Top News: Libya in New Crisis as Islamist ‘Terrorists’ Seize Airport

Islamist militias openly challenged the legitimacy of the Libyan parliament after announcing their seizure of Tripoli airport, plunging Libya into a deeper political crisis. The militias said the House of Representatives had lost its legitimacy. The parliament fired back, calling the groups “terrorists” and asserting that it will deal with the “legitimate target” through regular armed forces.





Egypt’s electoral alliances leave leftist forces divided, Nour will wait
In a meeting with leftist and liberal political activists on August 19, Egypt’s 2014 presidential candidate and high profile Nasserist politician Hamdeen Sabbahi left no doubt that he is firmly against the Egyptian Front electoral alliance, officially launched August 17 by the defunct National Democratic Party (NDP). In reaction, several leftist and Nasserist forces announced they reject Sabbahi’s remarks about the Egyptian Front. Joining forces with the Tagammu Party, the Arab Nasserist Democratic Party issued a statement in support of President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, charging Sabbahi’s Karama and Popular Current with slandering the army. Meanwhile, the Salafi Nour Party decided after a meeting of the party’s supreme body that it will not commit to an electoral coalition until district lines are drawn, announced chairman Younis Makhioun on Saturday. [Ahram Online, DNE, 8/25/2014]

Egypt court sentence five defendants to death for terrorism and church attack
The Giza Criminal Court referred five defendants in the “October Cell” case to Egypt’s Grand Mufti on Saturday, asking him to consider sentencing them to death for managing a “terrorist cell” and killing a policeman. The five defendants were arrested for opening fire on the Virgin Mary Church in October 6 City on January 28. The shooting left one policeman, sergeant Mohamed Taha Sayed, dead and another injured. The court said on Saturday that it would issue its final verdict for the case on September 20. The men were accused of establishing and managing a terrorist organisation with the purpose of halting state institutions’ activities, forcibly toppling the ruling regime, attacking security forces and endangering society. The prosecutor general also charged them with premeditated murder and attempted murder. [Ahram Online, DNE, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, 8/23/2014]

North African ministers in Cairo for Libya crisis talks
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry met early Monday with his Libyan, Algerian, and Tunisian counterparts to discuss the situation in Libya. Shoukry`s fourth meeting with the ministers was called to help find ways to calm the current turmoil in Libya and discuss the formation of a new government. Shoukry said the escalation of violence in Libya threatens the entire region with spillover effects. Egypt’s foreign ministry also strongly condemned the execution of Egyptian citizen Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed by a Libyan militia in Derna. Libyan militant group Fajr Libya, which reportedly seized Tripoli’s airport on Saturday, accused Egypt and the UAE of launching two air raids against the group’s forces over the past week. Egypt’s foreign ministry on Sunday denied the allegations, while president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, in a meeting with newspapers’ chief editors, denied that Egypt has conducted any military operations outside its borders. [Ahram Online, AP, The Guardian, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 8/25/2014]

Foreign partners demand Egypt government repays dues before increasing investments
Foreign companies operating in the oil sector have linked increasing their investments to their payment from the Egyptian government, in light of the government’s failure to keep to the repayment schedule that was previously agreed upon. According to an official at one of these foreign companies, the Egyptian government has no choice but to pay its dues if it wants an increase in investments within the sector, which would lead to an increase in oil and gas production rates. Dues to foreign companies operating in the oil sector have increased by $300 million, while the government’s inability to pay such an amount- even as it repays small portions of its debt- has led to an accumulation of the total debt to an estimated $6 billion. [DNE, 8/23/2014]


Libya in new crisis as Islamist ‘terrorists’ seize airport
Islamist militias openly challenged the legitimacy of the Libyan parliament after announcing their seizure of Tripoli airport, plunging Libya into a deeper political crisis. The militias said the House of Representatives had lost its legitimacy. The parliament fired back, calling the groups “terrorists” and asserting that it will deal with the “legitimate target” through regular armed forces. Fajr Libya is a coalition of Islamist militias, mainly from Misrata, while Ansar al-Sharia, which Washington also brands a terrorist group, controls around 80 percent of Benghazi. [AFP, 8/24/2014]

War planes attack Libyan capital again
Unidentified war planes attacked targets in Libya’s capital Tripoli on Sunday, hours after forces from the city of Misrata said they had seized the main airport. Tripoli residents heard jets followed by explosions at dawn but no more details were immediately available. The Misratan-led Operation Dawn accused Egypt and the Emirates of being behind the airstrikes on Islamist positions, but Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi denied the reports. [Reuters, 8/24/2014]

