Turkey Bombing Kills 97 at Ankara Peace Rally

On Saturday morning, two explosions targeted a Turkish peace rally in Ankara, killing at least 97 people and wounding hundreds more. The rally was organized by workers’ unions and NGOs, and attended by thousands of opposition supporters and Kurdish activists in a call for greater democracy and an end to the violence between the Turkish state and Kurdish rebels. Though no groups have taken responsibility for the attack, the government’s main suspect is the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) group operating in Turkey. The outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) followed through on rumors of a potential cease-fire on Saturday, hours after the attack. Since Saturday, anti-government protests have broken out in Ankara and across the country. Some demonstrators accuse President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of increasing tensions with Kurds to profit at the ballot box in November. Demonstrators gathered in Istanbul late Saturday, and demonstrations in Diyarbakir, Izmir, and many other cities and towns followed. The Turkish government imposed a temporary news blackout covering images that showed the moment of the blasts, gruesome or bloody pictures or “images that create a feeling of panic.” Many people reported being unable to access Twitter and other social media websites for several hours after the blasts. “The greatest and most meaningful response to this attack is the solidarity and determination we will show against it,” President Erdogan said.Selahattin Demirtas, leader of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), condemned the Turkish government’s complicity in the attack, which is now the third fatal attack on the HDP and Kurdish activists since June, saying, “this attack (Saturday) resembles and is a continuation of the Diyarbakir and Suruc (attacks)… it was carried out by the state against the people.”[AP, Reuters, 10/13/2015]



Egypt’s Foreign Minister heads to New York for Security Council bid
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry arrived in New York on Monday to attend the vote concerning Egypt’s bid for a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council (UNSC) for the 2016-2017 term, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid said in a statement on Sunday. “Egypt is a heavyweight Arab, African and Middle Eastern country. It also represents a large segment of ‘non-aligned’ and Islamic states, so joining the Security Council will allow Egypt to be capable of relaying its vision and priorities on many security and defense issues related to those countries,” the statement read. Egypt announced the bid at the UN General Assembly in September, and has received support from many African Union States as well as the support of the Arab League. Egypt last sat as a nonpermanent member on the Security Council during the 1996-1997 term. [Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, 10/11/2015]

Shoukry ‘coordinates’ with Lavrov on Syria, as Russia faces criticism for civilian deaths
Foreign Affairs Minister Sameh Shoukry spoke with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov to “coordinate” over the Syrian crisis, as Russia’s military involvement in the conflict continues to garner criticism. The two ministers agreed on the importance of reaching a political settlement to the Syrian crisis and “to encourage the parties to engage in dialogue in accordance with the plan put forward by the UN envoy on the basis of the decisions of the Geneva meeting.” However, Russia’s military involvement in Syria has widely been interpreted as a move to bolster the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by striking rebels backed by the United States and other countries. Egypt has been in “constant contact” with Russia and publicly backs the Russian military intervention in Syria. It says the Russian intervention will curb the spread of terrorism in the wartorn country and encourage a political resolution. Egypt has offered its support despite the direct challenge the policy poses to close-ally Saudi Arabia, which has supported Syrian rebels. Egyptian officials also recently met with a Syrian government delegation for a talk on a number of topics including responses to terrorism. [DNE, 10/10/2015]

