Top News: Libyan Prime Minister Quits After One Month

On Sunday, interim Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinnni resigned after one month, saying gunmen had tried to attack his family. The General National Congress (GNC) will have to recognize Thinni’s resignation. They are scheduled to do so at the next GNC session on Tuesday. Thinni was appointed as interim prime minister in March after former Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was voted out of office after he failed to end a standoff with rebels over oil. [Reuters, 4/13/2014]



Cairo court officially rules Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis a terrorist organization
On Monday the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters ruled the Sinai-based militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABAM)  a terrorist organization, compelling the Egyptian government to uphold the decision. The military spokesman’s office said the approach to fighting ABAM would not change, but the punishments for captured militants would be more severe. He added that lethal force would be used against militants if necessary. The court decision comes less than a week after the United States formally designated ABAM a terrorist group. [DNE, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 4/14/2014]

Minister: preventing summer blackouts in Egypt is “impossible”
Egypt’s minister of electricity and renewable energy said that the government will not be able to prevent power cuts this summer, an acknowledgment of the severe energy crunch facing the most populous Arab country. “Eliminating blackouts and reducing loads this summer is impossible,” Mohamed Shaker said. Shaker said the government would try to “reduce to the lowest level possible” but acknowledged that the problem would take “a few years” to resolve. [Reuters, 4/12/2014]

Sound bomb explodes at Qena hospital shortly before arrival of health minister
A sound bomb exploded on Saturday near a hospital in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Qena, minutes before the health minister was due to arrive. Health Minister Adel Adawy’s scheduled appearance was for a ceremony announcing the opening of the hospital to the public. The bomb was thrown from outside the hospital fence and into the grounds. The explosion produced a loud blast of noise that caused minor injuries to a hospital employee but no damages to the building, according to eyewitnesses who spoke with Al-Ahram. [Ahram Online, DNE, Mada Masr, 4/12/2014]

Amnesty International urges Egypt president to annul anti-terrorism laws
Amnesty International issued a statement on Friday denouncing a counter-terrorism law drafted by the Egyptian government, saying that it must be scrapped or fundamentally revised. According to the statement, the draft law has expanded the existing definition of terrorism to include actions that try to damage national unity, natural resources and monuments, as well as aiming to hinder the work of judicial, regional and international bodies and diplomatic and consular missions in Egypt. [Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, 4/12/2014]


Petrol supply in the west resumes as Zawia blockade ends
On Sunday, the National Oil Corporation (NOC) said that the blockade at Zawia oil terminal, which sparked fears of petrol shortages in Tripoli and many towns in the west of the country, ended and that normal supply is expected to resume shortly. On Saturday, protesters demonstrating against the GNC blockaded Zawia oil terminal, which prevented workers from unloading tankers waiting in the port. The road from Tripoli to Zawia closed Sunday evening, however, due to the kidnapping of an interior ministry employee who lives in the district. [Tripoli Post, 4/13/2014]

Fair trial concerns emerge for ex-Qaddafi officials
The trial of thirty-seven mostly Qaddafi-era officials accused of serious crimes during Libya’s 2011 uprising raises serious due process concerns, Human Rights Watch said on Monday. Concerns about the trial include the defendants’ limited access to lawyers and key documents on the evidence against them. The defendants in the trial include Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, a son of Muammar Qaddafi, as well as well as Abdullah Sanussi, the Qaddafi-era intelligence chief. Saif al-Islam Qaddafi and Sanussi are also implicated in cases at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of crimes against humanity for their alleged role in trying to suppress the uprising. Libya has failed to turn Saif al-Islam Qaddafi over to the ICC. [All Africa, 4/14/2014]


