Top News: Tunisia’s Lawmakers End Days of Legislative Uncertainty, Elect Speaker and Deputies

Mohamed Nasri, candidate for Nidaa Tounes, was elected late Thursday as speaker of the newly elected Tunisian parliament, the Assembly of People’s Representatives. Nasri, who ran unopposed was elected with 176 votes and will lead the country’s first post-revolution parliament for a five year term.

Mohamed Nasri is the current vice president of Nidaa Tounes and also served as minister of social affairs in the national unity governments after the revolutions. Ennahdha’s Abdelfattah Mourou was elected as vice speaker with 157 votes and Fouzia Ben Fodha from the Free Patriotic Union party, which holds 16 seats in the assembly, was elected as the second vice speaker with 150 votes.




Muslim Brotherhood and military face off over alleged leaked SCAF recording
Another media war erupted between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Armed Forces after the Brotherhood published alleged military leaks on Thursday. Audio recordings of a purported phone conversation between Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) members Mamdouh Shahin and Osama al-Gendy were circulated on the Islamist Mekameleen channel and the pro-Brotherhood Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr satellite channel. In the conversation, Shahin tells Gendy that the criminal charges against ousted President Mohamed Morsi could be dismissed, because he was illegally detained by the military between July 3 and July 7, 2013. Shahin allegedly planned with the interior minister to fabricate documents showing Morsi’s detention in a ministry approved facility. The leak also shows that the head of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s office ordered both Shahin and Gendy to take measures to prevent the criminal cases against Morsi from being dismissed. One security source said that the recordings were faked to sow division between the people and the state, blaming “hostile foreign intelligence services and the Muslim Brotherhood.” The prosecutor general’s office announced a criminal investigation into the leak that aims to spread false news, sow chaos, and disparage public officials. [Mada Masr, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya (Arabic), Ahram Gateway (Arabic), 12/5/2014]

The Salafi Front withdraws from the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy
The Salafi Front announced, late Thursday, its withdrawal from the pro-Muslim Brotherhood National Alliance to Support Legitimacy (NASL). In a statement on their official Facebook page, the Front explained that they prioritize the issue of identity “…that is being overshadowed by what is called consensus.” The group claimed that their work outside the alliance will guarantee more freedom and revolutionary action that is consistent with their visions. NASL included a number of Islamist groups and parties, many of which have withdrawn for different reasons. [Ahram Online, 12/5/2014]

Egyptian officials accuse US of violating rights in Ferguson
Cairo officials have verbally attacked US authorities, accusing them of violating human rights during protests in Ferguson, Missouri. Egyptian politicians called for the formation of an Egyptian fact-finding committee to track what they called breaches by US authorities against protesters in Ferguson, while the Egyptian Foreign Ministry issued an official statement criticizing US police treatment of protesters in the wake of the grand jury decision not to make an indictment. The statement further called on US authorities to observe self-restraint and to respect the right of individuals to peacefully assemble. Moreover, Egyptian Interior Ministry spokesman Hani Abdel Latif said US police used excessive force against peaceful protesters as if they were dealing with arms dealers. [Al Monitor, 12/4/2014]

Security forces disperse protest in Abdel Moneim Riad Square
Security forces dispersed a protest called for by the April 6 Youth Movement, Strong Egypt, and the Revolutionary Socialists, on Friday morning in Abdel Moneim Riad Square. Around 150 protesters gathered near Tahrir Square, chanting against the government. Police fired teargas to disperse the protest. A protest in Talaat Harb Square was also dispersed by the police. Security forces had closed Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo on Friday in anticipation of the protest and police patrolled Cairo’s streets, to make sure that “gatherings or marches are not blocking roads,” Lieutenant colonel Mohammed Bendari, supervisor at Cairo Traffic Directorate said. [Shorouk (Arabic), Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, Ahram Gateway (Arabic), 12/5/2014]

