Top News: One Hundred Bodies Wash Up at Libyan Coastal Town

As many as 100 bodies, presumably of sub-Saharan boat migrants, washed up near the Libyan city of Tajoura. The bodies are believed to be victims of a shipwreck off the western coastal town, east of Tripoli. Tajoura is known as a departure spot for Europe-bound boat migrants. Women and children are said to be among the dead, but authorities have not confirmed the exact number of bodies found or their nationalities yet. Officials are sending the bodies to a Tripoli hospital. If the number of dead is confirmed, this would be the biggest migrant tragedy since April 18, when 850 people perished in a single shipwreck off Libya. Tragedies have become less frequent since May, following a decision by European Union leaders to expand search and rescue efforts. [All Africa/ News 24 Wire, 7/14/2015]



Egypt renews call for a WMD-free Middle East following Iran deal
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs hopes that the nuclear deal signed by six leading world powers and Iran earlier Tuesday will put an end to the arms race in the region and help to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, in the Middle East. In a short statement issued on its official Facebook page, the foreign ministry said it “hopes the deal would prevent an arms race in the Middle East, clear it from any weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, and lead to peace and stability in the region.” [Ahram Online, Reuters, SIS, 7/14/2015]

Sisi Says Al-Azhar Has failed to renew Islamic discourse
President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi has accused Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb and other clerics of failing to develop Egypt’s religious discourse. “You are the one responsible for religious discourse, and God will ask me whether I am satisfied [with your performance] or not,” Sisi said of Tayeb on Tuesday. “The role of clerics is not to give speeches in mosques, but to spread peace among humanity,” Sisi added. The president also renewed a pledge to hold parliamentary elections before the end of this year. He called for caution when transmitting news and information, saying that accuracy must be ensured to preserve the high spirits of citizens and security and military personnel. Sisi defended laws he recently passed, saying they aim to achieve the will of the Egyptians, granting immunity to the state, and preserving its position and its institutions. He also said they aim to prevent schemes aimed at discouraging citizens and shaking the stability of the country. Among those laws is a decree that allows the president to dismiss heads and members of independent bodies and regulatory authorities. The Democratic Coalition, which contains eight liberal and leftist parties, rejected the decree and called on Sisi to withdraw it. [DNE, Ahram Online, 7/15/2015]

Suspected suicide bomber killed near military base says Egyptian Army
In a statement on Wednesday, the armed forces said it had killed a suspected suicide bomber on the Katameya-Suez road. He was on his way to a military base to detonate the bomb, the statement added. The car was reportedly detonated near a checkpoint. Egypt’s Islamic State affiliate, the Sinai State (previously known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis), claimed responsibility for the attack. The authenticity of Sinai State’s statement and photos could not be verified. Meanwhile, twenty militants were also killed and twenty-five injured as security forces repelled an attack on a checkpoint in North Sinai on Wednesday. A mortar shell also reportedly targeted a military vehicle in Sheikh Zuweid late Tuesday, killing one military personnel, military sources said. According to separate reports, seven militants were killed and thirteen arrested in raids on Tuesday in Sheikh Zuweid. Finally, Egypt’s cabinet decided on Tuesday to shorten the curfew hours imposed in North Sinai to allow residents to perform Eid al-Fitr prayers on time. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 7/15/2015]

Egypt’s military court acquits twenty-three Morsi supporters
A Cairo military court acquitted twenty-three Morsi supporters on charges of illegal protesting and riots on Tuesday. The twenty-three Morsi supporters were arrested during a protest in the Roxi area of Heliopolis in 2014. The defendants were accused of illegal protesting, rioting, assaulting security personnel, and blocking traffic. [Ahram Online, 7/15/2015]

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One hundred bodies wash up at Libyan coastal town
As many as 100 bodies, presumably of sub-Saharan boat migrants, washed up near the Libyan city of Tajoura. The bodies are believed to be victims of a shipwreck off the western coastal town, east of Tripoli. Tajoura is known as a departure spot for Europe-bound boat migrants. Women and children are said to be among the dead, but authorities have not confirmed the exact number of bodies found or their nationalities yet. Officials are sending the bodies to a Tripoli hospital. If the number of dead is confirmed, this would be the biggest migrant tragedy since April 18, when 850 people perished in a single shipwreck off Libya. Tragedies have become less frequent since May, following a decision by European Union leaders to expand search and rescue efforts. [All Africa/ News 24 Wire, 7/14/2015]