Over 27 million registered voters in elections first round
Some 27,402,353 voters are registered to take part in the elections first round due to start October 18 in Egypt, stated the High Elections Committee (HEC) Saturday. According to HEC spokesperson Omar Marwan, voters include 13,257,507 women and 14,144,846 men. Some 139 embassies and consulates abroad will serve the 700,000 Egyptians abroad who are registered to vote on October 17. The HEC announced Saturday that ten satellite TV channels have violated electoral campaigning regulations, and that they will face penalties that will be announced soon. The Salafist Nour Party, the only Islamist party campaigning in Egypt’s parliamentary elections, said it would have around 200 independents and fifteen party-based candidates running. The party has decided to focus on the West Delta and Cairo constituencies, rather than field candidates throughout the country, and has said it is focusing on providing services for citizens in its electoral campaign. The Nour Party also said it would support the For the Love of Egypt list in East Delta as it is the only candidate. Party leader Talaat Marzouk revealed that the protest and pretrial detention laws will be on the party’s legislative agenda in the upcoming parliament. Free Egyptians Party founder Naguib Sawiris said in a TV interview on Saturday that his party was not looking for a majority in the upcoming parliamentary elections. He also added in his interview on CBC TV that his party was seeking to “defeat” poverty in Egypt using experiences and programs based on the German model in its economic program. The party is competing over 220 seats. Meanwhile, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party (SPAP) launched on Sunday a campaign warning voters of the dangers of electing to parliament members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood and Hosni Mubarak’s dissolved National Democratic Party (NDP). The party called for electing candidates who were not implicated in corruption. The ‘No to Religious Parties’ campaign group announced it collected 1.25 million signatures Sunday. The group also said it would file a case against the twelve Egyptian political parties founded on religious bases. Finally, according to Al Masry Al Youm, a remarkable number of former army and police officers are running as independent public figures within the electoral lists competing for seats. The largest number of former generals can be found in the For the Love of Egypt list, which is led by retired army general Sameh Seif al-Yazal. [Ahram Online, 10/13/2015]

Gamal, Alaa Mubarak to be released from prison
An Egyptian court ordered the release of the sons of deposed autocrat Hosni Mubarak on Monday, taking into account time already served on a corruption conviction. The Cairo criminal court ordered the release of Gamal and his brother Alaa after they were sentenced in May to three years’ prison each in a corruption case dubbed the ‘presidential palaces’ affair by the Egyptian media. This comes after both brothers filed a legal challenge against their continuing detention. Their lawyer, Farid al-Deeb, told the court Monday that both defendants had served forty-three months in prison, exceeding the three-year sentences that were handed out by the court in May. They had been charged with receiving five villas as a bribe from businessman Hussein Salem. Separately, the two sons also face trial on insider trading charges, with the next hearing in October. They were expected to walk free later Monday. [Ahram Online, DNE, Reuters, AP, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 10/12/2015]

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Dozens of Tunisian workers held by gunmen in Libya
Gunmen have kidnapped dozens of Tunisians in northwestern Libya to demand the release of a local Libyan official arrested in Tunisia this week, families and locals sources said on Tuesday. Mustapha Abdul Kabir, a Tunisian human rights activist with contacts in Libya, said the Tunisians were being held in Sabratha. An official from Sabratha, a coastal town between Libya’s capital Tripoli and the Tunisian border, was arrested along with another Libyan at Tunis airport on Saturday, Sabratha’s municipal council said. They had flown to Tunis on a visit organized by the United Nations, the council said. Tunisian officials were not immediately available to comment. [Reuters, 10/13/2015]

Two Tunisian soldiers killed in clashes with militants
On Monday, Islamists militants killed two Tunisian soldiers and wounded four others during an operation by the army to free a man kidnapped in the Mt. Samama area near the border with Algeria, according to army spokesman Belhassen Oueslati. The area is near Mt. Chaambi in western Tunisia, where dozens of security forces have died battling Islamic militants. Okba Ibn Nafi, a local Islamist group, said on Twitter that it had executed the kidnapped man, but these claims have not been confirmed. Officials said the attackers were trained in jihadist camps in Libya. [TAP, Reuters, AP, 10/12/2015]

HoR debates government names without conclusion
Libya’s House of Representatives (HoR) met Monday to discuss Leon’s proposed names for a new unity government, but broke up Monday’s evening without any decision on whether to accept the draft agreement. Further discussions are expected on Tuesday. The General National Congress (GNC) in Tripoli has not yet met to consider the names or the latest draft. A source close to the GNC claimed that there is now a majority in favor of both the draft and the names and it intended to sign a statement to that effect and send it to Leon, despite the reported resistance of GNC President Nuri Abu Sahmain to call a vote. On Monday, the Misrata local council voted in favor of the agreement and called for the HoR and GNC to do the same. [Libya Herald, 10/12/2015]

Gentiloni ready to ensure security in Tripoli
If Libyans would form a new government, Italy is “ready” to provide security to some areas of the country with its military, said Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Paolo Gentiloni at Agorà on Rai 3. Gentiloni set two conditions: a request by the Libyan government and UN cover. He said Italy is prepared to make a contribution “but Libyans must make peace among themselves.” [ANSAmed, 10/13/2015]

