Top News: Jihadists Seize Key Town on Iraq Border

The jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)—also known as simply Islamic State (IS)—took control of the key Iraqi border town of Albu Kamal on Tuesday after a fierce three-day battle with rival fighters. A spokesman for rebels fighting IS as well as President Bashar Assad’s regime said the jihadists took over the town after pouring in reinforcements from neighboring Iraq.


In June 30 speech, Sisi says Egypt protected Islam from extremism
In a speech marking the first anniversary of the June 30 mass protests that put an end to the rule of former president Mohamed Morsi, president Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi said that on that day, Egypt protected the Arab region and Islam from a destructive plot. June 30 was proof of Egyptians’ ability to unite, he said, proclaiming that the mass protests “brought the dreams and aspirations of Egyptians back to life.” Sisi also promised to retaliate for the two police officers who were killed while trying to defuse makeshift bombs planted near the presidential palace in Cairo on Monday. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, 7/1/2014]

Three Islamist party leaders arrested for Ittihadiya bombing
A statement by the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy (NASL) said on Tuesday that security forces arrested three leaders of Islamist political parties. The NASL issued a statement condemning the arrests and calling for mass protests on July 3 to break what they described as a military coup that removed the Islamist president from power. According to Aswat Masriya, the arrests come in direct response to the Ittihadiya bombings on Monday that left two police officers dead. The militant group Ajnad Misr claimed responsibility for the blasts. The April 6 Youth Movement held the minister of interior responsible for the attacks, and called for his removal. Major General Abdel Fattah Osman, the interior minister’s assistant for information and relations, said the minister has referred the bombing incident to the Inspection and Supervision Department of the ministry. [Ahram Online, 7/1/2014]

Egypt prepares for EGP 44 billion fuel subsidy cuts in new fiscal year
No time has been set to hike Egypt’s fuel prices, the finance minister announced yesterday in an effort to appease the public while revealing a budget containing large subsidy cuts. The ratified budget features a EGP 44 billion cut in the planned subsidy bill to record EGP 100.2 billion in the new fiscal year set to start on today.[Ahram Online, 6/30/2014]

Egypt is ready to play political role in Iraq, says foreign ministry
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said Egypt is willing to do its utmost to communicate with parties in Iraq to contain the crisis and preserve the country’s unity. In a press conference on Sunday, Shoukry was cited by state-run MENA as saying that Egypt is always ready to play a political role in events in Iraq. [DNE, 6/30/2014]


Gunmen kidnap leading Libyan Islamist party figure
Gunmen kidnapped a leading member of Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Justice and Construction Party, according to a party spokesman. No group has claimed responsibility for the abduction, but kidnappings for political coercion have become increasingly common in Libya, where violent political struggle has escalated. The spokesman quoted witnesses as saying the abductors were driving military police vehicles. [Reuters, 6/30/2014]

Government decides to legalize firearms
The interior ministry has decided to allow individuals to own arms and ammunition and plans to issue gun and explosives licenses to ordinary citizens, in an effort by authorities to control gun ownership. Under the plan, anyone applying for permission to possess arms must demonstrate good conduct, be of sound mind, with good eyesight, and be twenty-one years of age and over. They cannot have been convicted and imprisoned for assault on a person or property, nor of drug trafficking, drug possession, theft, or any armed crime. Licenses will be issued in January 2015 and automatically voided if the conditions are violated. [Libya Herald, 6/30/2014]

General Haftar does U-turn on Turkish workers
Mohammad Hejazi, the spokesman for the Operation Dignity forces under retired General Khalifa Haftar, has said that last week’s ultimatum to Turks to leave eastern Libya was not intended for all of them. Just over a week ago, Haftar ordered Turks and Qataris to leave the country, claiming that there were spies among them. Now, they are calling specifically upon Turkish construction companies to provide lists of staff members’ names so they are allowed to return. The U-turn is seen as a realization of the damage caused by the ultimatum, as several projects, including the new Khalij power station on which as many as 400 Turks were working, ground to a halt. There has been no change in the position regarding Qataris. [Libya Herald, 6/30/2014]


Jihadists seize key town on Iraq border
The jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)—also known as simply Islamic State (IS)—took control of the key Iraqi border town of Albu Kamal on Tuesday after a fierce three-day battle with rival fighters. A spokesman for rebels fighting IS as well as President Bashar Assad’s regime said the jihadists took over the town after pouring in reinforcements from neighboring Iraq, where they have seized chunks of territory in a swift offensive. [AFP, 7/1/2014]

Russia seeks UN ban on Syrian terrorist oil sales; France responds
Russia urged UN Security Council members Monday to back a draft statement to bar crude oil sales by “terrorist groups” in Syria, including as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham and Nusra Front. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Monday that ISIS sells oil from captured areas in Iraq and Syria to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an ally of Moscow. [AFP, 7/1/2014]

