Top News: ISIS Claims Truck Bombing at Baghdad Market That Killed Sixty-Seven

A massive truck bomb ripped through a popular Baghdad market in a predominantly Shia neighborhood Thursday morning, leaving at least sixty-seven dead and another 150 wounded. ISIS soon after claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it targeted a gathering place of Shias and vowing to conduct more attacks. The truck that set off the explosion was reportedly a refrigeration truck, making it impossible to distinguish from other trucks delivering produce to the market. A police officer noted that “on Thursdays the market is especially crowded because people come from the other provinces to stock up on food for the weekend.” [APBBC, 8/13/2015]



ISIS claims killing of Croatian hostage at the hands of Sinai State
The Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) said in an audio broadcast on Thursday that its Egyptian affiliate—the Sinai State, formerly known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis—had killed a Croatian hostage, a day after a photograph of a beheaded corpse purported to be that of the Croat was circulated by the group’s supporters. Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said security forces still had no confirmation about the beheading. During a phone call on Thursday with his Croatian counterpart Vesna Pusic, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said Egypt is doing its best to arrest the captors. Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic also said that authorities in Croatia could not confirm Salopek’s killing with certainty. Milanovic said his government would not give up as long as there was hope. Despite the uncertainty of the death, many foreign leaders condemned the attack. [Reuters, Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, SIS, AP, AFP, 8/13/2015]

Justice Minister says Presidency to approve anti-terror law shortly
A counterterrorism draft law approved by the cabinet last month will receive final approval from Egypt’s Office of the Presidency within hours, Justice Minister Ahmed al-Zend told reporters at the cabinet’s building on Wednesday. The draft will not return to the cabinet, the Minister said, suggesting that the document will not see any objection from President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. “We hope it will be issued before the Raba’a dispersal anniversary,” said the Minister, referring to the government’s bloody dispersal of a major sit-in by supporters of former president Mohamed Morsi in August 2013. [Egypt Independent, SIS, 8/13/2015]

Egypt’s Journalists Syndicate voices concern over detained journalists
Egypt’s Journalists Syndicate has expressed concern over the declining health of several detained journalists, blaming the Interior Minister. The syndicate’s Liberties Committee said in a statement on Wednesday that it has received multiple complaints from the families of journalists currently detained in the maximum-security prison of al-Aqrab in south Cairo. “The syndicate demands that [the journalists] be admitted to hospital and that they are provided with proper health care,” the statement read, adding that it holds the prison authorities and the interior ministry responsible for the detained journalists’ failing health. The Press Freedom Committee (PFC) will also meet to discuss the two-year imprisonment of photojournalist Mahmoud Shawkan, whose detention exceeds the legal maximum set by law. The meeting will also cover the detention conditions of other journalists. The Istiqlal Party raised similar concerns over prison treatment and called upon the Egyptian government to release party head Magdy Hussien. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya,DNE, 8/13/2015]

Egypt’s interior ministry investigates incident of ‘police brutality’ in Cairo metro
Egypt’s Interior Minister ordered an investigation on Wednesday into assault of a citizen at the hands of policemen inside a metro station, a ministry official said. A video circulated on social media late Tuesday showing a group of policemen surrounding and beating a citizen next to a moving train. The man had been stopped by police in the station, however, the reason he was stopped is unclear. Interior Minister Magdi Abdel Ghaffar ordered that all policemen and officers accountable for the incident be summoned, said Abu Bakr Abdel Kereem, the deputy minister for media affairs. Abdel Kereem said the “violation” documented in the video “cannot be accepted by the ministry.” [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 8/13/2015]

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Heavy clashes in and around Libya’s Sirte
The Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) fought separate battles with forces loyal to Libya’s official government and with a rival group on Wednesday, as growing violence threatened to make UN-mediated peace efforts. Helicopters loyal to the internationally recognized government based in eastern Libya bombed ISIS positions in the central city of Sirte, said an air force spokesman Ali al-Hassi. In separate violence, ISIS clashed with a Salafist group near Sirte. The fighting started after the Salafis accused ISIS of killing a preacher. About ten people were killed. [Reuters, AP, 8/12/2015]

