Top News: Gunmen kill US teacher in Benghazi

Gunmen shot and killed an American chemistry teacher working at an international school in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi on Thursday, according to medical and security sources. The teacher had been jogging near the US Consulate where Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other personnel were killed in an assault in September 2012. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the killing. In separate violent incidents as the security situation continues to deteriorate, two other security personnel were killed by gunshots in Benghazi. [ReutersAP, 12/05/2013]


Presidential decrees enacted
Interim President Adly Mansour announced a number of presidential decrees Wednesday evening concerning the amendment of the traffic law, voters abroad, and prison lands, all of which will be activated as of Thursday. Decree number 662/2013 amends presidential decree number 165/2007 concerning prison lands. The ministry of interior project fund, mainly responsible for the selling of prison lands, was assigned by the decree for the restoration and construction of vacated prisons. The fund is also responsible for exploiting the vacated lands to build new police facilities. Another decree issued by Mansour concerns voters abroad and the regulation of personnel responsible for overseeing the vote. The amendment was made to Law 73/1956 to regulate the exercising of political rights. [DNE, 12/5/2013]

Nour Party says backs new constitution; Church objections halt printing of draft
Egypt’s second largest Islamist party on Thursday said it would support a new constitution in an upcoming referendum in order to encourage and preserve stability in the country. “The Nour Party will take part in this referendum and will take part with “yes,” out of our concern for bringing about stability and so that we spare the country more anarchy,” Younes Makhyoun, the head of the party, said in a news conference. Al-Nour announced its position in a press conference held at the party’s headquarters. Makhyoun, however, asked President Adly Mansour and the Cabinet to hold a political dialogue between political factions before issuing the laws organizing the electoral processes. [Aswat Masriya, DNE, Egypt Independent, 12/5/2013]

Activists referred to trial for violating protest law; Trial of Morsi supporters adjourned
Egypt’s public prosecution referred three activists to trial on Thursday on charges of violating protest law and assaulting police. Activists Ahmed Douma, Mohamed Adel and Ahmed Maher, founder of the April 6 movement, are accused of protesting without notifying the authorities as required by the newly-enacted law. Clashes erupted on Saturday outside Cairo’s Abdeen Court during a protest between the security forces and protesters who gathered to show solidarity for Maher, who was handing himself to the authorities that ordered his arrest earlier last week for calling a protest without permission. The North Cairo Criminal Court also decided on Wednesday to postpone the trial of sixty-two defendants from the first Ramses events to sessions on the 5, 6 and 9 January. The defendants face charges of committing acts of violence and rioting in Ramses square in July following an attempt to break into Ezbakiya police station and target police officers. [Aswat Masriya, AP, DNE, Egypt Independent, 12/5/2013]

Egyptian Pound steady on official market
The Egyptian pound was steady at official rates on Thursday, the central bank said, and slightly stronger in the black market, two sources said – a day after the bank’s governor said that parallel market for dollars would “not last long”. The central bank sold $38.4 million at its regular foreign exchange auction on Thursday, with a cut-off price of 6.8771 pounds to the dollar – fractionally stronger than 6.8772 at the last such auction on Wednesday. On the black market, the pound strengthened slightly from Wednesday’s levels, according to the two market sources. One said the pound was trading at 7.30/32 to the dollar. Another put it at 7.27/33. On Wednesday, two market sources said the pound had weakened to 7.30/34. Businesses have turned to the black market to meet their dollar needs as supplies of hard currency have dried up at official rates. The pound has been trading near its current level of 6.89 since early September at official rates. [Reuters/DNE, 12/5/2013]


Amazigh “agree to end pipeline blockade”
There are reports that the Amazigh Supreme Council brokered a deal Wednesday evening to lift the blockade on the pipeline carrying gas from the western oil field of Wafa to the Mellitah gas processing plant near Zuwara. According to sources, the council persuaded the protesting members of the Amazigh community to end their action. The pipeline has been closed for over one month, resulting in power cuts in the country’s western region. [Libya Herald, 12/04/2013]

Libyan assembly votes to follow Islamic law
In an apparent bid by moderate Islamists to outdo increasingly influential ultraconservative militants, the General National Congress has voted to make Sharia law the foundation of all legislation and state institutions in Libya. A special committee will begin to review all existing laws to guarantee they comply with Islamic law. The decision could impact banking, criminal, and financial laws, such as a shift to Islamic finance regulations that avoid interest and pure speculation. [Reuters, Al Jazeera, 12/04/2013]