Zintan, Zawia, Rujban strike peace deal
In the latest in a series of local peace deals, elders from Zintan, Zawia, and Rujban agreed to an immediate ceasefire and a mutual withdrawal of fighters. The agreement was concluded this afternoon at a meeting in Bir Ghanem. It contained a pledge never to attack each other. It also provided for an end to arrests at checkpoints. It was further agreed that rival fighters would not be pursued, except for those suspected of criminal activity. [Libya Herald, 7/14/2015]

Libya has world’s fifth most inefficient government
A recent index produced by the World Economic Forum (WEF) claims that Libya has the world’s fifth least-efficient government ranking only above Argentina, Italy, Lebanon, and Venezuela. The index, part of the WEF’s Global Competitiveness Report, is based on an estimation of “wastefulness of government spending, burden of regulation, and transparency of policymaking.” Libya’s overall ranking in the index was 126 out of 144 economies included in the study. The best performing category for Libya is macroeconomic environment, in which it was rated 41 worldwide. Macroeconomic indicators will likely have deteriorated significantly, however, since the research for the report began. Libya typically performs poorly in most indices and rankings produced by international organisations. In the most recent Doing Business report produced annually by the World Bank, it was ranked second to last. [Libya Monitor, 7/15/2015]

Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia sign joint declaration in scientific research
Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia signed on Monday a joint declaration to strengthen shared cooperation in scientific research in the fields of energy, water, health, agriculture, and food. Egyptian Minister of Scientific Research Sherif Hamad, Moroccan Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research al-Hassan al-Dawoudi, and Tunisian Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Shehab Bouden signed the declaration. [All Africa/SIS, L’Economiste Maghrebin (French), 7/14/2015]


UN Syria envoy meets southern rebels and opposition armed groups
UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura met with rebels leaders from the Southern Front for the first time on Tuesday. The conversation underlined the growing political role of the Southern Front in helping to contain the influence of militant groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) and the Nusra Front in the south. A Southern Front spokesman said, “We showed him our road map, our vision, how the Southern Front sees the transitional period without Assad.” [Reuters, 7/14/2015]

United States does not support autonomous Kurdish region in Syria
US Special Envoy for the Coalition against ISIS Gen. John Allen said Tuesday that the United States does not support the establishment of an autonomous Kurdish entity in northern Syria. Allen stated, “It is important that a partner that has ultimately been enabled to defeat Daesh [ISIS] does not become an occupying force.” Human Rights Watch said Wednesday that the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria have mobilized at least fifty-nine child soldiers after signing a “Deed of Commitment” in 2014 in which they pledged to demobilize all fighters under eighteen within a month. [AFP, 7/15/2015]

Suicide bombers kill Syrian rebel figure in Idlib province
Two suicide bombers killed Sheikh Abu Abdel Rahman al-Salqeeni, a prominent figure in the Syrian rebel group Ahrar al-Sham, when they blew up one of the group’s local headquarters in the town of Salqin along the Turkish border Tuesday. The blast killed seven people total, including the two suicide bombers, and several others were wounded. No group has claimed responsibility, but rebel sources accused ISIS of carrying out the attack. [Reuters, 7/14/2015]

Iraq seeks uninterrupted Turkish military support against ISIS, sees Iran deal as sign of common will
Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari asked during a meeting in Ankara Tuesday for “uninterrupted” military support from Turkey in the fight against ISIS, particularly with regard to arms and training. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu responded by pledging Turkey’s continued support and saying that Turkey so far had trained 1,600 peshmerga fighters from Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region and that there are plans for Iraqi police to be trained in Turkey. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on social media Wednesday that Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers is a sign of common will to end conflict in the region and defeat ISIS. [AFP, 7/14/2015]

Iraq gets back antiquities recovered by US forces in Syria
Iraqi Minister of Antiquities Adel Fahad Sharshab said Wednesday that the Baghdad National Museum has gotten back nearly 500 artifacts recovered by US army special forces during a raid in Syria in May. [AP, 7/15/2015]


Over 10,000 migrants have arrived in Yemen since beginning of conflict in March
Thousands of Ethiopians and other migrants are flooding into war-torn Yemen, the United Nations said Tuesday. Smugglers had tricked many of them into believing the fighting was over. UNHCR’s Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen Johannes Van Der Klaauw said 37,000 migrants had arrived in the impoverished country this year. “The large majority are Ethiopians,” Van Der Klaauw told journalists in Geneva, adding that Somalis, Eritreans, and migrants of other nationalities were also among those heading to Yemen. Many were economic migrants intending to travel to Saudi Arabia, he said, having crossed the Gulf of Aden by boat. The agency said it was launching “mass information campaigns” in Somalia’s autonomous Puntland region and the self-declared independent Somaliland area in the north, to discourage people from crossing over. [AFP, 7/14/2015]