Dialogue talks in Geneva end positively
Two days of Libya Dialogue talks finished yesterday evening in Geneva in what was essentially a bid to bring the Tripoli-based General National Congress (GNC) back on board the UN-brokered peace negotiations. The GNC boycotted the process for over a month over objections to the draft agreement presented by UN Special Envoy Bernardino Leon at the end of June. The strongest objections were aimed at the powers that the draft agreement granted to the proposed State Council. The GNC team returns to Tripoli today armed with a letter from Leon to explain the situation and await a vote on whether it can rejoin the next set of talks. Leon said the process has to be finished by the end of the month. [Libya Herald, ANSAmed, AP, 8/13/2015]

Sixty migrants missing off Libya
Around sixty migrants are missing in waters off Libya, said the International Organization for Migration (IOM) after interviewing survivors who were picked up from their stricken craft. An Italian vessel picked up dozens of migrants aboard a sinking rubber dinghy Tuesday after it was spotted by a naval helicopter. Fifty-four were brought to the Italian island of Lampedusa, but according to testimony from survivors, the craft had set off with between 117 and 120 people on board, all of them from sub-Saharan Africa. [Daily Star/AFP, 8/12/2015]


US F-16 fighters fly first manned missions from Turkey
The United States on Wednesday launched its first air strikes by Turkey-based manned F-16 fighter jets against Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) targets in Syria. A Pentagon official said that two F-16s conducted the mission over Syria to hit one or more pre-selected targets. A senior Pentagon official also said Wednesday that the six F-16s based at Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey may also conduct missions over Iraq. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Thursday that Australia is considering expanding its air campaign against ISIS to include strikes on Syria. Abbott began striking ISIS positions in Iraq last October at the request of the US and Iraqi governments but had stopped short of conducting air strikes on Syria. [AP, 8/12/2015]

ISIS claims truck bombing at Baghdad market that killed sixty-seven
A massive truck bomb ripped through a popular Baghdad market in a predominantly Shia neighborhood Thursday morning, leaving at least sixty-seven dead and another 150 wounded. ISIS soon after claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it targeted a gathering place of Shias and vowing to conduct more attacks. The truck that set off the explosion was reportedly a refrigeration truck, making it impossible to distinguish from other trucks delivering produce to the market. A police officer noted that “on Thursdays the market is especially crowded because people come from the other provinces to stock up on food for the weekend.” [AP, BBC, 8/13/2015]

Germany says Kurdish forces attacked with chemical weapons in Iraq
A German Defense Ministry spokesman said Thursday that Kurdish forces in northern Iraq who are fighting ISIS militants were attacked with chemical weapons a few days ago southwest of Irbil. He said that the chemical agent had been delivered with mortar or artillery shells and that some Kurdish fighters suffered respiratory problems as a result. The spokesman said, “American and Iraqi specialists from Baghdad are on their way to find out what happened.” Gen. Raymond Odierno, who retires from the position of US Army Chief of Staff on Friday, said during his final Pentagon press conference on Wednesday that the United States should consider embedding US troops with Iraqis if Iraqi forces do not make good progress against ISIS in the next few months. He also warned that due to sectarian divisions, a partition of Iraq “might be the only solution.” [AFP, 8/13/2015]

Turkey says it does not plan to send ground forces into Syria
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevult Cavusoglu said Thursday that Turkey does not expect to deploy ground forces in Syria to fight ISIS, but that the option should remain on the table. Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said at a joint press conference with Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam on Wednesday that Jordan has “no ambitions, no links, and no spies” in Syria, adding that Jordan has not approached any organizations in Syria and does not have the funds to finance them. Ensour also stressed that Syria’s security and stability are in Jordan’s best interest and that it is committed to supporting a political solution in Syria. [Reuters, Al Arabiya, 8/13/2015]

