US missile strikes, including armed drone attacks, have killed dozens of civilians in Yemen as the United States tries to crack down on al-Qaeda in the country, a prominent human rights organization said on Tuesday. Human Rights Watch (HRW) detailed in a report what it said were six “unacknowledged” US military attacks on targets in Yemen, which either clearly, or possibly, violated international law. Letta Tayler, author of the report and senior terrorism and counterterrorism researcher at HRW, said upon the release of the report, “The US should investigate attacks that kill civilians and hold those responsible for violations to account. It’s long past time for the US to assess the legality of its targeted killings, as well as the broader impact of these strikes on civilians.” [ReutersAl Jazeera, 10/22/2013]


Protest law timing inappropriate before parliamentary elections, says government committee
Political forces have demanded delaying discussions on a controversial draft protest law until parliamentary elections are held, said the official Facebook page of Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Bahaa al-Din early on Tuesday. A Monday meeting between representatives of civil society, political parties and human rights organizations with the government’s Committee to Protect the Democratic Path settled on “the necessity to delay discussing and issuing both the counter-terrorism law and protest law until the new parliament is in place through free and fair elections according to the roadmap adopted on July 3, 2013,” said the statement. The meeting comes after Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawy’s announcement on Saturday that the draft protest law could be amended after a dialogue with political forces and parties. He also said there was no rush to issue the law before November 14. [Ahram Online, 10/22/2013]

Committee of fifty begins voting on constitution
Mohamed Salmawy, spokesperson for the committee of fifty, announced the commencement of the second phase of the constitutional amendment procedure in which the committee would vote on the articles that the drafting committee had completed. “The vote will be held in closed-door meetings and limited to the core members only,” Salmawy said at a press conference on Monday. He added that committee chairman Amr Moussa agreed to involve the reserve members if necessary. “We will brief the public of the results in daily press conferences.” Salmawy denied that the committee asked for more time to complete its mission. “The deadline of sixty days ends December 3,” he said, adding that the drafting committee completed 190 of more than 200 articles. [Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, Tahrir (Arabic), 10/22/2013]

Egypt to raise stimulus by a third, implement minimum wage by January
Egypt will spend 29.6 billion Egyptian pounds ($4.30 billion) on a stimulus package to get its moribund economy going, a third more than previously planned, according to a finance ministry statement on Monday. The original plan announced in August had provided for around 22.3 billion pounds in additional spending on a variety of projects, but the ministry said the increases would not push this year’s budget deficit above the previous goal. The statement also said that the government plans to implement a minimum wage early next year which would cost the country 18 billion pounds annually. [Reuters, 10/21/2013]

United States condemns ‘heinous’ Egypt church attack
The United States condemned Monday an attack on a Cairo church in which four Coptic Christians were killed, and backed Egyptian calls for those behind the shootings to be brought to justice. “We strongly condemn the heinous attack on the al-Adra church in Cairo,” State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said. “We’re going to keep making the point that this kind of violence has no place in moving Egypt forward. It will only hinder Egypt’s democratic transition process and economic recovery,” she told journalists. [AFP/Ahram Online, State Department, Shorouk (Arabic), 10/22/2013]


NATO to advise Libya on strengthening security forces
NATO has agreed to Libya’s request to advise the country on how to strengthen its security forces and to support the nascent democracy where powerful militias raise concerns about Libya sliding into anarchy. According to sources, the NATO mission will be set up and based in Brussels and will advise Libya on strengthening security forces rather than providing hands-on training. Authorities in Libya have thus far been unable to disarm former militia fighters, but in a televised debate, a former deputy interior minister insisted that “imposing security in Libya is not hard,” as the country’s population is small and Libya has the finances to resolve the problem. [Reuters, AP, Al Jazeera, 10/21/2013]

Repsol hits black gold with new oil discovery in Murzuk
The Libyan National Oil Company (NOC) and Spanish oil company Repsol have announced a new oil discovery in the Murzuk basin in southern Libya. The find is a high quality light crude oil. The Murzuk basin, where oil was first discovered in 1997, opened up a whole new area of exploration and production in Libya. It is considered the third most important oil-producing onshore basin in the country, with eleven fields already discovered there. It is estimated that there are two billion barrels of oil in reserves beneath the desert area. Repsol and other stakeholders – Austria’s OMV, and France’s Total – have announced in light of the recent discovery that they will continue drilling and stick by a long-term bet on the country despite the disruption and insecurity. [Libya Herald, Reuters, 10/21/2013]

