Top News: Three Explosions At Cairo University, At Least Two Dead

Three bombs have exploded at Cairo University, killing one policeman and injuring at least five others. A fourth device was deactivated. Two bombs killed Brigadier-General Tarek al-Mergawi and wounded five other security forces who had been guarding the facility, the interior ministry said. The moment the second bomb exploded was caught on video. Shortly afterwards, a third blast killed one person, four security officials said. Security forces closed Nahda Square after the explosion and evacuated the university. Police are searching the area for more devices, according to Hesham Youssef, the head of the explosives section at Giza security directorate. Fifteen students have been arrested in the vicinity of the university and taken to Giza security directorate for questioning. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the explosions. [Ahram OnlineReutersAswat MasriyaDNEEgypt IndependentAPMada MasrShorouk (Arabic), 4/2/2014]


Egypt prosecutor calls for probe against Sabbahi
Egypt’s top prosecutor called Tuesday for a probe into funds allegedly received by the only serious rival of ex-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in an upcoming presidential election, judicial sources said. Public prosecutor Hisham Barakat issued the call after a lawyer filed a complaint about funds that Egyptian businessmen allegedly provided to leftist leader Hamdeen Sabbahi, the judicial sources said. Sabbahi’s campaign spokesman Maasum Marzouk said that similar charges were levied during the 2012 election. “But the prosecution found nothing at that time. A similar attempt to defame us is being made again,” said Marzouk. Presidential hopeful Hamdeen Sabbahi criticized violations on Tuesday that took place at several notary offices nationwide on Monday and Tuesday, citing a bias towards his rival. [AFP/Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 4/2/2014]

Egypt prime minister orders urgent action on power cuts
Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab has urged ministers to take urgent measures to reduce the frequency and length of power cuts. At an emergency meeting on Tuesday, Mahlab received written reports from the ministers of electricity and petroleum detailing the reasons for the increased number of power cuts over the last two weeks, a cabinet statement said. [Ahram Online, 4/2/2014]

Muslim Brotherhood slams UK decision to investigate group
Ibrahim Mounir, secretary of the Muslim Brotherhood’s international wing, said “investigations by England over the Brotherhood will not convict the group.” In a phone call with the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday, Mounir said he was surprised by the British declaration over the urgent inquiry. “We are a group that condemns violence. We do not support actions that could harm national security of the country,” he added. The Egyptian branch of the group also released a statement condemning the investigation and calling on “western states and governments to beware of the treachery of the fascist military junta in Egypt and the pressures they apply in order to falsify facts about the group and the situation in Egypt.” In related news, the British Foreign Minister William Hague spoke with his Egyptian counterpart Nabil Fahmy about the investigation and other regional issues. [Egypt Independent, 4/2/2014]


Libya rebels ‘agree to end oil port blockade’
The leader of a rebel group in eastern Libya has agreed to end its seizure of several oil-exporting ports within days, raising hopes of ending an eight-month stalemate with the government in Tripoli. The agreement follows the release of three of the group’s fighters. A government delegation is expected to visit the group’s base in eastern Libya within two days to finalize the details. Talks with the eastern rebels moved forward after the US Navy captured a tanker that had loaded oil at a rebel port, ending the hopes of rebel leaders to bypass Tripoli and independently sell crude oil. [Al Jazeera, 4/2/2014]

Libyan bank staff start two-day strike after colleague shot dead at work
On Tuesday, Jumhuriya bank staff across the country went on strike to condemn the killing of a bank employee in Sabha in the south. Employees at state-owned Jumhuriya, one of Libya’s biggest banks, began a two day strike on Wednesday, accusing the government of failing to protect the branches and demanding greater protection after a colleague was shot dead at work. The number of bank robberies have increased in the past few months. [Reuters, 4/2/2014]

Congress President Abu Sahmain expected to be removed
Members of the General National Congress (GNC) have told the Libya Herald that there is now consensus to remove the President, Nuri Abu Sahmain. There had been growing demands in Congress that he resign over a video circulating in which he admits to an incident which he had been previously denied. In the video, Abu Sahmain was filmed without his knowledge discussing the incident that took place on January 3, 2014 when a group of gunmen forced their way into his Tripoli house in which there were two young women unrelated to him and then took him off for questioning. If the GNC votes to remove Abu Sahmain, the first deputy, Ezzidden Mohamed Younis al-Awami, will take over. [Libya Herald, 4/1/2014]

Saadi claims contacts with Jadhran; Jadhran denies it
In a second televised video statement aired last night, Saadi Qaddafi said that he had been in contact with the de facto head of the Cyrenaica federalists and oil terminal blockader Ibrahim Jadhran to sell Libyan oil on the international market and secure weapons and equipment for himself and his supporters. Saadi named a number of intermediaries between himself and Jadhran. He also admitted that he was behind the attempt to destabilize security in January when Qaddafi supporters took over the Tamenhint airbase in Sebha. Today, Jadhran issued a statement vehemently denying any relationship with Saadi. [Libya Herald, 4/1/2014]


