Top News: ISIS Closes in on Kurdish Border Town; Beheads Seven Men, Three Women

ISIS militants tightened their grip on a Syrian border town on Thursday—coming within two miles on three sides, despite coalition air strikes meant to weaken them—sending thousands more Kurdish refugees into Turkey and dragging Ankara deeper into the conflict.

Eight miles west of the border town Ayn al-Arab (Kobani, in Kurdish), ISIS fighters beheaded seven men and three women as part of a campaign to frighten residents resisting the militant group’s advance. The jailed leader of Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) warned on Thursday the tenuous peace process could collapse if ISIS militants are allowed to overrun Kobani. Turkish leaders stepped rhetoric over military action, which may hinge on a tiny historic exclave, currently surrounded by 1,000 ISIS fighters.



Strong Egypt, Egyptian Current merge into new party
Two political parties, the Egyptian Current and Strong Egypt, have merged. The Egyptian Current, a political party still under establishment, now falls under the umbrella of the Strong Egypt party, headed by former Muslim Brotherhood member and former presidential candidate Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh. “There is no political alternative that preserves Egyptians’ dignity, rejects the existence of a state within a state or the existence of any authority over the sovereignty of people or the law in the name of military or religious governance,” the group said in its statement. [Ahram Online, DNE, 10/1/2014]

Egyptian authorities censor newspaper
The privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper was prevented from distributing a print issue of Tuesday evening’s paper by the government, as it included a sensitive interview with an intelligence agent. According to the chief editor of the news portal, Ahmad Ragab, the government wanted to review the interview before it was published, in order to make sure no sensitive information was included. When Al-Masry Al-Youm refused to show them the interview, they confiscated the issues from the state-owned Al-Ahram printing offices. Ragab stated that the interview would nevertheless be published online on Wednesday or Thursday. The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) confirmed the incident on Wednesday, describing it as a clear violation of press freedom. [Mada Masr, DNE, 10/1/2014]

Egypt, US sign bilateral agreements worth $286 million
The United States and Egypt signed bilateral agreements worth $268 million this week, the US embassy in Egypt said in a press release on Thursday. The agreements “signify a new era in support from the American people for joint US-Egypt priorities in economic growth, agriculture, tourism, governance, water and waste water management, and education,” the embassy stated. Chargé d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Cairo Thomas H. Goldberger said that these programs demonstrate US commitment to investing in Egypt’s future, “particularly for its youth.” [DNE, Aswat Masriya (Arabic), 10/2/2014]

Egypt militant group threatens deadly attacks during Eid holiday
Egypt’s deadliest militant group has vowed fresh deadly attacks against security forces next week during the country’s major Muslim feast. In a video released online, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis threatened killings against the police would take place Saturday, the first day of the Eid al-Adha feast, saying it “will be a black day on the infidel interior minister and his associates.” Egypt closed its northwestern border with Libya on Wednesday for Eid al-Adha, and will be closing the Rafah Crossing from Thursday. The Egyptian Travel Agents Association also informed Wednesday travel agencies of halting all desert tours west and south of Egypt during Eid al-Adha and October 6 holidays through October 21, as decided in a meeting at the Ministry of Defense attended by security and tourism revival committee representatives. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 10/2/2014]


United Nations to talk with Libyan militias as next step in peace process
The United Nations plans to hold talks with the militias that have seized control of Tripoli and large swathes of Libya, hoping to persuade them to withdraw from major cities and avert civil war. Earlier this week, the United Nations brokered the first round of talks between the House of Representatives and elected members boycotting the assembly and who have links to the revived, rival General National Congress. Libya’s Supreme Court is set to rule in on whether the House is legitimate. Diplomats fear it will be unable to issue an independent verdict as it is based in Tripoli, controlled by Misratan forces that oppose the House. [Reuters, 10/1/2014]

Tebu and Tuareg agree to joint security force in Obari
Tebus and Tuaregs in Obari have agreed to form a joint security force to ensure law and order in the southwestern oasis town. Agreement on the 150-strong force, to be supervised by a fifteen-member committee, followed mediation by the local council of elders. Fighting between Tebus and Tuaregs broke out two weeks ago after a group of Tuaregs, alleged to be from outside the area and supporting Operation Libya Dawn, tried to take over Obari’s main petrol station under protection by a local Tebu force. [Libya Herald, 10/1/2014]