Constitutional assembly candidates being registered
Thirty three of 133 nominations received so far from candidates wishing to run for election to the sixty-member constitutional assembly have been approved under standards of the Political Isolation Law, according to the High National Election Commission (HNEC). The deadline for nominations, originally set for today, has been extended until the end of the month to account for the Eid. HNEC head Nuri Elabbar called for more minority candidates to register, given the low number of Tuareg and Tebu applicants and none from the Amazigh community. The leadership of these three communities had earlier threatened to boycott the election because each group was given only two seats on the assembly. [Libya Herald, 10/21/2013]

Arrest of Benghazi murder campaign suspects
It has been reported on Libyan TV channel Libya al-Hurrah that a group of men have been arrested in Benghazi on suspicion of being responsible for the spate of assassinations of security personnel, including current and former police and army officers. Although the Benghazi Joint Operations Room spokesman has referred to a battalion of revolutionary fighters as having undertaking the raid, he did not identify the unit. It is said that the men arrested are all from Africa, the majority of them from Chad. [Libya Herald, 10/21/2013]


In advance of Geneva II foreign ministers hold talks in London with Syrian opposition
Foreign ministers from eleven Western and Arab countries met with the Syrian opposition in London on Tuesday, in an attempt to persuade them to attend a planned peace conference in Geneva. William Hague, the British foreign secretary, warned that sectarianism in Syria will become entrenched if the conflict is allowed to continue as extremist forces tighten their grip. In an interview Monday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said the “factors are not yet in place” to launch peace talks with his opponents. “Which forces are taking part? What relation do these forces have with the Syrian people? Do these forces represent the Syrian people, or do they represent the states that invented them?” Asked whether he would run for reelection, Assad replied, “I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t run in the next election.” [The Hindu, The Independent, 10/22/2013]

Free Syrian Army leader killed in clash with government troops
One of the most senior commanders of the rebel Free Syrian Army has been killed during clashes with government troops near the southern city of Deraa on the border with Jordan. Yasser al-Aboud, a former Syrian army officer who defected in the early days of the revolt, was leading an assault on army checkpoints on Monday in the town of Tafas, northwest of Deraa. Aboud was a founding member of the Free Syrian Army’s military council in southern Syria, which coordinates moderate brigades and has said it is worried about the growing role of Islamist insurgents in the conflict. [The Guardian, BBC, 10/21/2013]

Rebels along Lebanon’s border with Syria brace for government offensive
Syrian rebels and their Lebanese allies currently in command of a crucial corridor that links rebel havens in Lebanon with the embattled Syrian capital of Damascus are preparing for a massive government offensive aimed at bringing the strategic area back under government control. Rebels and activists in the Lebanese border town of Arsal say they expect the offensive to attempt to cut off sympathetic areas in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley from rebel-controlled villages just across the border in Syria. The enclave that’s sprung up on both sides of the border near the Jebel Qalamoun mountain peak represents the largest rebel haven near Damascus. Now tens of thousands of rebel fighters are preparing to make a final stand to keep Arsal from being cut off from the Syrian battlefield. [McClatchy, 10/21/2013]

Without chemical arms, Syrian weaponry still fearsome
On September 29 President Bashar al-Assad declared to the world his resolve to clear Syria of chemical weapons, accepting a Russian-brokered deal to avert punitive US action. That same morning his forces appear to have dropped some of the most powerful conventional weapons yet used in the civil war, in the rebel-held town of Raqqa. Evidence suggests that the fourteen dead, many of them children, were killed by “vacuum bombs,” a device that sucks oxygen from a wide area and kills by rupturing lungs. “As worries grow over Islamist influence, the rebels seem to be struggling more than they were to get supplies,” said an analyst at IHS Jane’s. “At the same time, the government are throwing in everything they’ve got.” [Reuters, 10/22/2013]


Opposition to protest October 23; Leaders call for return of NCA members boycotting talks
Tunisian opposition politicians say they will go ahead with plans to protest in downtown Tunis on Wednesday, despite the official start of political talks on the same day. “We will protest during the day and start talks in the afternoon,” said a National Constituent Assembly (NCA) member with the Nidaa Tounes opposition party who, along with some sixty deputies, withdrew from the proceedings after the July 25 assassination of Deputy Mohamed Brahmi. Heads of parliamentary groups and representatives of blocs at the NCA and independent deputies stressed the need for all deputies to return to the NCA by the start of National Dialogue talks on October 23. Other NCA members boycotting the sessions also said they will not return before the government vows to resign within the deadlines set by the roadmap. [TAP, Tunisia Live 10/21/2013]

