Top News: ISIS Captures One-Third of Kobani

ISIS fighters seized more than a third of the Syrian border town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab in Arabic), activists said Thursday, as US-led air strikes—which the United States admits are insufficient without ground support—failed to halt their advance and Turkish forces nearby looked on without intervening.

The Turkish foreign minister said it was unrealistic that Turkish forces would lead a ground offensive on their own. The commander of Kobani’s heavily outgunned Kurdish defenders said ISIS controlled a third of the town that lies within sight of Turkish territory.




Egypt forms committee to draft law for Nubian resettlement
Plans to develop a new city around Lake Nasser in the south of Egypt were put in motion on Wednesday after the minister of transitional justice ordered the formation of a committee to draft a law overseeing the project. The draft law will lead to the development of Nubian areas and the shores of Lake Nasser near Aswan in Upper Egypt. The region is linked with Nubians, who were displaced from their homes in 1964 to make room for the Aswan High Dam and its resulting artificial lake, Lake Nasser. [Ahram Online, 10/8/2014]

Hunger striker Mohamed Soltan moved to Cairo hospital
Mohamed Soltan, on hunger strike for more than eight months, was transferred to an intensive care unit after his health deteriorated dramatically, Amnesty International said Wednesday, calling for his immediate release. Soltan’s brother said Thursday that Soltan has been moved to hospital due to internal bleeding—which he said could be in the detainee’s brain, according to medical tests. The Freedom for the Brave movement has continued to call for Soltan’s release, saying that Soltan is suffering from a genetic disease that causes blood clotting and as such lacks the necessary medical care in prison. [AP, Ahram Online, 10/9/2014]

Brotherhood students announce protests at Al-Azhar amid heightened security
Al-Azhar University Brotherhood students announced on Thursday that they would begin a new round of protests, coinciding with the start of the new school year on Saturday. Meanwhile, Al-Azhar University Vice President, Ibrahim al-Hodhod, confirmed that any students or faculty members accused of violent attacks will be expelled or fired. Meanwhile, security measures at Cairo University are already in place in anticipation of the new school year. These include new, black steel walls, surveillance cameras, and bomb-detection devices. Heavily armed riot police also have permanent positions directly outside the campus. [ONA (Arabic), AP, 10/9/2014]

Egypt’s prime minister rejects any foreign intervention in Libya
Egypt on Wednesday reiterated its support to Libya as well as its rejection of any interference in the internal affairs of the neighboring North African country. The comments were made by Egypt’s Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab following talks with his Libyan counterpart Abdullah al-Thinni in Cairo that Egyptian official hailed as “significantly important.” In a meeting with Thinni on Wednesday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi gave directives on offering assistance to Libya, and instructed the ministries concerned to discuss these issues and to find solutions to them. On Thursday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry met with his Libyan counterpart, Mohamed al-Dairy. [Ahram Online, EGYNews (Arabic), 10/9/2014]


Protests at Zueitina may lead to power cuts
The General Electricity Company of Libya (GECOL) says local protesters demanding jobs have forced the closure of the Zueitina power station, which is likely to lead to power cuts. In a statement, GECOL said that local residents are demanding jobs at the state-run company. The company said that the “relevant authorities” should intervene to end problem; otherwise “large parts of the eastern region risk being without power.” [Libya Monitor (subscription), 10/9/2014]

Conflicting reports over Tunisia fee highlight unclear border control
An official in the Tripoli government has denied that Libya has introduced a fee for Tunisians entering the country, conflicting with earlier reports of a new tax that was viewed as a response to an exit fee recently imposed by Tunisia. The confusion highlights how rival authorities in Libya—the House of Representatives and the revived General National Congress—exercise limited power to fully implement decisions. Tunisian authorities are unsure of who their Libyan counterparts are when seeking to coordinate on security or logistic issues at the border. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has delayed its hearing into whether the House sessions in Tobruk are constitutional. [Libya Monitor (subscription), 10/9/2014]

UN ramping up aid efforts amid deepening Libyan crisis
The UN says it needs about $35 million in additional funding to continue helping hundreds of thousands of people affected by the ongoing crisis in Libya. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 331,000 people need assistance. Most are internally displaced in and around Tripoli and Benghazi. Another 100,000 people have fled to neighboring countries. OCHA said it is seeking access through national and international partners that still have a presence in Libya, as the UN temporarily withdrew due to security concerns. [AllAfrica/UN News, 10/8/2014]


