Top News: Turkey Fires at Kurdish Forces in Northern Syria

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu confirmed that the military targeted People’s Protection Units (YPG) Kurdish forces in northern Syria in an interview with Turkey’s ATV television late Monday. The YPG, the Kurdish military arm of the Kurdish Democratic Party (YPD) in northern Syria and key US ally in its efforts to defeat ISIS, said the Turkish military shot at its forces deployed in the town of Tel Abyad twice on Sunday. Davutoglu stated, “We said the PYD will not go west of the Euphrates and that we would hit it the moment it did. We hit it twice. Turkey cannot abandon its border, its fate to any country.” Davutoglu suggested that the Turkish forces hit the Kurdish forces west of the Euphrates River while the YPG said the attack was in Tel Abyad east of the river. [AP, 10/27/2015]



John McDonnell leads calls for UK to cancel Egyptian president’s visit
The shadow chancellor John McDonnell is leading calls for David Cameron to cancel an invitation to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to visit the British government on the grounds that he is a military dictator responsible for a “regime of terror.” McDonnell is one of fifty-five signatories to a letter urging the government to cancel the engagement. “No considerations of commerce or realpolitik can justify such an invitation,” the letter read. The invitation was confirmed by the British government the day after an Egyptian court upheld the death sentence for ousted former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi. The letter claims the invitation “violates the British values which the government claims to champion to welcome a ruler who has overthrown an elected government and instituted a regime of terror…” According to a government spokesperson, Sisi and Cameron plan to discuss cooperation on counterterrorism in the region and promoting stability in Libya. [The Guardian, 10/27/2015]

Borhami warns of consequences of Nour Party’s withdrawal from political scene
Yasser Borhamy, Vice President of the Salafi Call, attacked political scientist Moataz Abdel Fattah and Islamic thinker Nageh Ibrahim after they called on the Nour Party and the Salafi Call to move away from political work and restrict their activities to religious preaching. Borhami said the Nour Party’s survival is in the interest of the country and the religious youth. He added that the real problem is the millions of religious youth who are being demanded to give up all their political and security rights. He emphasized that this would lead to despair among the youth, which would culminate in an upsurge among those youth after a generation or two. He referred to the Muslim Brotherhood youth, saying they did not give up politics in 1965, despite what they suffered, noting that this resulted in social backlash in 2013. [DNE, 10/27/2015]

Interior ministry responsible for journalist’s disappearance says Egypt’s journalists’ syndicate
Egypt’s Journalists’ Syndicate filed a report on Sunday holding the Interior Ministry responsible for the disappearance of journalist Mahmoud Mostafa Saad, a syndicate statement read. Saad, a journalist working for Al-Nahar private TV Channel, was travelling on Friday to London on a student visa when he called his wife telling her he was being detained at Cairo Airport for unknown reasons. Saad has not been heard from since the phone call to his wife. The Interior Ministry denies having any knowledge of Saad’s whereabouts. This is the second such report from the journalists’ syndicate this week. On Saturday, the syndicate filed a report to the general prosecution accusing the security forces of being responsible for the disappearance of Hisham Gafaar and Hossam al-Din al-Sayed. In its report, the syndicate said security forces stormed the houses of the two journalists on Wednesday and Thursday, detaining them in an unknown location without giving them access to a lawyer. The syndicate demanded that the charges against the two journalists be announced as well as the date they would be referred to the prosecution for questioning so that a representative of the syndicate could be present during the investigation. [Ahram Online, 10/26/2015]

One Egyptian, six foreigners coming from Libya detained for ‘belonging to ISIS’
Six foreigners and an Egyptian were ordered detained for forty-five days pending Giza Criminal Court investigations for allegedly belonging to the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) news agency Youm7 reported Monday. Egyptian Homeland Security had received intelligence that the six individuals arrived in Egypt through the Salloum crossing on the border with Libya posing as tourists, according to the court’s report. During their time in Egypt the individuals allegedly documented “vital locations” to be targeted later. During their arrest, laptops, Islamic State and Muslim Brotherhood slogans, a machine gun, ammunition, knives, electrical circuits, and large amounts of money in local and foreign currencies were found in the defendant’s’ possession, according to the report. The group has allegedly admitted to inciting citizens on social media to boycott the elections and circulating videos and pictures to “stir panic in the country,” This arrest comes after ISIS claimed responsibility for a bomb that injured four individuals, including two policemen as they attempted to disarm it. [Cairo Post, 10/26/2015]