Larayedh says two draft laws on security institutions under study
Speaking on Monday at a military hospital where he visited national guardsmen injured in last week’s attack, interim Prime Minister Ali Larayedh announced on Monday two draft laws currently under study that aim to strengthen Tunisia’s security institution. The first bill aims to criminalize any attack against law enforcement personnel, security premises or sovereign institutions. The second amends a public assembly and demonstration law to reflect the objectives of the 2011 revolution, Larayedh indicated. [TAP, 10/21/2013]

Man accused in assassinations of Belaid and Brahmi killed during military operations
Lotfi Ezzine, accused in the assassinations of Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi, was killed during the military and security operations carried out last week in Goubellat in northern Tunisia, a security source said on Monday. [TAP, 10/21/2013]

Qatar upholds fifteen-year sentence against “we are all Tunisia” poet
A top Qatari court on Monday upheld a fifteen-year jail term handed to a poet convicted of incitement against the regime. The ruling confirmed the sentence given to the poet by an appeals court in February, Ajami’s lawyer told AFP. Ajami was arrested in November 2011 after the publication of his “Jasmine poem,” which criticized governments across the Gulf region in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings. “We are all Tunisia in the face of the repressive elite,” he wrote, referring to the first demonstrations of the Arab Spring. [Al Arabiya, 10/21/2013]


Former South Yemen president calls on the Gulf countries to mediate with Sana’a 
The former president of South Yemen, Ali Salem al-Baidh, has called on the Gulf countries to mediate a political solution to Yemen’s contentious southern issue. Al-Baidh said that the majority of Yemenis favor secession, as a result of Sana’a’s “colonial occupation” of the South. In an interview Sunday night, al-Baidh called on the Gulf Cooperation Council to sponsor a popular referendum on the issue of secession. The Southern Movement, meanwhile, is continuing its boycott of the National Dialogue Conference. [Yemen Post, 10/22/2013]

NDC working groups resume meetings, Houthis and Southern Movement continue boycott
The Houthis and the Southern Movement continued their boycott of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) Monday, as working groups who have not turned in their final reports resumed meetings. The final plenary session is scheduled to resume on Saturday. Yasser al-Roaini, the deputy general secretary of the NDC, said Houthis and the Southern Movement are demanding more time to finish their respective working group’s final reports. They will be given the week to complete their reports, al-Roaini said. However, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Qabas quoted sources saying that President Hadi reached a deal with members of the Southern Movement that includes the acceptance of a federal state comprised of five provinces with Sanaa as its capital. The agreement reportedly came out of President Hadi’s meetings in Aden. This follows recent reports that Hadi communicated with former president Saleh to assure him that Yemen would remain united. [Yemen Times, Mareb Press (Arabic), 10/22/2013]

Salafis declare war against the Houthis
A Salafi leader in Dammaj, Sheikh Abu Ismail Wadii, told Mareb Press about the opening of new fronts of jihad against the Houthis in the region. Wadii said that many tribesmen have responded to the call for “jihad against the aggressors” in response to the Houthis’ violation of a truce in the area and attacks on Dammaj villagers. [Mareb Press (Arabic), 10/21/2013]


Saudi spy chief says Riyadh to “shift away from US” over Syria, Iran
Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief has said the kingdom will make a “major shift” in relations with the United States in protest at its perceived inaction over the Syria war and its overtures to Iran, a source close to Saudi policy said on Tuesday. Prince Bandar bin Sultan told European diplomats that Washington had failed to act effectively on the Syria crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran, and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed an anti-government revolt in 2011, the source said. [Reuters, WSJ, 10/22/2013]

Algerian Islamists seeking consensus presidential candidate
Algeria’s Islamist parties are attempting to put their differences aside in order to find what they call a “consensus candidate” for the presidential elections in April, in which they are expected to face incumbent president Abdelaziz Bouteflika. A number of meetings took place recently between the leaders of four Islamist opposition parties in Algiers, none of which have resulted in agreement on a candidate. However one party leader told Asharq Al-Awsat that “it is too early to talk about failure because the elections are still a long way away and we will find common ground in the end.” [Asharq al-Awsat, 10/21/2013]

FATF ends monitoring of Nigeria, Morocco
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) said it has removed Nigeria and Morocco from its list of countries subject to monitoring over anti-money laundering and terrorist financing regulations. The FATF said in a statement that it “congratulates” the two countries for the significant progress made in addressing deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and terrorism-financing regimes. [Wall Street Journal, 10/21/2013]