Libya “very important” to the United States, says Senator McCain
US Senator John McCain said he was “very optimistic” about Libya’s future, during a visit to Tripoli, adding that the United States is keen to help the nascent democracy. Senator McCain met with military personnel, expressing confidence about the plans for training and equipping the Libyan military to carry out security and border management tasks. [Libya Herald, 12/04/2013]


Jihadists kidnap more than fifty Kurds in Aleppo province
Jihadists in northern Syria have kidnapped fifty-one Kurds in the past three days, in the second such case of mass hostage-taking since July. Among the hostages were nine children and a woman. The kidnappings come weeks after Kurdish fighters further east, in majority Kurdish areas, expelled jihadists after battles that lasted several months. In response, the jihadists have imposed a siege on Kurdish areas of Aleppo, where Kurdish fighters are weaker. In July, a prominent transnational jihadist group, The Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, kidnapped some two-hundred Kurdish civilians from the Kurdish towns of Tal Aran and Tal Hassel also in Aleppo province. Only a few of those hostages have since been released. [AFP, 12/5/2013]

Jihadists execute Iraqi cameraman in Syria
The al-Qaeda affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria has kidnapped and executed an Iraqi freelance cameraman working in northern Syria for an unnamed Spanish news channel, a press freedom watchdog reported on Thursday. “Yasser Faysal al-Joumaili’s execution was the first of a foreign journalist in Syria’s so-called liberated areas,” said the head of Reporters Without Borders’ Middle East and North Africa desk. Joumaili, a native of Falluja who had worked previously for Al Jazeera and Reuters, was kidnapped while on his way out of Syria and executed in the northwestern border province of Idlib on Wednesday. [AFP, 12/5/2013]

Political solution to Syrian war does not interest Assad, says Qatari minister
Bashar al-Assad has “no interest in a political solution to the conflict in Syria,” while those “with blood on their hands” should be sent to face justice at the international criminal court, the Qatari foreign minister said on Wednesday. In a rare public appearance at a London think tank, Khalid al-Attiyah said Qatar backed the creation of a transitional government for Syria at next month’s Geneva II peace conference, which has broad international backing despite its slim chances of success. Qatar has been a significant supporter of the Syrian rebels since the uprising began in March 2011. The tiny but fabulously wealthy Gulf state has taken a backseat role to neighboring Saudi Arabia and lowered its profile since the new emir, Sheikh Tamim, took over from his father, Sheikh Hamad, in the summer. [The Guardian, 12/5/2013]

A blend of laws keep the lid on crime in Syria’s Deraa province
The first case taken on by the Islamic court in Deraa was a trivial affair, especially viewed against the backdrop of a devastating conflict that has killed more than 126,000 people. A baker was caught flirting with a married woman while selling her bread and, after complaints from her husband, the court stepped in, sentencing the would-be suitor to public naming and shaming as a dishonorable man. That was a year ago and since then the Islamic court system has expanded in rebel-held areas of southern Syria. Now at least four courts–known as Hay’at al-Sharia, or Islamic justice committees–are operating in Deraa province. The courts have run into resistance, although most of the problems appear to have been caused by powerful armed rebel factions who do not like being called to account for crimes. Among civilians, the courts appear to have won a certain amount of respect for their use of a mixture of Islamic, civil, and tribal law to administer justice, and for helping prevent rebel-held areas from sliding into a lawless chaos. [The National, 12/4/2013]


December 14 deadline announced for consensus on new prime minister
Political leaders will have until December 14 to reach consensus on a candidate for caretaker prime minister, according to an announcement made this evening by Tunisian General Labor Union leader Houcine Abbassi. Speaking at a news conference held at the end of the dialogue sponsoring quartet meeting, Abbassi declared that the dialogue sponsors had extended the deadline by ten more days at the request of several parties, in order to reach consensus. ”We have decided to hold a news conference on Saturday, December 14, 2013, at midday during which we will announce the consensus and the resumption of dialogue or its failure and final breaking off,” he explained to the media.[Tunisia Live, 12/4/2013]

High inflation persists through November
Tunisia’s inflation rate stayed at 5.8 percent in November, the third consecutive month at this rate. The steady rate marks a drop from earlier this year, with a high point when inflation hit 6.5 percent in April. However inflation is still significantly higher than it was before the January 2011 revolution, and increasing prices have brought discontent among Tunisians struggling to afford basic goods. [Tunisia Live, 12/5/2013]

