Top News: Two Turkish Policemen Shot Dead Near Syrian Border, PKK Claims Attack

A Turkish official said two police officers were found shot dead in their home Wednesday morning in the Turkish-Syrian border city of Ceylanpinar. Militants in the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) released a statement shortly after the attack claiming responsibility and saying it was in retaliation for the suicide bombing that killed thirty-two people in Suruc on Monday. The PKK statement accused the slain officers of “collaboration with the Daesh [ISIS] gangs.” Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will chair a cabinet meeting on Wednesday to discuss bolstering security along Turkey’s border with Syria. A Turkish official reported Wednesday that a twenty-year-old Turkish man with links to ISIS who had recently traveled to Syria carried out Monday’s suicide bombing in Suruc. Turkish authorities also lifted a Twitter ban that they had enacted Monday to block the spread of information about the attack and prevent “illegal mass demonstrations.” [AP, 7/22/2015]



Right to Information Law to criminalize spreading rumors on social networks
Egypt’s cabinet will begin discussing the final draft of the new Right to Information Law next week when Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab returns from a trip to Italy. A government source said that the new law would criminalize spreading rumors on social media that could potentially harm the state, with punishments ranging from monetary fines to imprisonment. The Ministers of Transitional Justice and Communication will define “cybercrime” in the draft law, which includes disclosing classified national security information and spreading harmful rumors. Minister of Transitional Justice Ibrahim al-Heneidy said that the Right to Information Law would mandate the formation of a special committee to determine the time limit for classified information and how it can be disclosed. The committee will also be responsible for specifying what kind of information can be exempt from such classification. Heneidy said that a new entity might be formed to oversee the implementation and monitoring of the law or assign responsibility to existing bodies like the National Library and Archives. He added that the government aims to hold public consultation and dialogue to avoid the controversy that followed the announcement of the new Terrorism Law. [Mada Masr, 7/22/2015

NGO accuses Solidarity Ministry of ‘arbitrary approach’
The Maat For Peace, Development, and Human Rights foundation has accused the Solidarity Ministry of following an “arbitrary approach” in dealing with Egyptian NGOs. On December 30, 2014 Maat submitted to the Department of Social Solidarity a request to implement a project called “The comprehensive periodic review as a tool to improve public policies,” accompanied by all the necessary legal documents, Maat said in a statement Wednesday. The foundation said the Solidarity Ministry has not responded to its request, despite the fact that the law stipulates the ministry must respond to requests within sixty days. Maat repeatedly asked about the fate of the project over a period of seven months, while ministry employees stated it was pending the security authorities’ approval, the statement added. The foundation discovered in July 2015 that the project papers had disappeared, as different departments within the ministry denied receiving the project documents, Maat’s statement added. [Egypt Independent, 7/22/2015]

Egypt rejects Iran’s interference in Arab countries’ domestic affairs
In a Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement Tuesday, Egypt said it completely rejects Iran’s interference in Arab countries’ domestic affairs after Iran’s supreme leader said that Iran backs the “oppressed people” in Bahrain. In its statement, Egypt also called on Middle East countries to respect the articles of the United Nations’ charter that highlight non-interference in other states’ affairs. The ministry’s statement also emphasized Egypt’s solidarity with its fellow Arab neighbors in facing any foreign interference. Pointing out that the principle of non-interference is laid down in the UN Charter, the Ministry reaffirmed “Egypt’s refusal of intervention in the affairs of Arab sister countries.” It also emphasized the importance of avoiding any escalation of tensions and conflicts, adding that these provided fertile ground “for the growth and spread of extremist ideas.” [Ahram Online, DNE, 7/22/2015]

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Libya Envoy working to release Italian hostages
The UN Special Envoy for Libya Bernardino Leon said that his team is trying to gather intelligence as part of efforts to free four Italian construction workers kidnapped in Libya earlier this week. The remarks came on Tuesday in a meeting with the Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni in Rome. Gentiloni said Italy is investigating on who abducted the men. Leon also called on those responsible to release the hostages immediately. [Al Arabiya/AP, 7/21/2015]

Libyan government calls on Tebus and Tuaregs to stop fighting
The Beida-based government of Abdullah al-Thinni called on Tuaregs and Tebus in Sebha to end their fighting. In an appeal yesterday, the government told both groups they must agree on an immediate ceasefire and engage in serious dialogue to end the conflict permanently. The government also called on elders in the southern city to try and bring about a lasting ceasefire between the two communities. The town was relatively calm yesterday after Monday’s clashes, which left six people dead and eight wounded. [Libya Herald, 7/21/2015]