Iranian Foreign Minister and Syria’s Assad discuss fight against terror
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javed Zarif met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus Wednesday to discuss the civil war in Syria and Iran’s proposed plan to end the conflict. Iran’s proposals include an immediate ceasefire, the formation of a national unity government, protections for Syrian minorities, and internationally supervised elections. Zarif told Assad, “I say to the other [regional] players and to our neighbors that now is the time to care about the truth, answer the aspirations of the Syrian people and work to fight terrorism, extremism, and sectarianism.” Syria’s state-run news agency reported Thursday that rockets hit several districts of Syria’s coastal city of Latakia, killing two civilians and wounding another thirteen. [AFP, NYT, 8/12/2015]


Dengue fever and malaria on the rise in Yemen
Rubbish piling up on the streets of Yemeni towns is speeding the spread of dengue fever and malaria, as fighting, baking heat, and a lack of food and water add to the hardships for Yemenis. Rubbish lying in the streets has contaminated soil and water and attracted infectious pests, the charity organization Mercy Corps said. At least 8,000 people in the port city of Aden have contracted dengue fever since the present crisis began five months ago, cases of typhoid have been recorded, and there are reports of malaria. Mercy Corps has paid local youths a daily wage to remove the waste and dispose of it safely, giving them paid work and improving living conditions for other city residents. [Reuters, 8/12/2015]

Civilians killed as Houthis and pro-government militias fight for control of Yemeni cities
Yemeni security and medical officials say mortar rounds fired by Houthi rebels have killed six civilians in Taiz, the country’s third largest city. The security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to brief reporters, say Thursday’s shelling came as reinforcements arrived to help the rebels maintain their grip on the city. There are reports that the Houthi leadership is in talks to withdraw from Sana’a in order to consolidate power in other areas. The leader of the General People’s Congress (GPC), former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, is not in favor of a surrender to government authorities. This disagreement points to the widening rift between the Houthi movement and the GPC. [AP, Asharq al-Awsat, 8/13/2015]

Bahrain identifies suspects in July bombing case
Bahrain has detained five people behind a bomb attack in July that killed two policemen, the interior ministry said Thursday, and accused them of being linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Iran denies any connection to training of militants in Bahrain, but openly supports opposition groups seeking greater rights for fellow Shia, who are in the majority in the island kingdom. Also this week, the interior ministry in Bahrain announced that it will try prominent opposition leader Ibrahim Sharif for attempting to overthrow the government. Sharif was arrested during the 2011 Arab Spring movements and was released from jail in June. [Reuters, 8/13/2015]


Iraq to endorse new investment law next week
Iraq’s parliament is expected to endorse a new investment law in the coming week in an effort to support the private sector, attract more foreign investments, and curb corruption. “The old law was not enough and it did not handle problems that the investment sector is facing in Iraq,” said Member of Parliament Najeeba Najeeb, member of the Parliamentary Finance Committee. She pointed out that the old investment law afforded more power to the central government and set obstacles for foreign investors to acquire land in the country. She said the new law would decentralize decision-making and streamline procedures to allow investors to acquire land within fifteen days. Head of the Baghdad Investment Commission Shaker al-Zameli noted that the new law would give investors the right to refer to international arbitration, a provision that was not included in the old law. [Zawya, 8/13/2015]

Moody’s says Suez Canal extension will take time to affect positive credit
Ratings agency Moody’s said Thursday that Egypt Suez Canal expansion will support the country’s credit quality through increased current account receipts and government revenue. However, Moody’s said the degree of support to Egypt’s economy will depend on the acceleration in global trade growth, “which seems unlikely to materialize quickly.” The agency said it expects the canal expansion to have limited positive effects on Egypt’s credit during the current fiscal year. In a July report, Moody’s projected a FY2016 budget of 9.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), compared to the government’s estimate of 9.6 percent. [DNE, Cairo Post, 8/13/2015]

Oil rout saps UAE deposits, stokes bank borrowing costs
The cost of borrowing between banks in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has jumped to the highest rate in more than sixteen months as deposit growth has slowed. The increased borrowing costs underscore how liquidity has dropped as a slump in global oil prices weighs on state finances. “Liquidity in the banking system continues to tighten with solid credit growth outstripping deposit growth,” said Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank. “Banking sector results for the second quarter suggest that lower government deposits, probably as a result of lower oil prices, are likely a key driver of the overall weakening in deposit growth.” [Bloomberg, 8/13/2015]