians in March, she said, but only 3.2 million in May. A UN report issued on Tuesday indicated that ISIS kidnapped nearly 200 Kurdish civilians in an attack in the Syrian city of Aleppo at the end of May.  The UN also warned that as “A regional war in the Middle East draws ever closer. Events in neighboring Iraq will have violent repercussions for Syria.” [Reuters, NY Times 6/17/2014]

Released prisoners from Homs are sent to the Syrian army
Some hundred men from the Syrian city of Homs, who turned themselves in after escaping an army siege, have been sent to perform their military service. Activists expressed concern over the fate of the men, with one warning that “there is a real chance they might get assassinated.” Syrian officials, however, declared that the prisoners released under general amnesty would either begin or complete their military service. [AFP, 6/17/2014]

Syrian residents of Kessab return after army ousts rebels
Residents of the Armenian Christian village of Kessab on Syria’s border with Turkey began returning home on Monday, dancing, cheering and waving flags in the main square a day after the army retook the area from rebels. A field commander in the Syrian army told Reuters the area including the border crossing had come under full control of government forces after they struck at rebel storehouses and supply routes. [Al Arabiya, 6/17/2014]  


Election authority announces proposed dates for polls
The president of Tunisia’s Independent High Authority for Elections (ISIE), Chafik Sarsar, presented to the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) Monday its proposed schedule for legislative and presidential elections due later this year. “Our proposal… is to hold parliamentary elections on October 26, 2014, the first round of the presidential vote on November 23, 2014, and the second round on December 28,” said Sarsar. It is widely expected that the NCA will, in the coming days, approve the dates after politicians patched up disputes over conditions for the election last week. Setting a date for elections could restore investor confidence in the Tunisian economy, which has unraveled amid bouts of political turmoil and government mismanagement. [Tunisia Live, Reuters, 6/16/2014]

Jomaa calls on Tunisians in resolution of economic crisis
Interim Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa said that “the economic situation in Tunisia is difficult but ending the crisis is possible if certain conditions are guaranteed, namely social peace and work resumption.” To that end, he called on Tunisians to exert efforts and work hard to achieve the expected economic recovery. As for government priorities, he advocated for the subsidy of consumer products in an “intelligent manner,” so as not to harm the purchasing power of low- and medium-income Tunisians. He underlined that other measures will be included in the supplementary finance law, to be submitted to the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) in early July. [TAP, 6/16/2014]

France deports suspected Tunisian jihadist
France recently deported a Tunisian for his alleged involvement in an international terror recruiting operation. The twenty-eight-year-old was arrested in the south-eastern city of Grenoble. He is suspected of having taken part in the recruitment of young jihadists, who were trained in Tunisia before being sent to Syria. The unnamed suspect was deported to Tunisia on Thursday “as a matter of absolute urgency, in view of the threat that his presence posed for public safety and state security,” the French interior ministry said. [Maghrebia, 6/16/2014]


Amran ceasefire agreement breaks down
Houthi rebels and military forces clashed in Amran on Saturday, violating a ceasefire agreement that went into effect on June 4, 2014. At least ten Houthi rebels were killed in Tuesday clashes with armed villagers in northern Yemen. The June 4 ceasefire was mediated by the defense ministry, following months of sporadic fighting between Houthis and local tribesmen in northern Yemen, with the latter accusing the former of seeking to establish control over their territories. [Al Masdar (Arabic), Yemen Times, 6/17/2014]

Presidential Guards continue siege of Saleh Mosque
Presidential Guards continued their siege on Tuesday of Saleh Mosque in Al-Sabaeen area, near the presidential palace. The siege began Saturday afternoon when presidential guards surrounded the mosque, trapping armed supporters of former President Ali Abdulla Saleh inside. Rumors circulated about a potential coup orchestrated by pro-Saleh factions. Anba, a news agency with links to Saleh, quoted a source in Saleh Mosque denying the rumors. [Yemen Times, 6/17/2014]

Appointment of new minister of oil and minerals
On Monday, President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi appointed a new Minister of Oil and Minerals – Hussein al-Rashid Jamal AlKaf. The announcement comes days after Ahmad Abdulkader Shaie rejected his ministerial position. Last Wednesday, Hadi appointed several new ministers to his cabinet. Sources say that Shaie rejected his appointment due to health reasons. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 6/17/2014]


Forty-four Sunnis die in prison clash as Baghdad sees first signs of the conflict
The first sectarian killings of Sunnis appeared in Iraq on Tuesday, as forty-four Sunni prisoners were killed in a government-controlled police station in Baquba, north of Baghdad. Bodies of four young Sunni men were also found shot to death and dumped on a street in a Baghdad neighborhood controlled by Shiite militiamen. Fighters from ISIS placed the blame behind the prisoners killings on the Iraqi army, while the Iraqi government stated that ISIS fighters were responsible for the deaths. The fighting in Baquba marks the closest fighting has come to Baghdad. [The Daily Star, NY Times, 6/17/2014]

Iraqi Kurd PM: a political change is the answer to the crisis
Prime minister of Iraq’s Kurdistan region warned that it would be almost impossible for the country to return to how it was before recent gains by jihadist fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). He said that a political rather than military solution was needed to the unrest, taking into account Sunnis’ feeling of being neglected by government policies. [AFP, 6/17/2014]

Anbar tribal chief describes Iraq unrest as tribal revolution
A prominent Anbar tribal chief has denied that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is responsible for the recent unrest in Iraq, portraying the situation as a tribal revolution against the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. He declared that division is the best solution to the current political crisis in Iraq. [Asharq Al Awsat, 6/17/2014]

ISIS working hard to win over Mosul residents
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is seeking to win over the residents of Iraq’s second city, Mosul, by offering them greater security and cheap power and water. ISIS liberation of prisons in areas it now occupies has also proved popular with local residents who believe many of the Sunni prisoners freed were unfairly detained. ISIS fighters also removed unpopular concrete security barricades that had become a feature of Mosul’s roads in recent years. It appears that the only residents to return after fleeing Mosul are Sunni Arabs, according to AP, while Shiites and ethnic minorities are concerned about potential harm. [Asharq Al Awsat, 6/17/2014]