For more in-depth Egypt news, please visit EgyptSource


Tunisia Prime Minister says jobs needed to counter terrorism
Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid says his country needs jobs to counter the threat of terror attacks like the two earlier this year that targeted tourists, but his nation’s important tourism sector won’t fully recover for another two to three years. Essid said in an interview that the unemployment rate in Tunisia is the biggest risk factor for future attacks. Essid spoke Tuesday ahead of his appearance at an international conference on extremism by the Madrid Club group of former global leaders and heads of state. [AP, 10/27/2015]

Tunisian civil society groups voice frustration over plans to limit government access
On Monday, fifteen civil society organizations held a press conference to voice their frustration over what they perceive as plans to exclude them from the Assembly of People’s Representatives (APR). Among those opposing the new proposal is the Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH) who, along with three other groups, was awarded the Nobel Prize earlier this month. In defending the legislative proposals, members of the APR have claimed the new plans are intended only to ease the logistical challenges of government, rather than to preclude participation of civil society and government transparency. [Tunisia Live, Independent, l’Economiste Maghrébin (French), 10/26/2015]

Tunisia, Algeria sign ten cooperation agreements and MoUs
Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid and Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal signed ten cooperation agreements, Memoranda of Understanding (MoU), and sectoral Executive Programs in Algiers on Monday. The agreements cover the sectors of industry, environment, and technology and vocational training. They were signed at the end of the 20th session of the Tunisian-Algerian high joint committee held on October 25 and 26 in Algiers. Essid said he looks forward to seeing the two sides continue to energize preferential trade, encourage joint investments, and improve the business climate between economic stakeholders in the two countries. [TAP, ANSAmed, 10/26/2015]

Libya’s Habda Prison chief suspended, guards sought in Saadi abuse claims
The newly appointed Hadba Director Khalid al-Sharif said that the former director in charge of Hadhba prison has been suspended and arrest warrants issued for three guards following a report Human Rights Watch (HRW) released on Monday. HRW researchers went to the prison last month to see Saadi al-Qaddafi and three Qaddafi-era figures: Abdullah Senussi, Abdulzeid Dorda, and Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi. Saadi told them that he had been held in solitary confinement in a windowless cell, had no communication with other prisoners, and was denied private meetings with his lawyers during pretrial detention. Senussi, Dorda, and Mahmoudi also alleged serious due process violations, including lack of private access to lawyers, the inability to call or question witnesses, the refusal of the judges to allow them to speak during their trials, and intimidation of their lawyers by armed groups. [Libya Herald, 10/26/2015]

Morocco arrests eight policemen over torture death
Morocco has arrested eight policemen for allegedly torturing a prisoner until he died, local newspapers reported on Monday. The state prosecutor in the central city of Casablanca ordered the detention of the policemen on Saturday. The central police authority in Casablanca had said the prisoner died of a self-inflicted head injury when rammed his head into the gate of the police station. Amnesty International issued a special report in May in which it detailed what it described torture as “endemic” in Morocco, despite laws prohibiting such practices. [AFP, 10/26/2015]


Obama weighs moving US troops closer to front lines in Syria, Iraq
President Barack Obama’s most senior national security advisers have recommended measures that would move US troops closer to the front lines in Iraq and Syria, officials said, a sign of mounting White House dissatisfaction with progress against the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) and a renewed Pentagon push to expand military involvement in long-running conflicts overseas. The debate over the proposed steps, which would position a limited number of special operations forces on the ground in Syria and put US advisers closer to the firefights in Iraq, comes as Defense Secretary Ashton Carter presses the military to deliver new options for greater military involvement in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. The policy still requires Obama’s formal approval, who could make a decision as soon as this week. The number of additional troops required to implement the changes considered by Obama remain unclear, but would likely be relatively small. [WP, 10/27/2015]

France hosts Syria talks on Tuesday
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said France will host talks on the Syria conflict on Tuesday. The “working dinner” at the French Foreign Ministry will include “the main partners engaged with France in dealing with the Syrian crisis: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Qatar, Turkey, Germany, the United States, Italy, and Britain,” Fabius said in a statement. “They will discuss the means to bring about a political transition towards a united and democratic Syria, respectful of all communities, while also reinforcing our fight against terrorism,” he added. Tuesday’s meeting will feature mainly lower-rung officials, with the United States sending its Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken in place of John Kerry. [AFP, Reuters, 10/27/2015]

ISIS blows up columns in Syria’s Palmyra while executing three captives
ISIS reportedly killed three of its captives in Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra by tying them to Roman-era columns at the site then blowing the structures up with explosives. The Palmyra explosions were the latest method of killing by ISIS militants, known for beheadings, immolation, and drowning of prisoners. A Palmyra activist who goes by the name Nasser al-Thaer said that the killings of the three captives took place on Monday afternoon at the Palmyra archaeological site, located a few miles away from the city. Thaer and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the three executed were civilians. [AP, AFP, 10/27/2015]