Rights group meets with NCA president, releases report on detainees in Tunisia
National Constituent Assembly President Mustapha Ben Jaafar met Wednesday with the director of the Tunis office of Human Rights Watch (HRW), where he received the new HRW report on the situation of human rights in Tunisia. The report, released to the public today, recommends that Tunisia amend laws governing the arrest, interrogation, and initial detention of suspects, and improve conditions in jails. During the meeting, the HRW delegation also stressed the assembly’s role in securing the implementation of the report’s recommendations in order to preserve the rights of detainees and improve human rights in general. [TAP, 12/4/2013]

Newspaper editors’ federation protests black book of alleged Ben Ali collaborators
The Tunisian federation of newspaper editors issued a statement saying it is ”indignant” over the ‘black book’ published by the office of interim President Moncef Marzouki. The book contains a list of alleged collaborators with the Ben Ali regime. The federation has said that it was shocked to see the presidency of the republic involved in a ”defamation and denigration campaign targeting media workers, scriptwriters, sportsmen and businessmen.” [ANSAMed, 12/4/2013]


Yemen defense ministry blast kills at least twenty-five
At least twenty-five people were killed on Thursday in a car bomb and gun battle at the Yemeni defense ministry compound in the capital Sana’a, sources inside the complex said, in one of the most serious attacks in the past eighteen months. The defense ministry said the attack targeted the ministry’s hospital and most of the gunmen had been killed or wounded. Among the dead are also several foreign doctors.“The attackers exploited some construction work there to carry out this criminal act … the situation is under control,” the ministry said in a statement on its website. No one claimed responsibility for the attack. But the country has been grappling with a security threat by al-Qaeda linked militants, who have repeatedly attacked government officials and installations over the past two years. [Al Arabiya, Reuters/Gulf News, 12/5/2013]

NDC source says Southern Issue to be resolved after dialogue’s conclusion
Political components within the National Dialogue’s 8+8 subcommittee have called for the number of regions in a federal state to be determined after the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) ends, according to NDC youth representative and 8+8 subcommittee member, Nadia Abdulla. Abdulla told the Yemen Times that the subcommittee has achieved all of its tasks except for determining the number of regions. She said the subcommittee has nearly reached an agreement to refer the issue for resolution after the NDC concludes. [Yemen Times, 12/4/2013]

Yemen’s WTO membership accepted
The World Trade Organization (WTO) formally accepted Yemen as a new WTO member on Wednesday.  At a ceremony to celebrate Yemen’s accession, WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo congratulated the Yemeni government for the domestic reforms it has undertaken over thirteen years to become a WTO member. “We celebrate accession both because of what it means for the individual country, but also because of what it means for this organization,” he said. Yemen will be the thirty-fifth least developed country in the WTO. [SABA, 12/4/2013]

NDC third plenary session to continue despite halted progress
The National Dialogue Conference’s (NDC) third plenary session will be held despite the possibility that Houthi or Hirak delegates might boycott the proceedings. The Hirak delegates have boycotted various stages of the dialogue, demanding that the Southern issue be resolved before the NDC comes to a conclusion. A report that tracks discussions in the NDC confirms that meetings on the Southern Issue and the Saada issue have been marked by conflict, with parties making accusations against other parties and frequent digressions from the questions in need of resolution. The report indicates that these working groups and others, such as the working group on transitional justice, have yet to submit completed reports to the NDC. [Al Tagheer, 12/4/2013]


Morocco under fire over women rights bill
Women’s rights activists in Morocco have criticized the Islamist-led government for excluding them from drafting a proposed legislation to combat violence against women and for seeking to dilute the bill through changes. The long-awaited bill is currently under study in Morocco, and comes after the adoption of a new constitution in 2011 that enshrines gender equality and urges the state to promote it. [Al Jazeera, 12/5/2013]

Officials say first Israeli cabinet minister visits Turkey since 2010
A member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and former defense chief flew to Istanbul on Wednesday, becoming the first Israeli cabinet minister to visit Turkey since ties ruptured in 2010 over a deadly raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla. An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that Environmental Affairs Minister Amir Peretz was attending a four-day United Nations-sponsored conference about Mediterranean marine and coastal environment issues. [Reuters/Ahram Online, 12/5/2013]

Mandatory health insurance sparks price hike fears in Dubai
The mandatory health insurance announced by Dubai Health Authority last week has raised fears of a possible hike in prices of services and products across the board including hospitals, clinics, retail outlets and even restaurants in Dubai. [Gulf News, 12/4/2013]