Rockets target airport in eastern town of Libya
Libya’s ambassador in Egypt called on the international community to help protect Libya’s oilfields, airports, and other key installations, as the state is too weak to stop the inter-militia fighting. The plea came as attackers fired Grad rockets at Labraq airport in eastern Libya, targeting one of the country’s few functioning air hubs. Labraq, east of Benghazi, has become a major gateway into Libya since Egypt and Tunisia canceled almost all flights to Tripoli and the west of the country last week, citing security reasons. [Reuters, 8/25/2014]

Libya gets new chief of staff to tackle militia threat
The House of Representatives named a new military chief of staff tasked with tackling armed militias that control vast areas the country. Colonel Abdel Razzak Nadhuri was chosen by 88 out of 124 members of parliament present and promoted to the rank of general, according to a House spokesman. Nadhuri will replace General Abdessalam Jadallah al-Abidi, who was grilled by parliament earlier this month regarding the army’s inability to restore law and order in the two major cities of Tripoli and Benghazi. [AFP, 8/25/2014]


ISIS captures Taqba air base; Regime faces backlash in Damascus
The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS or Islamic State) captured a major air base in the northeastern province of Raqqa, driving regime forces from their last foothold in Raqqa and gaining full control of an entire province for the first time in the country’s civil war. The loss of the air base triggered a wave of anger among many Assad supporters, particularly members of his own minority Alawite sect, who blamed military and security leaders for abandoning the fight and leaving many soldiers to a brutal fate. ISIS fighters were seen parading in the town of Tabqa with the severed heads of soldiers killed at the air base. “The Alawite fury has exploded,” said an Alawite army officer based in the capital Damascus. “You can kiss goodbye any remaining confidence in the military leadership.” [WSJ, NYT, Al Jazeera, 8/25/2014]

US hostage held by Nusra is freed after nearly two years
Held for nearly two years in a prison run by an affiliate of al-Qaeda in Syria, an American freelance writer was unexpectedly freed on Sunday, following extensive mediation by Qatar, which has successfully negotiated the release of numerous Western hostages in exchange for multimillion-dollar ransoms. Relatives of the freed hostage, Peter Theo Curtis said that while they were not privy to the exact terms, they were told that no ransom had been paid. [NYT, 8/23/2014]

Damascus wants coordination in any air strikes on ISIS in Syria
The regime said on Monday it must be involved in coordinating any air strikes against ISIS militants in Syria, after the United States said it was considering extending the fight against Islamic State into Syrian territory. Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said, “Anything outside this [cooperation] is considered aggression.” Moualem, who declared that Syria would work with any country to combat ISIS, added that air strikes alone would not be adequate to uproot the militant group. [Reuters, 8/25/2014]

British intelligence reportedly identify Foley’s killer
Various media reported Sunday that MI5 and MI6 have identified the British fighter suspected of murdering journalist James Foley. The ISIS militant who appeared in the gruesome video is heard speaking in a British accent. Early speculation has centered on the international jihadist Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, infamous for his former amateur music career, though a UK intelligence source suggested to NBC news that “rampant media speculation about the identity of the killer may be off base.” Eliot Higgins, more commonly known by his blogging moniker Brown Moses, believes he has pinpointed the location, on the outskirts of Raqqa, where Foley was executed. [Sunday Times, NPR, 8/24/2014]


Police kill two women in tense region of Tunisia
Police killed two young women in a tense region of Tunisia early Saturday, mistaking them for members of an armed group, the interior ministry and a relative said. An internal security patrol was in Kasserine, in central-western Tunisia, “after a citizen supplied information about an armed group heading for the town,” the ministry said in a statement. “A car went past at high speed” and ignored warning signals and shots in the air. “It carried on, causing the officers to open fire, wounding two young women in the car who later died,” the statement said. Ashraf Hendiri, a cousin of the women, was also in the car and said the driver refused to stop, fearing the people by the road were “terrorists.” [AFP, 8/23/2014]

Nidaa Tounes suspends Faouzi Elloumi after Essebsi criticism
Nidaa Tounes froze Faouzi Elloumi’s membership in the party’s executive board Thursday. The decision came two days after Elloumi alleged that the party’s presidential candidate, Beji Caid Essebsi, chose his son, Hafedh Caid Essebsi, to head the party’s electoral list in Tunis 1 without consulting the district’s party members. The party refuted Elloumi’s claims in a communique published on the party’s official Facebook page. On Friday, Hafedh Caid-Essebsi announced his decision to withdraw from the forthcoming legislative elections. [Tunisia Live, 8/22/2014]