Syria opposition says chief visits Latakia
Syria’s exiled opposition chief Ahmad Jarba visited Latakia province Tuesday, amid a rebel offensive against the heartland of President Bashar Assad’s clan and his Alawite sect, his office said. “The president of the Syrian National Coalition Ahmad Jarba visited the Jabal Turkman… and Jabal Akrad” areas of Latakia. Both Jabal Akrad and Jabal Turkman have been under opposition control for many months, but all the rest of coastal Latakia province has until recently been squarely under regime control. Then, some ten days ago, rebels launched a major offensive and overran several government positions, mainly Kasab on the border with Turkey, taking over a frontier crossing. Amateur video distributed by the Syrian Revolution General Commission, a network of activists on the ground, showed Jarba seated with what appeared to be local rebel commanders in a house that was said to be in Latakia province. [Naharnet, Daily Star, 4/2/2014]

Senate panel calls for new US strategy for Syria
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution on Tuesday that asks the Obama administration to provide Congress with a humanitarian strategy for Syria within ninety days. The non-binding resolution from Senator Tim Kaine easily cleared the panel by unanimous vote, but a number of senators used the opportunity to express their frustration that President Bashar al-Assad has been able to escape justice. The Senate resolution, while denouncing the Syrian government’s “widespread human rights violations,” contrasts with the stronger political stance in the House counterpart sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce and ranking member Eliot Engel. The House resolution calls on the Obama administration to stop recognizing the Assad regime as the rightful government of Syria and asks that the United Nations suspend its membership in the General Assembly “until such time as the Assad regime has ceased attacks upon civilians, and granted free and unfettered access for deliveries of humanitarian assistance throughout the territory of Syria.” [Al Monitor, 4/1/2014]

Kuwaiti minister rejects US accusations of Syria terror funding
Kuwait’s justice and Islamic affairs minister has rejected remarks from a senior US official that he called for jihad in Syria and promoted the funding of terrorism, citing a cabinet statement released late on Monday. Nayef al-Ajmi was quoted in the statement as saying that comments made by US Treasury Undersecretary David Cohen in March, reported in US media, were “baseless and groundless”. Unlike Gulf Arab states Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Kuwaiti government policy is against arming rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad, however the US-allied country allows fundraising in private houses as well as on social media, which it says is hard to control. Some of the fundraising campaigns have been for aid for refugees but others openly call for funds to buy weapons for opposition fighters. Cohen said that Ajmi had “a history of promoting jihad in Syria” and that his image had been featured on fundraising posters for a financier of the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front. [Reuters, Al Arabiya, 4/1/2014]

Assad says Russia is reestablishing multi-polar world
President Bashar al-Assad delivered a message for Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday when he said that Moscow had helped to reestablish a multi-polar world. “The important role that Russia is playing on the international scene is today making a clear contribution towards drawing up a new map for a multi-polar world.” The Syrian dictator previously expressed support for Moscow’s actions in Crimea. Russia, Assad added, is helping “achieve international justice, in the interests of states and people who believe in their sovereignty and independent decision-making.” He expressed appreciation for Russia’s positions and for its support for Syria. Assad made his comments Wednesday during a meeting with the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, a Russian organization headed by former Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, who was in Damascus to deliver a message from Putin. [Al Arabiya, 4/2/2014]


Israelis excluded from Tunisia’s push for tourists
As Tunisia pushes to increase tourist visits, the country will not give visas to individual Israeli travelers. Israelis wishing to travel to Tunisia will need to arrange their travel as a group through a travel agent and receive special permission from the ministry of foreign affairs. According to Minister of Tourism Amel Karboul, this decision is a consequence of the lack of diplomatic ties between Israel and Tunisia, stressing it had nothing to do with religion. Prior to 2011, Israeli visitors were permitted and had to obtain visas available through Tunisian diplomatic outposts in Ramallah or elsewhere. [Tunisia Live, 4/1/2014]

Marzouki attends Africa-EU summit in Brussels
President Marzouki is attending the Africa-EU summit in Brussels on April 2 and 3. During the summit African, EU, and European officials will meet to discuss issues of mutual interest, including security, peace, investments, climate change and migration. On Tuesday, in his address to the Belgian Parliament, Marzouki asked the Belgian government to drop the Tunisian debts or convert them into investment projects. Belgian Chamber of Representatives President André Flahaut expressed support for Marzouki’s proposal. [All Africa, TAP, 4/2/2014]