Libya Shield’s post-Ghadames ambivalence may mark cracks in Dawn alliance
In what may signal a rift between the revolutionary brigade and its partners in Operation Libya Dawn, Libya Shield Central says it remains open to involvement in any further potential peace talks. A spokesman said that brigade commanders had formed no official opinion on the UN-hosted talks and that the Misrata-based force was neither for nor against joining the negotiations. The remarks are seen as a direct response to an Operation Dawn statement, which called for a military solution to the current standoff. [Libya Herald, 10/1/2014]

Egyptian border closed over Eid
The Sollum/Musaid border crossing between Egypt and Libya has been closed and will not reopen until after Eid on October 7. Quoted by Egyptian press, a security chief said the border was closed following requests by Libyan authorities and that Egyptian truck drivers have been informed of the decision. The closure comes soon after another incident in which Egyptian drivers were abducted near Ajdabiya. Some reports suggested the drivers have been released, which Egyptian authorities have not yet confirmed. [Libya Monitor (subscription), 10/2/2014]


ISIS closes in on Kurdish border town; Beheads seven men, three women
ISIS militants tightened their grip on a Syrian border town on Thursday—coming within two miles on three sides, despite coalition air strikes meant to weaken them—sending thousands more Kurdish refugees into Turkey and dragging Ankara deeper into the conflict. Eight miles west of the border town Ayn al-Arab (Kobani, in Kurdish), ISIS fighters beheaded seven men and three women as part of a campaign to frighten residents resisting the militant group’s advance. The jailed leader of Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) warned on Thursday the tenuous peace process could collapse if ISIS militants are allowed to overrun Kobani. Turkish leaders stepped rhetoric over military action, which may hinge on a tiny historic exclave, currently surrounded by 1,000 ISIS fighters. [Reuters, AFP, Naharnet, 10/2/2014]

Hundreds protest in Homs after horrendous school bombing
A massive public funeral morphed into an angry protest, as hundreds of people took to the streets of Homs on Thursday demanding the governor resign after a suicide bomber killed forty-seven schoolchildren. The protesters vented their anger at Governor Talal al-Barazi over the deadly attack in a loyalist, predominantly Alawi neighborhood of the government-controlled central city, not at the Damascus government. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights updated its toll on Thursday from the suicide bombing: forty-seven children under the age of twelve, four adult civilians, and three members of the security forces. [Naharnet, 10/2/2014]

US citizen joins Syrian Kurds in fight against ISIS
A Kurdish official confirmed Thursday that an American citizen had joined the Kurdish Protection Units (YPG) in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) on the Turkey-Syria border. YPG spokesman Redur Xelil confirmed, through online sources, that the 28 year-old American was fighting with in the Jezaa area as the YPG attempts to stave off the collapse of Kurdish towns that have driven tens of thousands of Kurds from their homes and over the frontier since last month. [The Daily Star, 10/2/2014]


Political parties unveil election platforms ahead of legislative elections
The leader of Tunisia’s Congress for the Republic Party, Tareq Kahlaoui, announced Wednesday that his party will increase economic growth by 6.5 percent over the next 5 years if it wins next month’s elections. The party leader also vowed to reduce the unemployment rate from 15 percent to 10 percent by 2019. The announcement comes as party leaders ramp up campaign efforts ahead of the legislative elections scheduled for October 26. Anis Jaziri of the Congress Party also unveiled his party’s economic agenda noting that his technology driven development programs would create at least 50,000 jobs by 2019. [Middle East Monitor, 10/2/2014]

EU donates seven million euros to promote gender equality
The head of the EU delegation in Tunisia Laura Baeza unveiled Tuesday a new bilateral program to reduce inequality between men and women at national, regional, and local levels. The program is worth seven million euros and will be directed to civil society organizations that promote the inclusion of women in political life and fight against gender based violence. [AnsaMed, 10/2/2014]