For more in-depth Egypt news, please visit EgyptSource


Libyan airstrike near Tunisian border kills one; UN condemns military escalation
A military airstrike targeted a border crossing with Tunisia, hitting the border guards’ office, killing one person and wounding five, a local security official in a western town loyal to the Tripoli government said. Meanwhile, further airstrikes were carried out near Tripoli on Thursday, with the opposing blocs offering different accounts. The Tripoli authorities, backed by Operation Libya Dawn, said the target had been a poultry farm, but forces supporting Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni said they hit military installations belonging to Libya Dawn. The UN Support Mission in Libya condemned “in the strongest terms” the latest escalation of violence, saying it severely hurts civilians and has a negative impact on the dialogue process. [AP, Reuters, Libya Monitor (subscription), Libya Herald, 12/5/2014]

Countries should suspend forcible returns to Libya, says Human Rights Watch
Given the deteriorating situation in Libya, Human Rights Watch called on all countries to suspend forcible returns of Libyans and third country nationals to Libya where they “may face serious harm.” Anyone forcibly returned to Libya would be exposed to rising indiscriminate violence and human rights abuses, constituting what is known as refoulement under international law. With so much of the international community having withdrawn from Libya, there is also lack of access to information that would allow for a meaningful individualized risk assessment, the organization said. Meanwhile, Libya remains a transit point for migrants seeking to reach Europe. Rescue crews discovered sixteen bodies in a boat off of Libya’s coast. [Human Rights Watch, 12/5/2014]

Tunisia’s lawmakers end days of legislative uncertainty, elect speaker and deputies
Mohamed Nasri, candidate for Nidaa Tounes, was elected late Thursday as speaker of the newly elected Tunisian parliament, the Assembly of People’s Representatives. Nasri, who ran unopposed was elected with 176 votes and will lead the country’s first post-revolution parliament for a five year term. Mohamed Nasri is the current vice president of Nidaa Tounes and also served as minister of social affairs in the national unity governments after the revolutions. Ennahdha’s Abdelfattah Mourou was elected as vice speaker with 157 votes and Fouzia Ben Fodha from the Free Patriotic Union party, which holds 16 seats in the assembly, was elected as the second vice speaker with 150 votes. [Tunisia Live, 12/4/2014]

Tunisia’s security forces increase border operations; Four arrested in counterterrorism raids
Tunisia’s national army units intensified military patrols and air operations at the Ras Jedir border crossing in response to ongoing security developments in Libya. A Spokesman for the National Defence Ministry told reporters Thursday that the ministry had elevated the armed forces’ readiness level and mobilized additional units to the border region. A statement from the ministry of interior also announced that four suspected terrorists were arrested and several weapons seized in recent operations targeting members of the banned group Ansar al-Sharia. [All Africa, 12/5/2014]


Opposition calls aid cut “execution order”; Amnesty criticizes international response to refugees
Hadi al-Bahra, the leader of the mainstream Syrian opposition said on Friday that cuts to UN food aid for 1.7 million Syrian refugees on the eve of winter amounted to “an execution order” overseen by the international community. The human rights advocacy group Amnesty International on Friday condemned the international response to Syria’s refugees, noting that a “pitiful” response among the world’s wealthiest nations was placing an immense burden on Syria’s ill-equipped neighbors. In a statement ahead of a December 9 donors’ conference in Geneva, the London-based rights group called for the resettlement of five percent (380,000) of Syria’s refugees by the end of 2015 and another five percent the following year. [Naharnet, 12/5/2014]

ISIS captures village, closes in on east Syria air base
ISIS jihadists are closing in on the government-held Deir Ezzor air base in eastern Syria, nearly surrounding its beleaguered garrison, a monitoring group said on Friday. ISIS fighters seized the village of al-Jaffra, adjacent to the base, leaving it surrounded except for a narrow corridor to the west. ISIS controls most of oil-rich Deir Ezzor province, but half of its capital remains in government hands, along with the military airport. The fighting has killed at least thirty government troops and militia and twenty-seven ISIS fighters over the past 48 hours. Further east, at least fifteen jihadists were killed in a US-led coalition air strike on an ISIS convoy near the Albu Kamal crossing on the border with Iraq. [AFP, 12/5/2014]