Departure tax deferred to October 2014
The government has decided to postpone the application of the thirty-dinar departure tax for foreign nationals initially scheduled for August 28 to October 2014. The government has asked to defer the implementation of this tax to avoid any “disruption during the departure of tourists from Tunisia at the end of the high tourist season.” The 30-dinar tax for nonresident foreigners in Tunisia was established under Article 36 of the supplementary Finance Act for 2014. [TAP, 8/25/2014]

Six million energy saving lamps to be distributed
Some six million energy saving lamps will be distributed for free beginning in 2015, said an official of the National Agency for Energy Management (ANME). The initiative targets families whose consumption is below 200 kW per month, particularly in rural areas. [TAP, 8/24/2014]


Donor pledges for Yemen increase to $8.2 billion
Yemen recently recorded a 3 percent increase in financial pledges from foreign donors, bringing the total to $8.2 billion, at a time when officials anticipate an increase in the rate of fund allocation. New pledges came from Germany ($100 million), the UK ($90 million), the US ($41 million), Japan ($36.5 million) and Sweden ($12 million) [Al-Shorfa, 8/25/2014]

Yemen government talks with Houthis fail
Talks on forming a new Yemeni government collapsed on Sunday. The government offered on Saturday to resign within a month to pave the way for a technocrat administration that would review the fuel subsidy issue, but officials said Houthis demanded an immediate reinstatement of the subsidies. Rival demonstrations took place in Sana’a on Sunday by Houthi loyalists and supporters of the president. Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) rescheduled its meeting on Yemen to August 29 as the special adviser to the secretary-general on Yemen, Jamal Benomar, is still holding extensive consultations with political forces in the country. The meeting was originally scheduled for August 25. [Al Arabiya, 8/24/2014]

Yemen, Tunisia sign memorandum for cooperation in energy field
Yemen and Tunisia signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation between the two countries in the field of energy. The memorandum of understanding included the cooperation and exchange of expertise in renewable energy sources, encouraging the establishment of joint companies and encouraging joint investment by the private sector in both countries in this field. [Saba, 8/24/2014]

Senior Yemeni army commander killed in car explosion
A high-ranking commander of the Yemeni armed forces was killed on Saturday when a bomb attached to his car went off in Aden. Brigadier Omari worked as director of the military supply unit in the 3rd Regional Military Command stationed in Shabwa and Marib. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Yemeni military officials blamed al-Qaeda. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 8/25/2014]


Iraq urges global action against ISIS as car bombs target Baghdad
On Monday, a suicide bomber attacked Shia worshipers during prayers in eastern Baghdad, killing eleven people. The attack comes three days after suspected Shia militiamen killed seventy Sunni worshipers at a mosque northeast of the capital. Politically, Iraq’s Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abadi called on the international community to join the ongoing effort in destroying the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Abadi’s call came as he met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, during which he announced that the presence of ISIS in Iraq “requires regional and international efforts to exterminate this terrorist organization.” [Naharnet, NY Times, 8/25/2014]

Iraqi Kurds retake villages captured by ISIS
Kurdish forces backed by Iraqi air support retook three villages in the Jalawla area in Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, as well as a main road used by jihadists to transport fighters and supplies. On Monday, north of Diyala, the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) launched two assaults on the Shia Turkmen town of Tuz Khurmatu, but both attacks were beaten back by Kurdish forces supported by Iraqi aircrafts. [AFP, 8/25/2014]

Iranian minister on landmark visit to Saudi Arabia
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hussain Amir-Abdollahian arrived in Riyadh on Monday in the first visit made by a senior Iranian government official to Saudi Arabia since June 2013 election of President Hassan Rouhani. The deputy is expected to meet Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal to discuss the growing threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in the region. [Gulf News, 8/25/2014]

Arab ministers meet in Saudi Arabia to discuss ISIS
Arab foreign ministers held a meeting in Saudi Arabia on Sunday to discuss the Syrian conflict and the rise of extremism in the region. The closed-door talks were held in Jeddah and were attended by the foreign ministers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and an advisor to Jordan’s foreign minister. The foreign ministers discussed the Syrian conflict and the rise the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The ministers reportedly agreed on “the need to seriously work to deal with these crises and challenges to preserve security and stability in Arab countries.” [AFP, 8/24/2014]