UN Security Council approves mission against human trafficking off Libya for one year
On Friday, the UN Security Council authorized EU naval operations for one year to seize migrant smuggling vessels on the high seas off Libya. The fifteen-member council adopted the British drafted resolution with fourteen votes in favor and Venezuela abstaining. The resolution approved the second of three phases of an EU naval mission intended to stem the flow of refugees and migrants into Europe. Libya initially objected to the draft UN resolution on the high seas mission, but its UN Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi wrote to the council Tuesday to say the country’s concerns had been allayed and it agreed to the final draft. [Reuters, AP, 10/9/2015]

Algeria to close private TV channel over “subversive” interview
On Monday, Algeria ordered the closure of a private television station after it broadcast an interview with an Islamist figure accused of “subversive” remarks, the Communications Ministry said. The decision came after El Watan TV broadcast an interview with Madani Mezrag, the former head of the Islamic Salvation Army (AIS), the armed wing of the banned Islamic Salvation Front (FIS). In the interview, Mezrag spoke of his plans to set up a political party and criticized President Abdelaziz Bouteflika for rejecting his initiative. [AFP, 10/12/2015]


Turkey claims Russian jets harass forces on Syria border, warns against backing Kurds
On Sunday, Turkey’s military said that two Syrian jets and surface-to-air missile systems based in Syria harassed three F-16 jets patrolling the Turkish-Syrian border on Saturday. Turkey warned the United States and Russia it will not tolerate Kurdish territorial gains by Kurdish militia close to its frontiers in northwestern Syria, two senior officials said. “This is clear cut for us and there is no joking about it,” one official said of the possibility of Syrian Kurdish militia crossing the Euphrates to extend control along Turkish borders from Iraq’s Kurdistan region towards the Mediterranean coast. Turkey fears advances by Kurdish YPG militia, backed by its Democratic Union Party (PYD) political wing, will fuel separatist ambitions among Kurds in its own southeastern territories. But Washington has supported YPG fighters as an effective force in combating ISIS. Ankara fears ultimately the creation of an independent Kurdish state occupying contiguous territories currently belonging to Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. After the bombings in Ankara on Saturday, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) declared a cease-fire in the run up to the November 1 snap elections. [AP, Reuters, 10/13/2015]

United States airdrops arms ammunition to Syrian rebels
US-led coalition forces have parachuted ammunition to rebels fighting ISIS in northern Syria, a US military spokesman said Monday. The move follows the Pentagon’s announcement last week that it would pause a program to train moderate rebels and instead focus efforts on equipping screened rebel leaders from groups fighting ISIS. “Coalition forces conducted an airdrop Sunday in northern Syria to resupply local counter-ISIL ground forces as they conduct operations against ISIL,” US Central Command spokesman Colonel Patrick Ryder said. There was no identification on the groups that received the supplies but said their leaders were vetted and have been fighting to remove ISIS from northern Syria. [AP, AFP, 10/12/2015]

US-backed Syrian Kurds accused of war crimes
A report released by Amnesty International on Monday reveals that Kurdish militants in northern Syria, among the most successful US partners on the ground in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL), may have committed war crimes. Amnesty’s report claims it has found evidence of a campaign of displacement and home demolitions targeting the area’s local Arab population. The local Kurdish armed group known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG) have forced Arab citizens from their homes in northern Syria supposedly on orders from the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a Kurdish political body that has held effective control of northern Syria’s “Autonomous Administration” since January 2014. Amnesty said its findings were based on visits to 14 towns and villages in the provinces of Hasaka and Raqqa this summer, areas that are under Kurdish control. [AP, Washington Post, 10/12/2015]

Insurgents shell Russian embassy in Syria
Insurgents fired two shells at the Russian embassy in the Syrian capital on Tuesday as hundreds of pro-government supporters gathered outside the compound to thank Moscow for its intervention in Syria. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday described the shelling of Moscow’s embassy in Damascus as an “act of terror” aimed at intimidating those who support Moscow’s bombing campaign in Syria. “It is a clear act of terror meant to scare supporters of fighting terrorism,” Lavrov told reporters in Moscow. Rebels in the capital’s suburbs have targeted the embassy in the past, and it was not clear if Tuesday’s attack targeted the rally. [AP, AFP, 10/13/2015]