Head of Libyan air force dismisses threat of EU sanctions
Saqr Geroushi, the Head of the Libyan Air Force, has brushed aside reports of EU sanctions on him and other important Libyan figures including Armed Forces Commander in Chief General Khalifa Hafter. Sanctions would include a freeze on investments and assets in all twenty-eight EU member states and travel bans. Geroushi said that he had heard nothing official about the threat and that he was not taking it seriously. “I don’t have any [bank] accounts outside Libya,” he said, or any other assets. He also added that he was not planning any visits to Europe in the near future. [Libya Herald, 7/21/2015]

Tunisian-Libyan border crossing opens
The Tunisian-Libyan border crossing at Ras Jadir opened yesterday after it was closed on Monday on the Libyan side because of protests in the nearby Tunisian town of Ben Guerdane. Demonstrators had blocked the main road by the border with salt expressing their anger at the Tunisian government’s construction of a fence and trench along the border. The Tunisian authorities perceive the barrier as a useful tool in preventing arms and terrorists from Libya crossing into Tunisia. The Ben Guerdane protesters, however, say that the fence will damage the local economy. [Libya Herald, 7/21/2015]

Morocco raids ISIS-linked cell
Moroccan authorities announced on Tuesday the dismantling of an eight-man group that had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) and was planning attacks inside the country. An interior ministry statement said the suspects were arrested in the northern cities of Tangier and Taounate and in the southern towns of Khouribga and Bouznika. The men were in contact with the radical group based in Iraq and Syria. The statement said the cell planned to host ISIS fighters traveling to Morocco so that they could carry out attacks on security personnel and other targets to destabilize the country. Police said the men arrested also had links to former al-Qaeda members who fought in Afghanistan. [AP, 7/21/2015]


US says senior al-Qaeda leader killed in air strike in Syria
Pentagon official Capt. Jeff Davis said Tuesday that a military drone strike on July 8 in the northwestern Syrian city of Sarmada killed Muhsin al-Fadhli, a senior leader of al-Qaeda who headed the Khorasan cell in Syria. The Khorasan cell, which is embedded within the Nusra Front, is reportedly the group most capable and most intent on striking the United States or its Western allies with an organized terrorist attack. Counterterrorism expert and former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel called Fadhli’s death a “serious but not fatal” blow to al-Qaeda in Syria. [NYT, AFP, 7/22/2015]

Iraqis launch offensive near Anbar base as blasts kill thirty-two people
Iraqi security forces and Sunni tribal fighters launched an offensive on Tuesday to dislodge Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) militants from the town of Haditha and secure a supply route to the Ain al-Asad military base in Iraq’s Anbar province. Government troops were able to advance on Tuesday amid clashes and heavy fire from ISIS. Meanwhile, explosions across the country killed at least thirty-two people on Tuesday. A car bomb detonated in the mainly Shia district of New Baghdad, killing sixteen and injuring almost fifty. Other attacks occurred in Shia-populated areas around the country. No group has claimed responsibility for the string of attacks. [Reuters, 7/22/2015]

UN envoy says deeply concerned by Zabadani battle
UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said Tuesday that Syrian air strikes have “caused unprecedented levels of destruction and many deaths among the civilian population” in the Syrian-Lebanese border city of Zabadani, which the Syrian army and Hezbollah are currently trying to liberate from rebels. A monitoring group reported Tuesday that Syrian rebels have launched a counterattack and have advanced in the mountains east of Zabadani amid heavy regime gunfire and bombardment. The US government imposed sanctions Tuesday on three leaders of Hezbollah and a businessman in Lebanon, saying they are key players in the group’s military operations in Syria. [Reuters, 7/22/2015]

Two Turkish policemen shot dead near Syrian border, PKK claims attack
A Turkish official said two police officers were found shot dead in their home Wednesday morning in the Turkish-Syrian border city of Ceylanpinar. Militants in the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) released a statement shortly after the attack claiming responsibility and saying it was in retaliation for the suicide bombing that killed thirty-two people in Suruc on Monday. The PKK statement accused the slain officers of “collaboration with the Daesh [ISIS] gangs.” Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will chair a cabinet meeting on Wednesday to discuss bolstering security along Turkey’s border with Syria. A Turkish official reported Wednesday that a twenty-year-old Turkish man with links to ISIS who had recently traveled to Syria carried out Monday’s suicide bombing in Suruc. Turkish authorities also lifted a Twitter ban that they had enacted Monday to block the spread of information about the attack and prevent “illegal mass demonstrations.” [AP, 7/22/2015]

Spain to seek Syrian government help to find journalists missing in Syria
Spanish officials said Wednesday that they are trying to determine what happened to three Spanish freelance journalists who went missing in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. The three men have not been heard from since shortly after they entered Syria through Turkey on July 10. Spanish Minister of Justice Rafael Catala said that the Spanish government has no news regarding the journalists and will contact the government in Damascus over the case. A Japanese journalist has also gone missing in Syria. [AP, BBC, 7/22/2015]


