Top News:  ISIS Video Apparently Shows Execution of American Journalist

Militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS or IS) released a video Tuesday that appeared to show the beheading of American journalist James Foley in an act of retribution for US airstrikes on the group in Iraq. The gruesome video, which US intelligence agencies were trying to verify, shows a masked militant, speaking in British-accented English, threatening to kill more Americans in their custody if the US military campaign continued.




Washington hits back at Egypt criticism over Missouri unrest
A US official on Tuesday hit back at Egypt after Cairo took a swipe at US authorities’ handling of racially-motivated demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri, saying Washington would call on countries to deal with their problems as openly and honestly as it does. “We here in the United States will put our record for confronting our problems transparently and honestly and openly up against any other countries in the world,” deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a press briefing on Tuesday. Harf also said, “People are free to say what they’d like.” Dalia Ziada, director of Egyptian NGO Ibn Khaldun, said the organization is sending a fact-finding commission to the United States to investigate the police’s handling of demonstrations in Ferguson. The ‘Police and People for Egypt Association’ has also called for transparency from the United States on the handling of the demonstrations. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, DNE, Aswat Masriya, 8/20/2014]

Jailed Al Jazeera journalists appeal sentences
The defense lawyer for two Al Jazeera journalists has appealed their seven-year jail sentences.
Mostafa Nagy, lawyer for Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste, said that he had submitted an appeal on Wednesday to Cairo’s appeal court. “Professionally speaking I cannot talk about the reasons behind the appeal, as it is in front of the court now,” said Nagy. He explained that the appeal court has to specify a session to announce whether or not they have accepted the appeal. If the appeals succeed, the defendants will face a retrial. [Ahram Online, 8/20/2014]

Blackouts intensify in Egypt as consumption soars, production lags
The electricity deficit reached approximately 6,180MW on Monday, resulting in power outages for periods exceeding five hours daily, said an official at the ministry of electricity. The electricity crisis faced by Egypt was exacerbated by utilization of fuel oil supplies that failed to meet factory specifications, poor technical conditions within power plants, and widespread failure to conduct regular maintenance and repair operations. Some stations operate at no more than 25 percent of capacity. Top officials in Egypt promised Wednesday to end the rolling blackouts hitting the country in four months. [Ahram Online, DNE, 8/19/2014]

Four beheaded corpses found in Sinai
Four beheaded corpses were found by residents of a town in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Wednesday, security sources said, blaming Islamist militants waging an insurgency against Cairo. Security sources in Sinai and Cairo said residents of Sheikh Zuweid found the bodies two days after gunmen abducted the men a few kilometers from the Gaza Strip. Though the men were civilians, they may have been targeted for their perceived allegiance to the police and army, the sources said. Egyptian troops killed three militant fighters on Tuesday in the Sinai, army sources told Aswat Masriya. Thirty militant suspects were also arrested on Tuesday in raids that took place in Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah. The Egyptian army also said it destroyed eighteen tunnels and arrested five militants in the Sinai on Wednesday. [Reuters, 8/20/2014]


Arab League rejects parliament’s call for foreign intervention
A senior Arab League official has criticized Libya’s House of Representatives’ request for foreign intervention to stem inter-militia fighting, saying Arab countries should solve their problems without recourse to outsiders. The Arab League added, however, that at the most they should only turn to other Arab states for assistance. Meanwhile, the Libyan towns of Nalut and Kabaw in the Jebel Nafusa have announced a boycott of parliament, claiming it is unconstitutional. Given that both towns have large Amazigh (Berber) populations, the boycott is viewed as having largely to do with their grievances over representation rather than the Misratan and Islamist opposition to the body. [Libya Herald, 8/20/2014]

