Gunmen on a motorcycle fired on Egyptian wedding guests outside al-Waraq’s Keniset Al-‘Adra (Church of the Virgin Mary) located in the Waraq suburb in the Giza governorate on Sunday night. This counts as the first attack on a church in Cairo since the army’s ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, which instigated attacks on Coptic Christian properties and churches in upper Egypt. The Ministry of Health announced on Monday that the death toll of the attack increased to four while the number of injured rose to eighteen. Several political and religious figures have condemned the shooting. Interim Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawy, al-Azhar Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Salafist Nour Party, leader of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party Mohamed Abul-Ghar, al-Jama’a al-Islamiya, the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, all denounced the attack. The Maspero Youth Coalition, US Coptic Association, and International Christian Union accused the government of failing to protect the Coptic community, and blamed the authorities for the upswing in sectarian violence in the aftermath of the violent dispersal of pro-Morsi sit-ins on August 14. They demanded that Beblawy resign immediately. Head of al-Haya Party and Coptic activist Michael Mounir accused the banned Muslim Brotherhood of being involved in the Sunday’s attack on the church. The Attorney General’s investigation led by Yasser Abdel Latif into the deadly shooting will collect eyewitness testimony on Monday. [Aswat MasriyaReutersDNE , Ahram OnlineSISCairo PostAPMada Masr, 10/21/2013]


Constitution body rejects judges’ remarks, will hold closed meeting Tuesday 
Mohamed Salmawy, spokesperson for the fifty-person committee tasked with amending the Egyptian Constitution, has claimed the body rejects remarks made by some judges relating to the unfinished document. “The committee awaits the final agreement of members of the judiciary on disputed materials,” he said, adding that there is no place for controversy within the committee. The State Council’s Judges Club on Saturday sent a memorandum to the committee saying that it will refuse any attempts to undermine the role of the judiciary in the new constitution. Salmawy revealed that the committee is meeting on Tuesday without reserve members to discuss the initial draft. [Egypt Independent, SIS, 10/20/2013]

Growth rate decreased to 1.5 percent in 2012/2013
Egypt’s economic growth rate slumped to 1.5 percent in the fourth quarter of the fiscal year 2012/2013 compared to 3.3 percent  in the corresponding period a year earlier. The growth rate decreased to 2.2 percent in both the second and third quarters, down from 2.6 percent  in the first quarter, according to a recent report from the Ministry of Planning. The report showed that growth rate in 2012/2013 reached 2.1 percent compared to 2.2 percent  in 2011/2012, 1.8 percent  in 2010/2011 and 5.1 percent  in 2009/2010. Minister of Planning Ashraf el-Arabi said the government plans to pump additional 24.5 billion pounds, constituting more than one percent of the GDP for the current fiscal year with the aim of invigorating the national economy and pushing forward the production process. This is meant to bring back economic growth rates to 3.5 percent, compared to two percent annually in average over the past three years. The IMF figures showed that Egypt’s weak economic performance will continue until the year 2018. [DNE, SIS, 10/21/2013]

Egypt on EU Foreign Affairs Council main agenda
Official spokesman for the French foreign ministry, Romaine Nadal, said Saturday that the Foreign Affairs Council will hold a meeting Monday in which recent developments in Egypt will be discussed. The fact sheet detailing EU-Egyptian relations added that “the EU engaged in talks aiming at bringing the parties together…” Political polarization deepened during spring 2013 and following immense nationwide protests against the Freedom and Justice Party rule, President Morsi was forced out of office on July 3, 2013. [DNE, 10/19/2013]


Libya’s premier accuses two rivals in abduction
Prime Minister Ali Zidan accused two lawmakers from the Islamist Justice and Construction Party (JCP) of being involved in the orchestration of his brief abduction by one of the militias. The accused, General National Congress (GNC) members Mustafa al-Tariki and Muhammad al-Kilani denied any role in the incident. They admitted to trying to bring down Zidan’s government but said they are unable to garner enough votes in congress. Meanwhile, Abdolmonem Essid, head of an interior ministry anti-crime unit, boasted of having been behind Zidan’s “arrest.” [Reuters, Libya Herald, 10/20/2013]

Government appoints security supremo for Benghazi
The Libyan government has put Colonel Wanis Bukhamada in charge of all security forces in the violence-ridden Benghazi in an effort to bring peace and stability to the eastern city. Benghazi has been the site of dozens of targeted assassinations of security offices in the last year. The most recent one was of Colonel Ahmed Mustafa al-Barghathi, chief of Libya’s military police, whose death was followed by an attack on the home of Wissam Ben Hamid who was accused of being behind the assassination. Hamid, a Libya Shield commander, denied any involvement.  [Libya Herald, 10/20/2013]