ISIS captures one-third of Kobani
ISIS fighters seized more than a third of the Syrian border town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab in Arabic), activists said Thursday, as US-led air strikes—which the United States admits are insufficient without ground support—failed to halt their advance and Turkish forces nearby looked on without intervening. The Turkish foreign minister said it was unrealistic that Turkish forces would lead a ground offensive on their own. The commander of Kobani’s heavily outgunned Kurdish defenders said ISIS controlled a third of the town that lies within sight of Turkish territory. [The Daily Star, Reuters, 10/9/2014]

NATO not discussing “Safe Zone”; Russia says UN vote required
Establishing a no-fly zone or a safe zone inside Syria, proposals Turkey has been advocating to a US-led coalition against ISIS, has not been discussed by NATO, the alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday. Russia on Thursday said that any plan to set up a buffer zone in Syria would need to be approved by the UN Security Council. French President Francois Hollande, however, expressed support for the buffer zone noting that such an arrangement would facilitate the effective protection and support for Syrian refugees. The White House meanwhile denied on Wednesday it was considering creating a safe haven along Turkey’s border after key British and US diplomats indicated that the proposal was worth further evaluation. [Reuters, Naharnet, 9/10/2014]

US focus on ISIS frees Syria to battle rebels
As American warplanes cross the Syrian sky dropping bombs on ISIS militants, another set of air raids has sown destruction across the country, as the Syrian government returns with new intensity to its longstanding and systematic attacks on rebellious towns and neighborhoods. On Saturday, a mushroom cloud towered over the town of Saraqeb in the northern province of Idlib, after a ground-shaking government bombing that residents said killed two civilians and wounded six. On September 26, government warplanes struck the nearby town of Bdama, injuring eleven people, damaging a school and enraging residents who initially assumed the planes were American. In the northern province of Aleppo, army helicopters have dropped crude barrel bombs on a near-daily basis, killing dozens and sending residents to dig the dead and wounded from the rubble. Such attacks—from airspace that US warplanes now enter at will—have fueled anger at the United States among opponents of the Assad regime, who wonder why it leads the fight against ISIS but gives free hand to a dictator who has killed as many as 200,000 of his own people. [NYT, 10/08/2014]

Al-Qaeda linked rebels release priest and other Christians held in Syria
A Franciscan spokesman confirmed Thursday that a priest and twenty other Christians kidnapped by al-Qaeda-linked rebels in Syria had been released earlier this week. The spokesman confirmed that Father Hanna Jallouf was released on Thursday morning after being held by Nusra Front militants in Qunyeh, a village in northwest Syria. The Franciscans, a religious order within the Catholic Church, has nineteen of its workers operating in Qunyeh where it has operated for more than 125 years. [Naharnet, 10/9/2014]


Tunisia media authority suspends TV program for “condoning terrorism”
The Independent High Authority for Audiovisual Communication (HAICA) made the decision Tuesday to temporarily ban talk a show on the basis that the show’s latest episode, broadcasted on El Hiwar Ettounissi TV on Sunday, condoned terrorism. The imposition of the one-month ban was triggered after a guest on the program, journalist Nasreddine Ben Hadid, referred to his friendship with terrorist leader Abou Iyadh, leader of the banned Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia, as “an honor.” Ben Hadid spoke to host Samir al Wafi about his friendship with Abou Iyadh as the show was airing live. HAICA announced their motion to suspend the program two days later. [TunisiaLive, 10/9/2014]

Tunisia sends request for proposals for debut US dollar sukuk
The Republic of Tunisia has sent banks request for proposals for a potential US dollar denominated sukuk transaction, according to market sources. The sovereign, rated Ba3/B/BB-, hopes to complete the debut Islamic bond by the end of the year, one source said. If successful, Tunisia would become the fifth sovereign to issue a debut sukuk in 2014, following the UK, Sharjah, Hong Kong, South Africa, and Luxembourg. [Reuters, 10/9/2014]

World Bank projects 2.7 percent economic growth in 2015
The World Bank’s Middle East and North Africa Monitor on Wednesday released its 2014-2015 economic growth projections which forecasted on overall regional growth of 5.2 percent depending on domestic consumption, subsidy reform, easing political tensions, and investors’ confidence. The report projected a 2.7 percent growth in Tunisia’s economy while the Egyptian and Moroccan economies are expected to grow to 3.1 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively. The report noted that regional conflicts, including the ongoing civil war in Syria, that against ISIS (or Islamic State) in Iraq and Syria, and ongoing insurgencies in Yemen will slow down growth in these countries in 2015. [TAP, 10/9/2014]