ISIS locks down Raqqa, increasing imports of heavy weaponry
Activists in Raqqa, a stronghold of ISIS, said Monday the jihadists have locked down the city and are shipping in new weapons, including missiles from Iraq. “All roads leading in and out of Raqqa city have been closed. Nobody can enter or leave Raqqa at all right now,” said Hadi Salameh. Images shared by activists showed a large missile mounted on a military vehicle in broad daylight amid a parade of heavy machine guns, tanks, armored vehicles, US-made Humvees, and artillery cannons. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported the influx of arms. [AFP, 7/1/2014]


Bomb blast wounds six Tunisian security force members
Six members of the Tunisian security forces were wounded when a military vehicle drove over an improvised explosive device Tuesday in the mountainous Kef region near the Algerian border, the interior ministry said. Four National Army soldiers and two National Guard officers were wounded. The military vehicle was on a sweeping operation of a mountain in the region of Kef, part of a campaign to root out remaining elements of a terrorist group. Since late 2012, security forces have been battling jihadists hiding out in the remote western region. [AFP, Tunisia Live, TAP, 7/1/2014]

Loan guarantee agreement between Tunisia and United States passed
The National Constituent Assembly (NCA) passed the loan guarantee agreement signed on June 3, 2014, between Tunisia and the United States. The agreement will allow Tunisia to access up to $500 million (825 MTD) in affordable financing from international capital markets. Tunisia will benefit from favorable rates lower than those on the international markets, after downgrading its sovereign rate. Secretary of State for Development and International Cooperation Noureddine Zekri also announced that tax reform is at an advanced stage and could be completed by late 2014. [TAP, 6/30/2014]

Marzouki visits Sahel seeking investment opportunities
Tunisia signed thirty-five economic and cooperative agreements during a four-country Africa tour led by interim President Moncef Marzouki. A group of roughly one hundred businessmen and representatives from economic organizations accompanied Marzouki on the trip, which included visits to Mali, Niger, Chad, and Gabon. The visits aimed to support Tunisian investments in Africa, according to presidential economic advisor Anis Jaziri. The agreements covered a number of topics, including energy, geology, health, higher education, environmental protection, tourism, agriculture, and traditional industries. [Tunisia Live, 6/30/2014]


Workers strike against Norwegian oil company enters its tenth day in Hadhramawt
A workers strike against DNO, a Norwegian oil company, entered its tenth day. Sources say the company owes the workers more than $700 in salaries. Workers threatened to sue the company unless they receive their salaries. DNO reported losing one billion Yemeni riyals since the strike started, noting that the losses in the past ten days could have covered the employees’ salaries for the next twenty-five years. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 7/1/2014]

Houthi rebels renege on promise to hand over territory in Hamdan governorate
Houthi rebels refused to hand over territory in Hamdan to the Yemeni army for the third time. Their refusal came after their representatives agreed to hand over the territory to the Yemeni army in a meeting that was held on June 29. In related news, clashes continued between Houthi rebels and the Yemeni army outside of Aden. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 7/1/2014, Sahafa (Arabic), 7/1/2014]

Yemeni coast guard captures ship carrying forty-two African nationals
The Yemeni coast guard seized a boat smuggling forty-two African nationals into Yemen. The people aboard the ship were arrested and taken to the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The boat’s captain was arrested on human trafficking charges. [Saba (Arabic), 7/1/2014]


Sunnis and Kurds walk out of Iraqi parliament, as 200 more US troops sent to Iraq
Sunnis and Kurds walked out of the first session of the Iraqi Parliament on Tuesday, obstructing the formation of a new government in the face of the onslaught by Sunni militants. Leaders from the Kurds and the Sunnis did not come back into parliament after a short recess was announced merely a half an hour into the session. For his part, President Barack Obama has authorized another 200 US troops to secure the US Embassy in Iraq as well as Baghdad’s international airport. These developments come as the United Nations announced that more than 2,400 Iraqis, most of them civilians, were killed in June, due to the continuing onslaught by Sunni militants. [NY Times, 7/1/2014]

Independence referendum planned for Kurdistan
Massud Barzani declared that Iraq’s Kurds will hold an independence referendum within months, arguing that the time was right for a vote as Iraq was already effectively partitioned. Mr. Barzani stated in an interview for the BBC, “Everything that’s happened recently shows that it’s the right of Kurdistan to achieve independence.” Turkey, announced that it was against Iraq’s Kurdistan region splitting away from Baghdad, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for independence for Iraq’s Kurdistan region. [BBC, 7/1/2014]

Saudi pledges $500 million in aid for Iraq, as new Head of Intelligence is appointed
Saudi Arabia pledged $500 million in humanitarian aid for Iraq on Tuesday, to be disbursed through the United Nations to those in need regardless of sect or ethnicity, state media reported. The pledge came even after Maliki has accused the kingdom of supporting terrorism in Iraq. Separately, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has appointed Prince Khaled bin Bandar as head of intelligence three months after his predecessor was sacked. [Naharnet, 7/1/2014]