US training of Syrian rebels lags behind schedule, as rebels struggle to hold ground
Western plans to train and equip Syrian rebels in Syria will not start until late February 2015, a leading opposition figure said on Friday, forcing the now beleaguered forces to hold their ground against the better-equipped and financed rival insurgent groups and Syrian government forces. Hadi al-Bahra, head of the Turkey-based Syrian opposition National Coalition, said the United States and its allies needed to find ways of increasing help to the mainstream rebels. The US training program is at the core of President Obama’s multi-year plan to field local forces to halt and eventually roll back ISIS fighters, while keeping US troops off the battlefield. [Reuters, 12/5/2014]

US troops receive immunity in Iraq
US Ambassador to Iraq Stuart Jones announced an agreement Thursday between Washington and Baghdad that will provide immunity for the growing number of US forces assisting in the anti-ISIS campaign. Last month, President Obama authorized the deployment of up to 1,500 more US troops to bolster Iraqi forces, which could more than double the total number of US forces to 3,100. US forces currently advise and assist Iraqi security forces based in Baghdad and Irbil but might become increasingly involved in operations in the highly volatile Anbar province where US troops fought some of the heaviest battles of the eight-year conflict. [The Daily Star, 12/5/2014]

Dozens killed in car bombs in Baghdad, Kirkuk
The first major attack in the disputed Iraqi city of Kirkuk in months killed eighteen people Thursday, while two car bombs in a frequently targeted Shia district of Baghdad left fifteen people dead. A senior police official in Kirkuk told reporters that a suicide bomber targeted a busy commercial street where he detonated a car rigged with explosives. In the capital Baghdad, two car bombs went off at around 6:30 pm near markets in the northern district of Sadr City that are usually bustling with people on Thursday evenings. At least nine people were killed and twenty-five wounded in the first blast, while at least six died and twenty-two others injures in the second attack. [The Daily Star, 12/4/2014]

French authorities announce major anti-ISIS operations in Iraq
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters Friday that French fighter jets were in the process of conducting major aerial operations targeting ISIS militants in Iraq. The minister confirmed that French planes based in the United Arab Emirates and more recently in Jordan, have carried out 120 to 130 missions since the start of the coalition offensive on the militant group. Paris has so far refused to join the United States in its air campaign against ISIS in Syria, but on Wednesday, President Francois Hollande said France was ready to step up its actions against the militants in Iraq. [Naharnet, 12/5/2014]

German man handed prison sentence for joining ISIS campaign in Syria
A twenty year-old German man was sentenced to three years and nine months in prison on Friday for his activities in Syria, in the first trial in Germany of a homegrown jihadist accused of joining ISIS. Kreshnik Berisha was accused of traveling to Syria last year and fighting for the group, before returning to Germany five months later. His lawyer said he went to Syria to help support Syrians trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad and had asked judges for a maximum term of three years and three months. Berisha, however, avoided the maximum ten-year sentence possible under German law by testifying during the trial. [AP, Reuters, 12/5/2014]


GPC denounces Saleh’s alleged associations with the Houthis
General People’s Congress (GPC) party members said Friday that Yemen’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh is facing strong opposition from within the party over his alleged support of the Houthis. Senior GPC members on Thursday held a meeting in Aden to discuss reinstating Yemeni President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi as the party’s secretary-general, a senior GPC source who requested anonymity. Hadi was ousted last month for allegedly soliciting international sanctions against Saleh. According to the source, Hadi’s reinstatement will be announced during the party conference set to be held in mid-December. Of Saleh’s behavior, a GPC official said, “These actions contradict the immunity that was granted to Saleh in exchange for quitting politics and avoiding the obstruction of the present political settlement.” [Asharq al-Awsat, 12/5/2014]

