Top News: US Special Forces Tried But Failed To Rescue James Foley in Syria

US government announced that it had tried to rescue journalist James Foley and other hostages during a secret mission into Syria and exchanged gunfire with Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. The rescue operation was unsuccessful after discovering that none of the hostages were present at the compound.




Officials trade blame for power shortages
As extended electricity cuts plunge households and businesses across Egypt into darkness for hours each day, officials appear eager to avoid blame for the power crisis. Electricity demand hit a record daily high of 27,700 megawatts, 20 percent more than powers stations could provide. Minister of Electricity Mohamed Shaker claimed that inferior quality fuel supplied by the ministry of petroleum is causing frequent breakdowns at power stations. The cabinet will hold a special session on electricity Monday and Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab promised a gradual improvement to the problem of power cuts as soon as next week. During a cabinet meeting, Sisi called for urgent amendments to plans to cut down power loads to maintain balance in power outages. The Nour Party called on Wednesday for the government to find a quick solution to the energy crisis, and Tamer Ziadi, Vice President of the Congress party, said that investments in solar energy could provide a solution. [Mada Masr, 8/20/2014]

Ministry says NGO law will comply with constitution, international standards
The ministry of social solidarity called on civil society and human rights groups “to respect the democratic consultative process” amid continuing criticism of a draft law regulating non-governmental organizations in Egypt. The ministry pointed to three sessions held by the General Federation of NGOs where the draft law was discussed with the affected parties. The ministry added that a workshop would take place in Sohag for Upper Egyptian NGOs and another would be held with the National Council for Human Rights. The ministry’s statement this week emphasized its commitment to the constitution while drafting the law and its “full commitment to the international treaties endorsed by the Egyptian government.” The ministry also stated the importance of the NGO law’s approval by the upcoming elected parliament “which represents the nation.” [DNE, 8/21/2014]

Some see Qatar’s hand in collapse of Egypt-led Gaza talks
An official from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement suggested Wednesday that Qatar torpedoed Egypt-led peace talks between Gaza and Israel, as negotiations ground to a halt by Wednesday. After signs of progress last week, Hamas negotiators returned to the table after consultations in Qatar with new conditions – prompting a similar response by Israel, he said. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to discuss the negotiations publicly, said the experience indicated the Qataris “have no interest” in seeing Egyptian-led talks succeed, and that Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood are working together to undermine Egypt. Representatives from Hamas and Islamic Jihad both denied any Qatari interference. [AP, 8/21/2014]

World Bank to advise on Egypt’s Suez Canal mega project
The World Bank has announced its strong backing for Egypt’s recently-launched Suez Canal mega project, pledging its advisory assistance. “We are very pleased to join forces with the Suez Canal Authority to provide technical advisory services in support of the development of a strategy and master plan for such a mega project, the Suez Canal Regional Development Project,” Hartwig Schafer, the World Bank’s Country Director for Egypt, Yemen and Djibouti, said on Tuesday. The plan includes creating an industrial hub beside the international waterway and a center for supplies and logistics. [Ahram Online, 8/20/2014]


Tunisia and Cairo close air routes to and from Libya
Tunisia and Egypt’s Cairo airport have cancelled all flights to Libya, according to officials from the three countries. Tunisian aviation officials offered no explanation, but Libyan news agency LANA reported that Cairo airport authorities had made the decision for security reasons. The closure of airspace came after the Libyan government said on Monday that unidentified warplanes had attacked positions of armed groups in Tripoli fighting against a rival faction for control of the capital. [Reuters, 8/21/2014]

Tarhouna rejects parliament and declares support for Operation Dawn
Tarhouna has joined the towns of Nalut and Kabaw in rejecting the legitimacy of the House of Representatives. In a joint statement, several entities, including the town’s revolutionaries, the local council, the military council, and a number of civil society organizations, announced their withdrawal of confidence from Tarhouna’s four parliamentarians. They also completely rejected all decisions made by the House, especially the request for foreign intervention in Libya. The Tarhouna representatives declared their full support for Operation Dawn, the Islamist counteroffensive. [Libya Herald, 8/21/2014]

Missing Libya planes spark security concerns
With the disappearance of several commercial planes during the siege of the Tripoli airport, countries on both shores of the Mediterranean are worried about how the missing aircraft might be used by terrorists, prompting “5+5” member states to add a new element to their scheduled joint military exercise. This time, simulations will include intercepting civilian or military aircraft piloted by terrorists. The air forces of Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania, Spain, France, Portugal, Italy, and Malta will participate in the upcoming exercise, in coordination with US naval forces, according to the Anatolia news agency. [Magharebia, 8/20/2014]

Islamic Youth carries out public execution in Derna
The Shura Council of Islamic Youth in Derna has killed an Egyptian man it accused of murder in what is reportedly the second public execution carried out by the group in the town. On July 27, Islamic Youth put to death two men, one Egyptian and another Libyan, for an alleged murder. The most recent execution has received widespread attention after a video of the proceedings was uploaded to the Internet. The Shura Council of Islamic Youth in Derna rose to prominence in the town in early April after the consolidation of three radical Islamist groups in the area. [Libya Herald, 8/20/2014]


US Special Forces tried but failed to rescue James Foley in Syria
US government announced that it had tried to rescue journalist James Foley and other hostages during a secret mission into Syria and exchanged gunfire with Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. The rescue operation was unsuccessful after discovering that none of the hostages were present at the compound. US officials would not say exactly when the operation took place but said it was not in the past couple of weeks. One of the commandos was slightly wounded in the clash, which lasted several minutes before US aircraft flew the soldiers out to safety. [Reuters, NY Times, 8/21/2014]