UN says 120,000 displaced in Syria in October
A significant surge in fighting this month in Syria has displaced nearly 120,000 people, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). Most of the displaced fled their homes in the Hama, Aleppo, and Idlib governorates between October 5 and 22. The majority, however, still remain inside the three provinces, with only a small portion escaping to refugee camps along Syria’s border with Turkey. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), which put out a similar report on Monday, said the recent surge in displaced Syrians places significant pressure on already overloaded camps. According to the NRC’s report, most of those displaced this month are from the Aleppo governorate, where regime forces began a major ground offensive on October 16. [Reuters, AP, 10/27/2015]

Oman minister meets Assad to discuss conflict
Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi met with President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Monday to discuss the various strategies put forward to address the ongoing violence in Syria. The meeting came on the heels of the Russian announcement the same day calling on Syria to make arrangements for a new round of parliamentary and presidential elections. Diplomats and political analysts have said that Oman, a Gulf state with close relationships with the United States, Syria, and Iran, could potentially play the role of intermediary in any future round of negotiations in the war-torn country. [Reuters, 10/27/2015]

Turkish security forces clamp down on ISIS
Turkish officials announced on Tuesday that two policemen were killed by a suicide bomber while storming a suspected ISIS cell in Diyarbakir in southeast Turkey. Police raided a house used by the extremists in Diyarbakir on Monday, triggering a clash that left the two policemen and seven ISIS militants dead. About fifteen suspected militants were detained and the government labeled the raid as an important blow to an ISIS cell in Turkey, seizing bomb-making materials and arms. On Tuesday, police detained some thirty ISIS suspects in raids in the central Turkish city of Konya and in the nearby town of Cumra, while a further twenty-one people were detained in Istanbul. Turkey’s military said seventeen ISIS militants were also detained in the border province of Kilis while trying to sneak across into Syria. [AP, 10/27/2015]

For more in-depth Syria news and analysis, please visit SyriaSource.


Islamists rise amid chaos in Yemen’s Aden, as suicide bomber kills two
A suspected al-Qaeda suicide bomber killed two militiamen on Monday at a checkpoint in the southern Yemeni city of Aden, already beset by violence, a security source said. The bomber approached the militiamen as they were inspecting cars at a large intersection in the Mansoura district and detonated an explosive vest, killing the guards and himself. After the Saudi-led coalition and pro-government fighters ousted the Houthi rebels from Aden in July, the Yemeni government has struggled to impose order amid the increasing threat from militant groups, particularly Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). On Sunday, Islamist militants stormed into a supermarket and fired shots in the air, demanding that female cashiers cover their faces. Since President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi returned to Aden in September, the deteriorating security situation has caused further resentment among the city’s residents, desperate for jobs and a better standard of living. Major General Jaafar Mohammed Saad chaired a meeting with the Aden executive office today to discuss how to solve rising youth unemployment and absorb into the military the Popular Resistance Fighters who helped expel Houthi rebels from the city. [Reuters, Washington Post, Sahafah (Arabic), 10/27/2015]

Yemeni general says army regaining strength with help of Gulf States
Chief of Staff General Mohammed al-Makdha said on Tuesday that the new army has regained 25 percent of the strength of the former Yemeni army before its deterioration in the Houthi rebel uprising last year. Makdha said that ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh had used more than 450,000 soldiers in the takeover of Sana’a last year. As a result, he said President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi’s government had to retrain a whole new army with the help of its coalition partners. General Makda added that the peace talk arrangements have no bearing on the current military situation, as both sides have continued fighting despite potential political negotiations. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 10/27/2015]

Saudi aid official wants Yemen truce, but says rebels cannot be trusted
Saudi Arabia would like to see a ceasefire in Yemen to allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid, but it does not trust the Houthi rebels to abide by such a truce, said Abdullah al-Rabeeah, general supervisor of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre on Monday. “From our previous experience the ceasefire was not acknowledged and it was violated.” Several attempts at a humanitarian truce have failed, with the warring parties blaming each other for violations. Because of Yemen’s reliance on imports, the Saudi blockade on the country has left more than 21 million people in dire need of humanitarian assistance. In a bid to increase commercial shipments to Yemen, the United Nations has devised its own mechanism to inspect any suspicious vessels, while allowing humanitarian relief to reach the country. It is still trying to raise the $8 million needed for it to be operational. [NYT, 10/26/2015]