Army retakes Christian town; Assad says war turning in his favor
Syrian troops fighting alongside Hezbollah militants retook the ancient Christian town of Maalula from rebels Monday, a day after President Bashar al-Assad said the three-year old civil war was turning in his favor. Maalula’s capture comes after a string of successes in the strategic Qalamun region, including the seizure of the former rebel bastion of Yabrud last month. The regime has prioritized capturing the area to protect the highway linking Damascus to Homs that runs through the region, as well as to sever rebel supply lines across the border with Lebanon. Addressing graduate students and staff of the political science department in Damascus University, Assad “pointed out that there is a turning point in the crisis in Syria in terms of the continuous military achievements… by the army and armed forces in the war against terror and in… terms of national reconciliation,” the state news agency reported. [4/14/2014, AFP]

Torture routinely used in Syria, says UN rights chief
The UN’s human rights chief on Monday condemned the “routine” use of torture in Syrian detention facilities, as a new report said victims were raped, beaten, and had their teeth and toenails pulled out. Detainees arriving at government detention facilities were “routinely beaten and humiliated for several hours by guards in what has come to be known as the ‘reception party’,” the report said. Investigators also found that several armed groups, including the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Nusra Front, had used torture against men, women, and children. The UN rights chief said torturers must be brought to justice and victims given treatment and fair compensation. [The Daily Star, 4/14/2014]

Chemicals shipped out of Syria as rebels accuse regime of chlorine gas attack
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) says a consignment of chemicals was shipped out of Latakia port Monday, bringing to just over 65 percent the amount of Syria’s stockpile removed from the country. The news comes as opposition activists post photographs and video that they say shows an improvised chlorine bomb to back up claims that President Bashar al-Assad’s forces used chemical weapons in two attacks last week. Rebels and the government have blamed each other for the alleged poison gas attacks on Friday and Saturday on rebel-held Kfar Zeita village. Though the OPCW head called the latest handover encouraging, he added “both the frequency and volumes of deliveries have to increase significantly” to meet Syria’s June 30 deadline, currently several weeks behind schedule. [The Daily Star, 4/14/2014]


UGTT Union nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has accepted the nomination of the UGTT union for the peace prize. UGTT was nominated the presidents of four Tunisian universities following the adoption of the new constitution in January 2014. The UGTT was one of four civil society organizations that helped broker political negotiations helped end months of political deadlock following the assassination of two politicians in 2013. [Tunisia Live, 4/14/2014]

Switzerland to return Ben Ali assets to Tunisia
Swiss officials will return 40 million dollars in funds held by the family of former Tunisia president Zine el-Abdine Ben Ali. The funds are currently frozen in Switzerland’s banks. The transfer of the funds is possible due to cooperation from the new interim government. The funds were originally frozen in 2011 after Tunisian authorities claimed that the money was gained through corrupt means and requested legal assistance. A total of $68.5 million was frozen and $28.5 remain frozen. [Tunisia Live, 4/14/2014]

Court orders release of former Ben Ali officials
A Tunisian military court has ordered the release of Zine el-Abdine Ben Ali’s former interior minister Rafik Bel Haj Kalem and security chief Ali Seriati. Both were jailed after the country’s revolution in 2011 and accused of repressing protesters during the uprising. Their release may fuel tensions throughout the country. The court ruled that the men could be freed after they finished serving their three-year sentences. [Asharq Al-Awsat, 4/13/2014]

Economy to be worse in 2015 according to the government
A government spokesman has warned that Tunisia’s economic situation is likely to become even more difficult between now and 2015. According to the same spokesperson, the money that Tunisia has borrowed in recent years has not been used for investment but rather to pay salaries and subsidies. At the same time, concerns have emerged over the rise in the country’s trade deficit. [Tunisia Live, 4/11/2014]


Hadi denounces Houthis
President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi accused the Houthis of working with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh in order to abort the National Dialogue Conference (NDC). The remarks apparently came during meetings with representatives of Socotra and Mahra provinces. Hadi accused the Houthis of attempting to derail the NDC, and having failed that effort have now resorted to “other attempts” to derail the political process, clearly pointing to the expanding conflict in the north. [Al-Masdar (Arabic), 4/14/2014]