Syrian crisis claims over 180,000 deaths
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced in a news report that more than 180,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict broke out in March 2011. Among them were 58,805 civilians, including 9,428 children and 6,036 women. The Observatory also documented the deaths of 561 members of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, which is fighting alongside the regime, and 1,854 other non-Syrian pro-regime fighters. [AFP, 8/21/2014]

ISIS seizes four more foreign hostages in Syria
Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants have seized four more foreign hostages near Aleppo in recent days. ISIS is now estimated to hold more than twenty foreigners as hostages. The latest captives are two Italian women, a Danish citizen, and a Japanese national. All held are either reporters, photographers, or aid workers taken near Aleppo and Idlib. [The Guardian, 8/21/2014]

France armed Syrian rebels
President Francois Hollande said on Thursday that France had delivered weapons to rebels battling the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad a few months ago. The French government decided to arm the rebels after it was made clear that they had to face both the armies of Bashar al-Assad and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). [AFP, 8/21/2014]


Tunisian election watchdog releases poll on youth and participatory democracy
A recent poll conducted by election watchdog organization I Watch found that while 52 percent of Tunisia’s youth is interested in politics, only 6 percent is active in political parties. The poll was designed to gauge Tunisian youth’s understanding of participatory democracy and assess the extent to which they participate in political life. “Regarding voting intentions, the poll says that 40 percent intend to vote in the next elections, while 27 percent will boycott them,” I Watch member Dhia Elhak Amar said. The poll also ranked young voter priorities heading into election season. Employment and regional development topped the list, followed by security concerns and terrorism. [Tunisia Live, 8/20/2014]

Tunisia prepares for Libya refugee influx
Tunisian local authorities, international organizations, and civil society representatives gathered in Tataouine on August 19 to prepare an emergency plan for the anticipated influx of Libyan refugees. The strategy includes commissions to oversee the protection of children and vulnerable persons, setting up info centers, and providing food and medical supplies. To escape the security chaos, tens of thousands have fled from Libya to Tunisia this summer. To alleviate economic fallout, Tunisia has presented itself to refugees as a transit point, rather than a permanent destination. [Magharebia, 8/20/2014]

Nine takfiris arrested for planning attacks against security forces
Six takfiris were apprehended on charges of terrorist acts. Some of them are accused of celebrating the killing of Tunisian soldiers and glorifying terrorism, while others face charges of calling participants in upcoming elections heretics and pledging allegiance to banned Ansar al-Sharia movement. These operations come as subversive pages on social networks advocating and supporting terrorism are tracked down. Nine takfiris in total were arrested in security operations. [TAP, 8/20/2014]


Gunmen shot dead three policemen in Abyan
Unidentified gunmen in Abyan killed three policemen on Wednesday. The gunmen opened fire at military police officers stationed on the outskirts of Abyan, killing three policemen instantly. The soldiers responded to the attack by firing several tank shells on a suspected al-Qaeda hideouts in the region. [Turkish WeeklyBusiness Standard, 8/21/2014]

Ansarullah rejects G10 message
The Yemeni Ansarullah group, a major Houthi movement, rejected the message delivered by the Group of 10 ambassadors sponsoring the Gulf initiative on Wednesday. The G10 group urged Ansarullah to participate in the political process in Yemen. In response, Ansarullah asked the G10 to respect the will of the Yemeni people to live in dignity, asserting its determination to continue protesting until they succeed in toppling the government and lifting subsidies on oil derivatives. Houthi militants gave the government a deadline of August 22 to meet the protesters’ demands. On Wednesday, President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi chaired a meeting condemning the protests. [SabaYemen Online, 8/20/2014]

China ranks as Yemen’s top trade partner in 2013 for fifth successive year
China continues to be Yemen’s largest trade partner for the fifth successive year, according to a report published by the Althawra Daily on Wednesday. China’s imports accounted for 23.7 percent of Yemen’s exports bringing in more than $1.7 billion in 2013. From Asia, Thailand came in second, South Korea third, and India in fourth place among the world’s first twenty countries that import Yemeni products, according to the report. [Yemen Post, 8/20/2014]


Saudi Arabia sentences eighteen to jail for terrorist involvement
A Saudi Arabian court has sentenced eighteen men to prison on terms ranging from ten months to twenty-five years for their involvement in a series of terrorist attacks against the government. Those sentenced on Wednesday were found guilty of crimes including giving information on foreign residential compounds to attackers, sheltering wanted suspects, financing militants, and possessing illegal arms. [Reuters, 8/21/2014]

Iran shows willingness to work with West in Iraq
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran is ready to join international action against the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) provided the West lifts sanctions. The minister stated, “If we agree to do something in Iraq, the other side of the negotiations should do something in return,” and “all the sanctions that are related to Iran’s nuclear program should be lifted.” The statements mark the first time Iran demonstrated a willingness to collaborate with Western powers in order to defeat ISIS. [AFP, 8/21/2014]

Kuwait detains Muslim cleric suspected of funding jihadists
Kuwaiti government detained a prominent Sunni Muslim cleric on Wednesday after the United States included him on a sanctions list on suspicion of funneling money to the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Hajjaj al-Ajmi was detained at Kuwait airport on his arrival from Qatar. [Reuters, 8/21/2014]