Saudi media attacks Iran deal; Obama calls King Salman
Saudi Arabian media attacked Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers on Wednesday, with cartoonists depicting it as an assault on Arab interests and columnists decrying the focus on Tehran’s atomic plans instead of its backing for regional militias. Riyadh’s official reaction to the deal was a terse statement that welcomed any agreement that would ensure Iran could not develop a nuclear arsenal, but stressed the importance of tough inspections and the ability to reimpose sanctions quickly. In private, however, Saudi officials fear an Iran released from international pressure and economic sanctions will have more freedom and money to back allies across the region who are opposed by Riyadh. A cartoon in Asharq al-Awsat, a pan-Arab daily close to King Salman’s branch of the ruling family, showed a trampled body marked “Middle East,” with a placard saying “nuclear deal” sticking from its head. On Tuesday, President Barack Obama spoke with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman. The two are said to have discussed the implications of the Iran deal as well as the need to curtail the fighting in Yemen. Obama also spoke with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan by telephone to discuss the nuclear agreement. [Reuters, Al-Arabiya, 7/15/2015]

Kuwait charges twenty-nine over mosque bombings
Kuwait charged twenty-nine people Tuesday over the suicide bombing of a Shia mosque last month, claimed by ISIS, which killed twenty-six people and wounded more than 200. Those charged included seven Kuwaitis, five Saudis, three Pakistanis, thirteen stateless people known as bidoons, and another person at large, the prosecution said. Of them, twenty-four are detained in Kuwait and the remaining five will be tried in absentia. The prosecution charged two of the suspects with premeditated murder and attempted murder. Two others were charged with training in the use of explosives, nine with assisting in committing the crime and the rest with knowing of the attack without informing the authorities. [AFP, 7/15/2015]


Tunisia gets $230 million World Bank loan to link interior to cities
Tunisia has obtained a $230 million loan from the World Bank to build and expand 146 kilometers of roadways to the most isolated regions in the country. The Tunisian government wants to boost living standards in poor and remote areas where repeated strikes and sit-ins have had a negative effect. The project would connect around 373,500 people living in the poorest regions to the coastal cities that offer more economic opportunities, a statement from the Bank said. The project is the Bank’s first engagement with road improvements in Tunisia in ten years. It aims to increase private sector investment and “combine the rehabilitation of infrastructure with softer measures to promote sustainable employment.” [Reuters, 7/15/2015]

Moody’s upgrades Egypt’s banking system’s outlook to stable
Moody’s Investors Service says it has upgraded Egypt’s banking system outlook to stable from negative, expecting the sector’s operating conditions to improve as economic growth accelerates and the government pushes through with economic reforms. In a statement on Wednesday, the credit rating agency said it expects Egypt’s economy to expand 5 percent in the fiscal year ending June 2016 as a result of “large, government-led infrastructure projects, increased foreign investment, and a rise in tourism.” Moody’s said it expects economic reforms to lead to rising consumer confidence and more business investments, which would increase loan growth from banks. [AP, 7/15/2015]

Turkey’s Finance Minister says early election would prolong economic risk
Turkish economic growth would take a hit if talks to form a coalition government fail and an early election is called, Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek said on Wednesday. He warned that political uncertainty would risk delaying private investment. “Having an election again is of course a negative scenario because another election means in a sense facing uncertainty through virtually the whole of 2015,” he said. Simsek added that inflation would likely continue to fall in 2015 if oil prices remain low and a normalization in food prices continues. A central bank survey echoed his optimism; business leaders now expect year-end inflation to fall to 7.71 percent, down from 7.77 percent forecast last month. [Reuters, 7/15/2015]

Iraq’s Kurds bypass Baghdad for July oil exports
Iraqi Kurds are independently selling oil produced in their region, bypassing Iraq’s state crude marketer (SOMO) for all exports so far this month, said spokesman for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Safeen Dizayee. Oil fields in the semi-autonomous region of northern Iraq are producing about 700,000 barrels of oil a day, says Dizayee. The KRG is exporting as much as 600,000 barrels of that amount daily and has not sold oil via SOMO since June. Commenting on the KRG’s independent sales, Director General of the Legal Department at the Oil Ministry in Baghdad Laith al-Shaher said, “All oil sales that happen outside SOMO are illegal.” [Bloomberg, 7/15/2015]