Abducted Egyptian workers in Libya freed
Dozens of Egyptian workers held by militiamen in Ajdabiya, Libya have been freed after days of negotiations. The abductors had demanded the release of detained relatives in Egypt as a precondition to free the hostages. In a statement, Egyptian Ambassador to Libya Mohamed Abu Bakr praised Libyan authorities and tribal leaders in central and eastern Libya for their help in securing the workers’ release. He did not say whether Egypt had responded to the kidnappers’ demands. [AP, 10/20/2013]

More than 17,000 modern-day “slaves” in Libya, says global report
Libya has the greatest prevalence of “slavery” in North Africa, according to the first ever Global Slavery Index, which estimates that 17,693 people are apparently living as modern-day slaves in the country. The actual figure of modern-day slaves in Libya could be as high as 19,000 people. Overall, Libya is ranked 78 in a list of 162 countries included in the study. The new annual report, issued by the Walk Free Foundation, says modern slavery can take many forms, from human trafficking to forced labor. [Libya Herald, 10/18/2013]


Rare Syria deal brings warring sides to table; Two kidnapped Turkish airline pilots freed
Qatar helped resolve a hostage crisis in Syria’s civil war in a rare instance of cooperation between Damascus and its foes, providing a boost for the Gulf Arab nation’s efforts to restore its role as regional mediator. Qatar’s diplomatic intervention prompted Syrian rebels to release nine Lebanese hostages in exchange for the liberty of two Turkish Airlines pilots and about one hundred female prisoners. To end the crisis, Lebanese officials say Qatar’s new foreign minister, Khalid al-Attiyah, negotiated directly with Syrian officials, the first known contact between the two sides since Qatar split with the regime in Damascus at the start of Syria’s conflict. [WSJ, NYT, Reuters, 10/19/2013]

Arab League: Syria peace conference set for November 23-24
A key international conference aimed at ending Syria’s civil war will be held in Geneva in late November, according to an announcement by the Arab League chief on Sunday that followed weeks of diplomacy to complete the meeting. League chief Nabil al-Araby made the announcement at a news conference at the pan-Arab organization’s headquarters in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, after talks with the Arab League-UN envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi. Syria’s main opposition group has postponed internal meetings to early November as it faces international pressure to attend peace talks with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Originally set for this week, the group had aimed to discuss and reach a common position on whether the opposition will attend Geneva II. [WSJ, Washington Post, 10/20/2013]

Bomber tied to al-Qaeda kills dozens in Hama
A suicide bomber detonated a truck filled with propane tanks at a crowded military checkpoint in central Syria on Sunday, killing more than thirty people, most of them civilians, in the second such attack by fighters linked to al-Qaeda in two days. The attack shook the city of Hama, ignited dozens of cars, and sent up a column of smoke visible for miles around. Activists said the Nusra Front, one of the two al-Qaeda affiliates fighting alongside the rebels who seek to topple President Bashar al-Assad, was responsible for the attack. The bombing followed a similar attack that killed sixteen soldiers east of Damascus the day before, suggesting an increasing reliance on suicide attacks to try to break government strongholds that the rebels are unable to take by conventional means. [NYT, Reuters, Asharq Al-Awsat, 10/20/2013]

Number of Syrian refugees in Turkey exceeds 600,000
The number of Syrian refugees in Turkey has exceeded 600,000 and more than 400,000 of them are living outside refugee camps, the Turkish disaster management agency said on Monday. Turkey said it will maintain its “open door” policy to those fleeing the Syrian civil war, now in its third year, although it has closed border crossings from time to time following clashes near the frontier. [Reuters, 10/21/2013]


National Dialogue to begin October 23, Ennahda government to step down three weeks later
Talks to resolve Tunisia’s nearly three-month long political deadlock are set to begin October 23, according to a statement issued by the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT). Speaking at the end of a planning meeting on Friday, UGTT’s secretary-general also stressed that the official resignation of the current government “is planned only on the date set for it, namely in three weeks after the official start of the national dialogue.” [Tunisia Live, 10/18/2013]

Security forces kill ten Islamist militants near Algerian border
Tunisian security forces have killed ten Islamist militants near the border with Algeria during a three-day operation against alleged Ansar al-Sharia gunmen who attacked police patrols on Thursday, the government said on Saturday. Three others were arrested and arms and explosive material were seized. On Thursday, interim Prime Minister Ali Larayedh visited a national guard officer wounded in the attack. [Reuters 10/20/2013]