Operation Dawn opponents attack Sebha municipal council
The Sebha municipal council was attacked by armed men, preventing officials from reading a joint statement on the Misratan-led Operation Dawn. Representatives from Misrata and elsewhere had been lobbying Sebha to join them in rejecting the House of Representatives. According to one official, the attackers were members of the Awlad Sulaiman tribe who are opposed to the Operation Dawn campaign. In ongoing violence in Benghazi, one Saiqa special forces member was killed and three others injured in clashes between Saiqa forces and Ansar al-Sharia. [Libya Herald, 8/20/2014]

Libya National Oil Corporation loads first oil in a year from Es Sider port
Libya was set to begin loading its first crude oil tanker from Es Sider, the country’s largest port, on Tuesday following a year-long blockade by eastern federalists, a Libyan oil official and trading sources said. The country’s oil industry is making a modest comeback, restarting production and exports despite the worst violence since the 2011 revolution gripping Tripoli and Benghazi. Output has risen to 562,000 barrels per day (bpd), according to the state-owned National Oil Corporation, although it is still well below its pre-blockade level of around 1.4 million bpd. [Reuters, 8/19/2014]

Libya calls for regional security alliance
Libyan authorities are looking to form joint forces with neighboring countries to secure the border, curb illegal immigration, and stop trafficking of arms and drugs. Interim Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni said last week that his country was working to activate joint unit agreements to stop the security chaos that has plagued Libya since the fall of Qaddafi. “Libya’s neighboring countries have real concerns over the security situation on our soil,” he said. He added that his country would try to repeat the experience of joint forces between Sudan’s armed forces and the Libyan army by signing agreements with Chad, Niger, Tunisia, Algeria, and Egypt. [Magharebia, 8/19/2014]


ISIS video apparently shows execution of American journalist
Militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS or IS) released a video Tuesday that appeared to show the beheading of American journalist James Foley in an act of retribution for US airstrikes on the group in Iraq. The gruesome video, which US intelligence agencies were trying to verify, shows a masked militant, speaking in British-accented English, threatening to kill more Americans in their custody if the US military campaign continued. YouTube has since taken down the video, and online activists are calling for a media blackout campaign against ISIS’ violent imagery. [WSJ, NYT, 8/19/2014]

ISIS attacks major air base in east, last bastion for regime in Raqqa
ISIS fired rockets and tank shells Wednesday at Tabqa air base in northeastern Syria, kicking off a long-anticipated offensive to seize the last position held by the government in Raqqa, a province that is a stronghold of extremists. ISIS fighters have tightened their siege of the sprawling facility in recent days, capturing a string of nearby villages. The air base is one of the most significant government military facilities in the area, containing several warplane squadrons, helicopters, tanks, artillery, and ammunition. Army warplanes conducted airstrikes on suspected militant positions in the nearby town of Tabqa on the Euphrates river, which flows from Turkey through Syria into Iraq. The town is home to al-Furat dam, Syria’s largest, now controlled by ISIS. [AP, 8/20/2014]

Obama hails Syrian chemical stockpile destruction
US President Barack Obama hailed the completion of the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, but said Washington would seek to ensure that Damascus fulfills all its commitments. President Obama said the destruction sent “a clear message that the use of these abhorrent weapons has consequences and will not be tolerated by the international community.” The US will continue to observe Syria closely to ensure that it fulfils its commitment to destroying its remaining chemical weapons. [AFP, 8/20/2014]


Draft anti-terrorism law: adoption of Articles 6 and 7, annulment of Article 5
Deputies voted against Article 5 on the administrative control of former prisoners held for terrorism (only sixty-five votes for), after the rejection of all amendment proposals. Articles 6 and 7 of the draft law were adopted without proposed amendments. Article 6 concerns proceedings against legal persons while Article 7 relates to the exemption of prosecution of any person belonging to a terrorist organization who alerts authorities on planned acts. The session will resume Wednesday afternoon. [TAP, 8/20/2014]

Two loan agreements worth $73.45 million signed
Tunisia and the World Bank signed, Tuesday, two loan agreements worth $73.45 million reimbursable over twenty years, with a five-year grace period. [TAP, 8/19/2014]