Forty-seven killed in suicide bombing in Sana’a, twenty in Hadramout attack
A suicide attack on a Houthi protest in Sana’a left at least forty-seven people dead and seventy-five injured on Thursday, according to the Yemeni ministry of health. A man detonated his suicide belt at the checkpoint to a protest in Sana’a’s Houthi-controlled Tahrir Square against President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi’s appointment of Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak as new prime minister. Witnesses added that steel balls were seen at the explosion site. The Houthis continued to protest following the explosion, demanding the end of Hadi’s presidency. In another attack Thursday, a suspected al-Qaeda operative detonated a suicide bomb at a military checkpoint on the western outskirts of the city of Mukalla in Hadramout province, killing twenty soldiers, injuring thirteen, and destroying a tank and two army vehicles. This followed Wednesday’s al-Qaeda attack on security forces in Bayda, which left at least thirteen soldiers dead. [Naharnet, 10/9/2014]

Newly-appointed Mubarak refuses head minister post
Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, former Secretary General of the National Dialogue Committee (NDC) and chief of staff to President Hadi, turned down his appointment to the position of prime minister on Thursday. This came one day after the Houthis rejected his appointment and planned protests in Sana’a. In a statement on his Facebook page, Mubarak said that he was aware of the criticism Hadi faced from his opposition and said that he declined to accept the position in his first meeting with presidential advisers. The Houthis claimed that Mubarak was not broadly representative and that his appointment was the product of foreign influence, particularly of the United States. In a televised speech, Houthi leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi said, “President Hadi worked with them as a puppet in their hands. We hope to change this stance,” a claim which a US official called “absurd.” [Reuters, 10/9/2014]

Hadi says G10 countries are responsible for Yemen’s security
President Hadi received the ambassadors of the Group of Ten (G10) countries in Sana’a on Thursday to discuss the country’s security landscape and the necessity of ongoing support for his government. Hadi explained to the G10 ambassadors that circumstances necessitated he accept Mubarak’s refusal of the prime minister post in order to resolve the state crisis, telling them that, “ensuring security, stability, and unity is our first concern, as well as avoiding disastrous clashes and civil war.” Hadi also told the ambassadors that the G10 countries have a responsibility to assist in the implementation of the NDC outcomes and to guarantee the security and stability of Yemen. He also acknowledged the Tahrir Square attack, condemning it as cowardly. [Al Masdar (Arabic), Aden al-Ghad (Arabic), 10/9/2014]


Apache helicopters debut in Falluja as Unites States launches airstrikes in Mosul
US aircraft struck Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS or Islamic State) targets Wednesday inside Mosul, the heart of militant operations in Iraq and the country’s second most populous city. The airstrikes marked a significant departure in coalition operations that have so far avoided heavily populated areas to avoid civilian casualties. Military officials also noted that Apache helicopters had been used to target ISIS positions in Falluja, providing close air support for Iraqi units engaged in close firefights with ISIS militants. [CNN, The Washington Post, 10/9/2014]

Hezbollah seizes Nusra Front positions in Brital
Hezbollah announced on Thursday that its fighters had captured several Nusra Front positions overlooking Brital, on the eastern border with Syria during fierce clashes over the weekend. The al-Qaeda affiliated, Nusra Front, also posted a video allegedly showing a Hezbollah fighter captured during the same firefight on the outskirts of Brital. Both groups have engaged in violent cross border skirmishes since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, with recent clashes expanding into the eastern border towns of Arsal and Brital. [The Daily Star, 10/9/2014]

Syrian refugees open fire on Lebanese soldiers in Arsal
A Lebanese Army post in the northeastern border town of Arsal came under fire from a Syrian refugee camp during a firefight between Lebanese troops and militants near Wadi Hmeid, a rugged region in the outermost edge of Arsal. A statement from the army noted that soldiers came under attack shortly after midnight but managed to repel an initial assault by suspected militants, before responding to additional fire from the Arsal neighborhood of Masyada, which currently serves as a refugee camp for Syrian refugees. [The Daily Star, 10/9/2014]