Saudi air strike hits hospital
A Yemeni hospital run by medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders, was bombed in a Saudi-led air strike, wrecking the facility and wounding several people. “The MSF facility in Saada, (north) Yemen was hit by several air strikes last night with patients and staff inside the facility,” Medecins sans Frontieres said in a tweet. The local Yemen news agency Saba said other air strikes hit a nearby girl’s school and damaged several civilian homes. In Geneva, the office for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said Tuesday that some 2,615 civilians have been killed in the Yemen violence over the last six months, two thirds of which were caused by air strikes. This is the second hospital to be hit by airstrikes this month, with the United States hitting a MSF hospital in Afghanistan, killing at least thirteen staff members. [Reuters, AP, 10/27/2015]

ISIS affiliate bombs Saudi mosque
At least one person has been killed and dozens injured in a suicide attack on a Shia mosque in the southern city of Najran in Saudi Arabia. Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Mansour al-Turki identified the bomber on Tuesday as thirty-four year-old Saad Saeed Saad al-Harthy, who belongs to the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) affiliate known as “Hijaz Province.” An ISIS social media posting said the attack had targeted the “rejectionist Ismailis”, referring to a branch of Shia Islam known as Ismailism. It was the fourth bombing targeting Saudi mosques and claimed by ISIS affiliates since May. The group considers Shia heretics who seek to weaken the ruling Al-Saud family’s legitimacy. [AP, BBC, 10/27/2015]


Tunisia seeks foreign aid boost, plans talks with IMF
Tunisia, frustrated by the international community’s failure to deliver on pledges of economic support, is asking the G8 for a five year rescue program worth $25 billion. Finance Minister Slim Chaker said the aid is necessary to ensure that Tunisia’s political progress is not reversed. The government is under pressure to meet popular demands for higher living standards, but faces budget and external payments deficits. “We are very frustrated with the international community over the support of our special democratic experience… [Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund] Christine Lagarde was one of the few who listened and understands us,” Chaker said. “Tunisia is asking the G8 for a rescue program or Marshall Plan of $25 billion over five years to finance development of infrastructure, support social peace, strengthen security, and reduce the budget deficit,” he said. Chaker said Tunisia would need 3.6 billion dinars ($1.8 billion) of foreign financing in 2016 to cover its budget deficit. [Reuters, 10/27/2015]

Saudi Arabia considers cutting energy subsidies
Saudi Arabia is looking at raising domestic energy prices, Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said on Tuesday, confirming that the kingdom could cut a subsidy system blamed for waste and surging fuel consumption. Asked on the sidelines of a mining conference whether he expected domestic energy prices to increase in the near term, Naimi told reporters, “What you are asking is: is it under study? And the answer is yes.” Naimi gave no details of the possible changes. In the past, officials have spoken privately of the reforms, but Naimi’s remarks were the first public confirmation by such a senior official that they were under review. The International Monetary Fund estimates Saudi Arabia spends $107 billion annually on the subsidies, including $86 billion on petroleum and $10 billion on natural gas.[Reuters, WSJ, 10/27/2015]

Soaring passport demand nets Syria more than $500 million
The Syrian government said in a report on Monday that it has netted more than $500 million from passport fees this year, after raising charges for passports obtained abroad to bolster foreign exchange reserves. The boost in fees comes amid soaring demand for passports as Syrians attempt to flee to Europe in record numbers. Earlier this year, Damascus eased the process but increased the price of obtaining and renewing passports, requiring citizens abroad to pay $400 for a new passport and $200 to renew one. Inside the country, a new passport costs about $17. When the government announced it was easing the procedures in June, it said the new fees would be “an important source of foreign exchange.” On Monday, Al-Watan said passport fees were bringing in millions of dollars to bolster Syria’s dwindling foreign reserves. It said about 829,000 passports have been issued this year at home and abroad and that passports issued inside the country have netted the government $8 million so far this year. In June, the newspaper said Damascus received some 5,000 passport requests a day from citizens inside and outside the country, a fivefold increase from 2014. [AFP, The Telegraph, 10/26/2015]

Egypt Central Bank seen keeping key rates on hold
The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) is expected to hold interest rates on Thursday as it balances the need to control inflation with its efforts to stimulate the economy. The decision comes one week after the announcement that CBE Governor Hisham Ramez will be replaced by senior banker Tarek Amer next month. Inflation in Egypt slowed for three consecutive months from June but accelerated again in September. Five economists surveyed all said they expect the CBE’s monetary policy committee to keep rates on hold during their meeting on Thursday. “Inflationary pressures gained pace in September due to rising prices of vegetables, probably leaving the central bank less inclined to increase interest rates, although overall inflation remains largely tame as reflected in the low level of core inflation,” said EFG Hermes Economist Mohamed Abu Basha. “We also believe the recent announcement of the change in governor of the central bank is likely to warrant a stable policy rate before the new governor assumes office later in November,” he added. [Reuters, 10/27/2015]