Thousands march against Yemen government
Thousands of Yemenis staged fresh rallies on Sunday in the capital Sanaa, demanding the formation of a new national unity government. Demonstrators marched to the finance ministry headquarters, shouting slogans accusing the government of failing to provide security amid continuing attacks on security officials. They also called on the government to guarantee the provisions of basic goods and services, especially petroleum and diesel fuel. In a statement, the February 11 Movement protest organizers urged donor countries to suspend aid to the incumbent government, accusing the latter of corruption. [World Bulletin, 4/14/2014]

Hadi announces inauguration of Mukalla as capital of Hadramawt region
Following a meeting over the weekend with leaders from Mahra and Socotra provinces, President Hadi announced the inauguration of Mukalla as the capital of Hadramawt region to be held on April 30. Hadi’s meeting included former governors, youth representatives, and other civil society advocates. The representatives voiced political demands concerning the internal and external border of the province, as well as issues concerning development. Hadi in turn, pointed to expert opinions regarding the efficiency and benefits of the six-region federal system. [Al-Masdar (Arabic), 4/14/2014]

Benomar reportedly to assist in peace efforts in Hadramawt
UN Special Envoy Jamal Benomar will assist the Yemeni government in negotiation with the Hadramawt Tribal Alliance, a Saudi newspaper reports. The government and the tribesmen have been at loggerheads since the December 2013 killing of a sheikh and his guards at a security checkpoint. An arbitration agreement promised a billion rials to the tribes, the alliance’s spokesman claims that not only has the money not been delivered, but the people of Hadramawt’s “legitimate demands” have not been addressed. [Mareb Press, 4/14/2014]


Deadly virus’s spread raises alarms in Mideast
Saudi Arabia on Sunday confirmed a surge of cases of the deadly MERS virus in the kingdom over the past two weeks, even as it tried to counter criticism that it wasn’t doing enough to contain the outbreak. The majority of cases have occurred in Saudi Arabia. Authorities have confirmed other cases as far afield as Europe, all of which were believed linked to the Middle East. Yemen’s government on Sunday said it confirmed the first known case there. [Wall Street Journal, 4/13/2014]

Kuwait opposition calls for full democracy
Kuwait’s opposition called for broad democratic reforms including a Western-style party system to limit the powers of the country’s ruling family. The call came in a “national political reform program,” launched by the Opposition Coalition in the state where political parties are banned. The coalition represents almost all opposition political groups, from Islamists to liberals to youth activists and civil society groups. The program proposes fundamental political, constitutional and legislative reforms to achieve a multi-party system and prevent members of the Al Sabah family, in power for over 250 years, from leading the government. The reforms call for amending 36 provisions of the constitution to restrict the wide powers held by the emir through a unique combination of presidential and parliamentary systems. [Gulf News, 4/12/2014]

Sadrists deny coalition talks
Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi commented that his Wataniya bloc was in talks with al-Ahrar coalition–led by the Sadrist Movement—and the Citizen bloc—led by the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, to form a wide coalition following the elections in an effort to topple incumbent Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Though Allawi’s Wataniya is staunchly secular, the Citizen and al-Ahrar coalitions both represent significant populations of Iraqi Sunni. However, despite the potential of this unlikely partnership the Ahrar bloc has denied such talks, calling them “premature.” [Asharq al-Awsat, 4/14/2014]

Accusations close out Algeria election campaign
Campaigning for Thursday’s presidential election in Algeria ends Sunday after incumbent Abdelaziz Bouteflika accused his only real rival, Ali Benflis, of inciting violence by warning about election fraud. The seventy-seven year-old Bouteflika, despite ailing health and not even appearing in person on the campaign trail, remains favorite to win a fourth term in the April 17 vote in the North African nation. Late Saturday, Bouteflika made a rare television appearance—only his second since campaigning began—to accuse the man who was once his prime minister of fomenting violence. He accused him of “terrorism via the television,” in reference to warnings Benflis, the former premier, made against electoral fraud. [The Daily Star, 4/14/2014]