Larayedh sees Islamist militants exploiting Libya chaos
Tunisia’s interim Prime Minister Ali Larayedh said Islamist militants are exploiting anarchy in neighboring Libya to get training and smuggle weapons across North Africa’s porous borders. “Extremists in Tunisia have profited from the situation in Libya and they get their weapons from Libya. They have benefited and they have gotten training in Libya,” said Larayedh, speaking shortly after Tunisian forces killed ten members of Ansar al-Sharia close to the Algerian border. [Reuters, 10/20/2013]

NCA president pledges to hasten adoption of law for security forces’ protection
The president of the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) pledged to speed up adoption of a law governing the protection of security forces amid anxiety over security developments in the country. In a statement published on Friday, the NCA president declared “today, the national duty calls on all Tunisians, in the face of the great challenges, to unite their positions to overcome the political crisis, support security and military institutions so as to guarantee security of its institutions.” [TAP, 10/18/2013]


Suspected al-Qaeda fighters kill Yemeni colonel
A Yemeni security official says suspected al-Qaeda militants killed a security officer and his driver in a drive-by shooting in the country’s southeast. The official said two gunmen on a motorcycle fired at Colonel Mohammed Abdullah al-Habshi’s car on Friday night in Sayoun, a city in Hadramawt province. His driver died instantly and the colonel died three hours later in hospital, the official said on condition of anonymity according to regulations. Yemen is fighting a war against al-Qaeda’s local branch, considered by Washington to be one of the world’s most dangerous offshoots of the terror network. [AP, Al Arabiya, 10/19/2013]

Yemen Human Rights Minister calls for a truce in Sa’ada
Human Rights Minister Hooria Mashour has called for an immediate ceasefire between the Houthis and the Salafis in the northern province of Saada in response to mounting tension and sporadic clashes in the region. Mashour urged tribal leaders to return immediately to the negotiation table to stop the violence. In a statement, Minister Mashour said she is gravely concerned about the number of human rights violations and the increased violence in the city of Dammaj. She urged all parties to exert restraint as to prevent further bloodshed. [Yemen Post, 10/20/2013]

GPC official attacks President Hadi for seeking an additional term
An official source from the General People’s Congress (GPC) said Yemeni President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi will seek a new term through extension and nomination as a consensus president for the GPC, which the source said Hadi imposed on everyone. The source said in a statement that Hadi is using the so-called “Brotherhood alliance,” referring to the Islah party, to extend his mandate   [Al Tagheer (Arabic), 10/20/2013]

Yemeni president meets with Southern Movement leaders
According to political sources, Yemeni President Hadi began new efforts to convince the leaders of the Southern Movement to participate in the final plenary session of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) and to retreat from the sit-in staged by Southern Movement and Houthi representatives to the NDC. The sources told the Emirati newspaper al-Khaleej that Hadi met with the leaders at the beginning of his recent visit to Aden. Hadi reportedly asked the leaders to cancel their boycott, return to the NDC, and allow for any controversial issues to be resolved through the subcommittees. However, Southern leader Mohamed Ali Ahmed announced on Sunday a new plan to extend the southern boycott of the NDC. He claims that “conspiracies” to crack down on the Southern Movement continue and that southern leaders should hold meetings in Aden before returning the NDC. [Al Tagheer (Arabic), Mareb Press (Arabic), 10/20/2013]


Shunned by Egypt, Hamas reaches out to Palestinian rival Abbas
With its Gaza Strip stronghold cut off by the new military-backed government in Egypt, on Saturday Hamas called upon rival Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his secular Fatah faction to end their six-year schism and form a unity government. “Let’s have one government, one parliament and one president,” Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister in the Gaza administration, said in a speech calling on Fatah to renew dialogue with Hamas, schedule new elections and enter a temporary power-share. The overture was received coolly by Fatah, and a spokesman said Haniyeh’s speech “included nothing new, neither a clear plan nor a certain timetable.” [Reuters, 10/19/2013]

Qatar recovers website from pro-Assad Syria hackers
Qatari authorities have restored several government websites attacked by hackers from the Syrian Electronic Army, a group who supports President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, local media reported Sunday. Qatar’s Supreme Council of Information and Technology said in a statement carried by local media that it has “recovered all government websites hacked on Saturday.” [Al Arabiya, 10/20/2013]