Clashes in Ibb, Amran with Houthis; al-Qaeda strikes in Marib
One worker was allegedly shot by Houthi fighters on Thursday afternoon near Ibb’s administrative center for security forces. The civilian death appears to have been accidental, coming after a prolonged shootout between Houthis and unidentified gunmen. The Houthis allegedly arrested nine of the young man’s coworkers, who were employed in a building near the security headquarters. Houthis in a market in the city of Amran reportedly shot another civilian. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda militants seized money bound for a military brigade in Marib. Al-Qaeda sources confirmed on Twitter that they had captured the car of a treasury official bound for Marib with 45 million riyals. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 12/5/2014]

Oman’s ministry of environment and climate affairs combats oil leak along the coast
Oman’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (MECA) along with other authorities are working to determine responsibility for an oil leak on Oman’s northern coast. An official said that efforts to contain and clean the oil sludge that appeared on Muscatel’s coastline were ongoing. The official added that oil samples had been taken to the ministry’s laboratory for further examination. “After examining the oil print, we can find out who is responsible for the contamination,” said the official. The official affirmed the oil sludge on beaches is limited and has not caused significant damage. Oman’s state-owned oil company, Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), has denied responsibility. [Gulf News, 12/5/2014]


Saudi Arabia slashes crude oil prices to Asia
Oil fell in Asia on Friday after major producer Saudi Arabia slashed the price of the crude that it sells to Asia and the United States, analysts said. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for January delivery tumbled thirty-one cents to $66.50 a barrel in late-morning trade and Brent crude for January dropped thirty-eight cents to $69.26. Saudi Aramco offered discounts to Asian buyers of its oil in January as well, slashing its official selling price for Arab light grade oil bound for Asia in January by $1.90 a barrel from December’s level. It also reduced the price of Arab light grade oil bound for the United States by seventy cents. This comes as rival Dubai crude traded at a 1.48 dollar per barrel discount on future prices, the widest since November 2008. Saudi cuts come as analysts say the kingdom seeks a larger market share amongst the OPEC providers. [Asharq al-Awsat, Al Arabiya, 12/5/2014]

Power, gas shortages hit production at Libya’s biggest steel plant
The Libyan Iron and Steel Company (Lisco), one of North Africa’s biggest steelmakers, has seen output slump this year as the turmoil in the country hit power supplies but hopes better security will lift output in 2015, its chairman said. Chairman Mohamed Abdelmalik al-Faqih also said Lisco had partly offset weak demand from its European markets by attracting more business from China while meeting output targets for finished products. Faqih said Lisco, one of Libya’s biggest companies, has been hit by power shortages as armed factions fought over the capital in summer. The closure of oilfields in the east by protesters also temporarily shut a gas pipeline to the plant. [Reuters, 12/5/2014]

Yemen central bank sees no early repayment of Saudi loan
According to Yemeni central bank governor, Saudi Arabia has not asked Yemen for an early repayment of a $1 billion loan and the Houthi fighters occupying the central bank are reportedly not interfering with its operations. Saudi Arabia had suspended most of its financial aid to Yemen due to the growing power of the Shiite Houthi fighters in Yemen. Yemen has relied on its wealthy northern neighbor for fuel imports and funding of government salaries and welfare payments. [Reuters, 12/5/2014]

EIB investments in Tunisia exceed 570 million dinars
According to the president of the European Investment Bank (EIB), the EIB’s investments in Tunisia exceeded 570 million dinars in the past three years. During an official visit to Tunisia, he further pointed out that the EIB will continue to support Tunisia in the coming years through new conventions in various economic sectors. [AllAfrica, 12/4/2014]

Morocco a crossroads for US investments in Africa
According to US Deputy Undersecretary for International Trade, Morocco, with its strategic location, solid infrastructure and sound business climate, stands at a “crossroads” for US investments in Africa. Especially the progress achieved in infrastructure and renewable energies make the country attractive for US investments. The level of trade between the two countries has reportedly tripled since the Free Trade Agreement between the two countries was signed in 2006. [Morocco World News, 12/4/2014]