Aden airport reopens
The airport in Aden received its first flight for the first time in four months on Wednesday. According to an official, “A Saudi military plane landed at Aden airport this afternoon carrying weapons and military assistance to the popular resistance forces in the first flight there since March 25.” In addition to weaponry, the Saudi plane transported a senior military official, who made a surprise visit to the war-torn Yemen as a show of support. [Reuters, 7/22/2015]

Saudi seeks US stand against Iran interference
Saudi Arabia’s leaders sought assurances on Wednesday that the United States stands firmly against Iranian “interference” in the Middle East, during a visit by US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. Carter met King Salman, then held talks with the king’s powerful son Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is Defense Minister and second-in-line to the throne. Saudi Arabia and Israel are “on the same page” with their concerns about the agreement, a Western diplomatic source said. The source added that the Saudis also “think [the nuclear deal] is a mistake,” although “they don’t say it as loud and as publicly as the Israelis.” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir last week warned Iran not to use the economic benefits of the nuclear agreement to fund “adventures in the region.” There are worries in the international community that the Iran deal could start a nuclear race, with Saudi Arabia already exploring expanded nuclear energy options. [Naharnet, 7/22/2015]

Human Rights Watch condemns Kuwaiti DNA testing
In light of the June bombing of a Shia mosque, Kuwaiti parliament passed in early July legislation mandating DNA testing for all citizens and permanent residents. The US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released a statement in which Sarah Lee Whitson, the group’s Middle East director, condemns the new law. She says, “Many measures could potentially be useful in protecting against terrorist attacks, but potential usefulness is not enough to justify a massive infringement on human rights.” She further urged for a rigorous series of amendments to the bill. Currently, people who refuse to give samples for the test face one year in jail and a fine of up to $33,000. Those who provide fake samples can be jailed for seven years. HRW noted that the European Court of Human Rights, several US domestic courts, and others have outlawed DNA-gathering systems on the grounds of privacy rights. [AFP, 7/21/2015]


UAE to scrap subsidized price controls on fuel
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) said it would said it would do away with fuel price controls in a politically sensitive reform that could save the government billions of dollars. Authorities plan to begin linking fuel prices to global prices as of August 1. The government currently sets gasoline prices at subsidized rates. However, officials will still have a hand in setting prices. A committee will meet once a month to set prices for the following month using average international prices as a benchmark. “Deregulating fuel prices will help decrease fuel consumption and preserve natural resources for future generations,” said Energy Minister Suhail bin Mohammed al-Mazroui. “It will also encourage individuals to adopt fuel-efficient vehicles.” Domestic gasoline prices may rise slightly because of the reform, but an expected fall in diesel prices should help the economy, a senior UAE energy official said. [AP, Reuters, Bloomberg, 7/22/2015]

Egypt’s GASC receives wheat offers in tender
Egypt, one of the world’s largest wheat importers, received offers from Russia, Romania, Ukraine, and France in its latest wheat tender. Twenty-two offers for wheat were made. Shipping companies did not take part because the 15 percent discount that Egypt’s state grain buyer provides to the Egyptian National Navigation Company (NNC) made bidding uncompetitive. A source at Egypt’s General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC) said the discount was not an issue, but one Cairo based trader said that most suppliers are against the discount. On Monday, Egypt announced a tender to buy an unspecified amount of wheat for shipment from September 1-10. [Reuters, 7/21/2015]

Libyan investment chief calls for management of frozen assets
The Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) is drafting a proposal to the United States and the European Union seeking management of its assets. The proposal comes despite warnings from a former LIA chairman who says that the country is too unstable for such a move. The LIA’s international assets, which constitute a third of the $67 billion sovereign wealth fund, have been frozen since 2011. The LIA is now proposing that the assets remain frozen but that it be allowed to be in the “driving seat” so that it can manage them “for the benefit of the Libyan people,” Chairman of the LIA Board Hassan Ahmad Bouhadi said. He added that the assets should be managed to ensure that they are protected from market fluctuations. [Gulf News, 7/21/2015]

Tunisia and EU plan to launch power supply project worth EUR 700 million
In his visit to Brussels on Monday, Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid said that Tunisia and the European Union plan to launch a power supply project that will connect the Tunisian power network to Europe. “This project, which is worth EUR 700 million funded by the EU, will help the Tunisian power network to be fed from the European network during peak consumption periods,” he specified. Essid also urged European partners to increase university exchange programs by doubling the quota of scholarships granted to Tunisian students following their studies in Europe. The quota is currently at 500 scholarships. [All Africa/TAP, 7/21/2015]