Marzouki discusses election observation with chief EU observer
Interim President of Moncef Marzouki met on Wednesday with the chief observer of the European Union’s  (EU) election observation mission, Mrs. Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck, to discuss the upcoming  legislative and presidential elections. The two officials stressed the importance of the elections and affirmed their commitment to overseeing a transparent and fair process that will lay down the foundations for fully functioning democratic state. [TAP, 10/2/2014]


GCC demands return of state control in statement
The states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) issued a statement following an emergency meeting in Jeddah on Wednesday, expressing deep concern about threats to the Yemeni government and lamenting the theft of the “properties and capabilities” of the Yemeni people. The GCC interior ministers said, “Yemeni and GCC security is indivisible,” and promised the GCC states would not “stand idly” in the face of foreign intervention. The ministers discussed the threat an unstable Yemen poses to the region. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula called on militants to attack the Houthis, saying, “Lie in wait for them, cause harm to them on the roads, tighten the ambushes for them, and do not let them feel safe.” [Reuters, Aden al-Ghad (Arabic), 10/2/2014]

Benomar concludes trip to Yemen, heads for Saudi Arabia
United Nations Envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar concluded his thirty-third trip to Yemen on Thursday after spending three weeks meeting with government officials and political leaders. Benomar described his visit as “difficult,” referencing the bloodshed seen during the three weeks, and said in a statement on his official Facebook page that the only way forward was through the implementation of the peace and partnership agreement signed September 21. He leaves on an official visit to Riyadh despite no progress toward the formation of a new government in Yemen. [Aden al-Ghad (Arabic), 10/2/2014]   

Al-Qaeda claims responsibility for attacks in Shabwa
Al-Qaeda militants claimed responsibility on their Twitter page Wednesday for the killing of two soldiers and the wounding of three others in an attack on a military supply envoy in Shabwa province. The militants said that the attack was carried out near the Radhum directorate, and that they killed two soldiers before the others escaped. A similar ambush was carried out in the area last week, killing one soldier and wounding eight others. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 10/1/2014]

UN report indicts ISIS of ‘systematic war crimes’ as militants take key town in Anbar
The UN on Thursday released a report calling for the prosecution of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) for wanton crimes committed by the jihadist group in Iraq. The report detailed mass executions, abductions of women and children, and the use of child soldiers by ISIS militants and indicated that at least 9,347 civilians had been killed and 17,386 wounded so far this year through September. The report comes as ISIS-led insurgents took control of most of the western Iraqi town of Hit in Anbar province early on Thursday. Militants also killed seven policemen and four soldiers in Ramadi during attack that left forty militants dead. The fall of Hit now exposes the Ain al-Asad military base in al-Baghdadi town to attack, as recent efforts by Iraqi government forces to halt ISIS advances in Anbar have so far been unsuccessful. [Reuters, The Daily Star, 10/2/2014]

ISIS attacks in Baghdad escalate; mostly target civilians
The Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has notably escalated its use of car bombs and mortar attacks in central and southern Baghdad in response to the US-led airstrikes in north and western Iraq. An Iraqi military official indicated that ISIS’s inability to retaliate to airstrikes has led it to resort to launching reprisal attacks on civilians in Shia-populated areas. The military official also explained that ISIS militants were now hiding amongst civilians, sporadically attacking civilians as reprisal for the Iraqi and international coalition’s air campaign. [Asharq al-Awsat, 10/2/2014]

Lebanese army captures large caches of explosive materials in Arsal
The Lebanese army on Thursday confirmed the seizure of sixty-six kilograms of explosive chemical materials in Arsal. The recent seizure follows a string of seizures by security officials of bomb-making materials in Arsal. On September 11, the army dismantled a booby-trapped car containing 100 kilograms of explosives in the same area in Arsal. Later on September 19, attackers detonated a roadside bomb as an army truck passed by on a road near Arsal, killing three soldiers and wounding two others. Lebanon has seen a string of deadly car bomb attacks linked to Syria’s war, most of which were claimed by Syria-based extremist groups. [Naharnet, 10/2/2014]