Jomaa heads to Washington
Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa will head, on Wednesday morning to Washington, in a second stage of his visit to at the invitation of President Barack Obama. On Tuesday, while visiting New York, Jomaa called the US decision to lift the travel warning for Tunisia a “strong signal” and “an important step.” This visit has marks the launch of the strategic dialogue between Tunisia and the United States. Foreign Minister Mongi Hamdi stated that Tunisia expects much from the prime minister’s visit and that the goal is to make Tunisia a success story and a model for the other countries. [All Africa, TAP, 4/2/2014]

Strikes and protests paralyze Tunisian-Libyan border town
A general strike occurred Monday in Ben Guerdane, a town near the Libyan border, and protests continued on Tuesday. Demonstrators are demanding the reopening of the nearby Ras Jedir border crossing and development projects in their area. The Ras Jedir border crossing was closed February 25 by Libyan authorities. The closed border crossing has been harmful to the community’s economy, leading to regular protests. The town serves as a major hub for smuggling. Officials plan to reopen the border this Sunday. [Tunisia Live, 4/1/2014]


Al-Qaeda stages raid on 4th Division headquarters
At least six Yemeni soldiers and three militants died in a raid on a major army headquarters in Aden on Wednesday. Al-Qaeda militants tried to storm the army’s 4th Division base in Aden’s al-Tawahi district after detonating a car laden with explosives outside the main gate. Security sources claimed the attack had been foiled, but a medical source at a nearby military hospital said that the bodies of six soldiers were brought into the facility after the incident. The 4th Division is in charge of the military in southern Yemen. Tawahi houses some of the country’s main state facilities in Aden, including the presidential palace, the local secret service offices and the local radio and television studios. Witnesses in Tawahi said they had heard the sounds of rocket propelled grenades as soldiers closed off roads to the area and engaged the attackers. [Reuters, Aden al-Ghad (Arabic), 4/2/2014]

US drone kills three al-Qaeda members in southern Yemen
At least three al-Qaida suspects were killed and four others injured in a US drone strike in Yemen’s southern province of Abyan on Tuesday night, local officials said. The strike occurred when a US drone targeted an al-Qaeda-held site in Abyan’s town of Mahfad. The drone fired three missiles and destroyed two huts and a site used as a training center for al-Qaida militants in a mountainous region in Mahfad town. Local residents said that the death toll may rise, as the injured were in critical condition. [Xinhua, 4/2/2014]

Parliament fails to work out fuel crisis, budget solutions,.
After a hearing about the ongoing financial crises in the country, Yemen’s Council of Representatives rejected all of the recommendations made by a special committee. Five ministers from the unity government as well as the prime minister were called to the hearing. A report submitted by the Council cited the Ministry of Electricity in debt up to 93 billion rials ($432 million USD), and the ministry of defense holding 11 billion rials worth ($51 million USD). Yemen’s finance minister addressed the notion of lifting fuel subsidies at this time, presenting four options that were all invalidated either by himself or rejected by the Council of Representatives. [Al-Masdar (Arabic), 4/2/2014]

Defense minister meets with officials in Washington
Major General Mohammed Nasser Ahmed, Yemen’s defense minister met with US State Department officials in Washington to discuss counter-terror operations and the ongoing effort to restructure the army. Ahmed discussed the matters with the state department’s general coordinator for counterterrorism as well as First Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and former ambassador Gerald Firestein. [Mareb Press (Arabic), 4/2/2014]


UN warns of divisive Iraq election campaign
Nickolay Mladenov, of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq, warns that campaigning for Iraq’s “will be highly divisive” as parties continue to appeal to sectarian and ethnic bases as opposed to promoting specific political platforms. “I would hope that it would be more about issues, and how the country deals with its challenges, but at this point, it’s a lot about personality attacks. The efforts to reach across the sectarian divide are very weak,” Mladenov said, though he declined to comment about specific offenders. [Gulf News, 4/2/2014]

Lebanon army expands operation in restive Tripoli
Lebanese troops on Wednesday moved into a restive Sunni area in northern Tripoli, in the second stage of a plan aimed at quelling deadly Syria-linked violence. Residents welcomed the deployment, saying they hoped it would help bring normality to the city. The military operation in Bab al-Tebbaneh comes a day after the army entered the Alawite district of Jabal Mohsen. It follows orders from ministers last week for security forces to move into the city, where at least 30 people were killed in two weeks of fighting in March. Hundreds of people have been killed in Lebanese violence–including bomb attacks and battles—since the war in Syria broke out three years ago. [AFP, 4/2/2014]

Saudi bloggers face sedition charges
Three Saudis have been referred to a specialized court on charges of “incitement, provoking sedition and calling for [disobedience against] the ruler of the country.” The charges were leveled following an investigation into a series of tweets posted on Twitter. The three men will be the first bloggers to be tried under a newly approved terrorism-related list of offences announced by the interior ministry. [Gulf News, 4/2/2014]