Private agricultural investments up twenty percent
Private agricultural investments approved by the Agency for the Promotion of Agricultural Investment (APIA) through July 2014 edged up 20.1 percent compared to the same period in 2013. The total value of these investments climbed to $196 million from $163.3 million in 2013, according to data from APIA. [TAP, 8/20/2014]


Yemeni victims of US military drone strike get more than $1 million in compensation
The Yemeni government paid the families of those killed or injured in a US drone strike last year more than $1 million, according to documents that provide new details on secret payments to civilians with no ties to al-Qaeda. The documents signed by Yemeni court officials and victims’ relatives record payouts designed to quell anger over a US strike that hit vehicles in a wedding party. Officials say that airstrikes on Saturday that reportedly killed five militants in Shabwa were widely described as US drone strikes in media accounts but were carried out by Yemeni aircraft. [Gulf news, 8/19/2014]

CBY Governor says Yemen’s fiscal situation is stable after reforms
Governor of the Central Bank of Yemen Mohammed bin Hamam said the fiscal conditions and banking activity in Yemen is stable mainly due to increasing investors’ trust in the Yemeni rial and increasing demand for foreign currency. According to reports issued by the Central Organization for Statistics, the inflation rate is still below 8 percent. [Yemen Post, 8/20/2014]

Yemen militants gun down tribal leader
Unidentified assailants gunned down a Yemeni tribal leader in Sana’a on Tuesday. The militants opened fire on Sheikh Abdel-Karim al-Dhahab’s car, killing him instantly and injuring two of his companions. Armed tribesmen blocked the street where the shooting occurred to protest al-Dhahab’s murder. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 8/19/2014]

President Hadi’s guards close all roads leading to his house
Yemeni presidential guards closed all streets leading to President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi’s house on Tuesday, including the largest street in Sana’a after Houthis succeeded in mobilizing at least 10,000 unhappy Yemenis in Sana’a on August 18. Local sources say that soldiers are anticipating a mob heading towards the presidents home, although news sources were unable to verify this. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 8/20/2014]


Major aid airlifts to northern Iraq have started
The United Nations announced on Wednesday that humanitarian airlifts to northern Iraq have begun, kicking off a ten-day operation to provide tents and other aid to half a million displaced people. Three more flights are planned in coming days and 175 trucks are scheduled to arrive via Turkey, Jordan, and Iran. [Reuters, 8/20/2014]

Turkish soldier killed in clashes with Kurdish militants
At least one Turkish soldier was killed and another wounded in clashes with Kurdish militants in eastern Turkey as tensions escalated. A group of fighters from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fired at a military border patrol unit near the Iranian border in the eastern province of Van. A Turkish lieutenant was killed, and another soldier was injured in the clash late on Tuesday, according to Turkish media. [Reuters, 8/20/2014]

Germany prepared to send weapons to Iraq’s Kurds
Germany said it is prepared to send arms to Kurdish security forces in northern Iraq fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said military equipment such as helmets and security vests would be sent immediately. Germany announced that France, Italy, and Britain are also prepared to send weapons to the Kurdish security forces. Iran has also announced its support for Iraqi Kurds fighting ISIS, stating that they “have given help with policy and advice to the Iraq government. We have acted in the same manner to Iraqi Kurdistan.” [AFP, 8/20/2014]

Firsthand account of ISIS massacre in Sinjar emerges
Khalof Khodede, an unemployed father of three, recalled how eighty men in the village of Kocho were killed and all the women and girls were kidnapped when ISIS fighters stormed his village. Khodede’s first hand account is one of the first eyewitness reports of the killings that took place in the town of Sinjar. “First they wanted us all to convert to Islam and we said yes just to save our lives. We were all very afraid,” said Khodede from a hospital bed in the town of Dohuk. [Reuters, 8/20/2014]