Arab coalition pursues Houthi pockets in Yemen’s Marib
Forces loyal to the Arab coalition have been trying to consolidate power over the central province of Marib, east of the capital, in an apparent bid to advance on Sanaa, which remains under the control of Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Marib Governor Sultan al-Arada said on Monday that forces allied to President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi and the Gulf coalition were “perusing the last pockets of Houthis” in the province. Saudi-led coalition warplanes on Monday also launched air strikes on Houthi targets in Taiz, hitting the medical college near the presidential palace and the 35th Brigade headquarters in the old airport. Arada said the security committee of the province issued a number of measures to secure the roads leading to the Marib, including the international road. The UAE Al Bayan newspaper quoted a military communiqué by the Saudi-led coalition as declaring the two towns of Hudayda and Mukha as military zones in preparation for a fresh military operation. [Al Jazeera, 10/13/2015]

Yemeni port says first ship in weeks arrives, Saudi denies hampering aid by sea
Officials at Yemen’s Red Sea port of Hudayda said the first ship to dock there in three weeks arrived on Tuesday, carrying desperately needed fuel, as Saudi Arabia denied it was obstructing aid supplies heading for Yemen by sea. The United Nations has designated Yemen as one of its highest-level humanitarian crises but aid efforts have been severely hampered by ongoing fighting and blockades. Hudayda port officials said that two cargo ships, one carrying wheat and the other timber, were the last vessels to enter the facility about three weeks ago. The tanker that arrived on Tuesday had been waiting in international waters for two months, they said, adding that nine other vessels were anchored, awaiting permission to enter. International aid officials say imports to Yemen have slowed to a trickle because of inspections of vessels by a Saudi-led coalition looking for smuggled weapons. Coalition spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asseri said there had been no attempts to prevent ships from reaching Hudayda, adding that six ships had arrived at Hudayda two days ago and twelve more to the southern port city of Aden, which is controlled by Hadi’s government. [Reuters, 10/13/2015]

Yemen’s Saleh says ready to commit to UN peace terms, Bahrain says Gulf made right choice
Yemen’s former president has vowed to honor a peace plan brokered by the United Nations in talks in Oman and to quit Yemeni cities if a Saudi-led Arab alliance stopped air strikes on the country. Ali Abdullah Saleh also told the Lebanon-based al-Mayadeen television in an interview broadcast on Monday that he was ready to quit his position as head of the General People’s Congress (GPC) within three weeks in exchange for ending the attacks on Yemen and lifting a blockade on the entry of supplies to the country. In Monday’s interview, Saleh said, “We had reached a ten-point agreement with the UN envoy in Muscat, and we later reached (an agreement) of seven points which we and Ansarullah (Houthis) accepted, but until now the other side had not because they only want a dialogue through the gun.” Bahrain’s King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa said that the events that have recently unfolded in Yemen have indicated that Saudi Arabia and other members of the coalition had made the right decision. [Reuters, Gulf News, 10/12/2015]

Yemen lauds Gulf states’ combat and relief efforts
Major-General Jaafar Mohammad Sa’ad, Aden’s new Governor, has commended the role that the UAE forces have played in liberating Aden from Houthi militants and forces loyal to Yemeni ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh. In a statement, the governor said, “The results of the efforts exerted by the Emirates Red Crescent have been seen in different fields … proves the genuineness of the brotherly relations between the UAE and Yemen.” Among its efforts, the Emirates Red Crescent (ERC) has rehabilitated a hospital in the Ramah directorate. The hospital is now ready to welcome patients as part of a series of health and educational projects the ERC is implementing. Yemeni Human Rights Minister Izz al-Din Asbahi has also commended the relief and humanitarian efforts exerted by Qatar. In a statement on the sidelines of yesterday’s seminar organized by the Arab Human Rights Committee at the Arab League’s General Secretariat to present its report on violations committed by the Houthis in Yemen, Asbahi said Qatar contributed significantly to humanitarian relief. [Gulf News, Khaleej Times, Yemen Times, 10/12/2015]


UN, World Bank to launch refugee and reconstruction bonds
International agencies plan to raise billions of dollars to tackle the worsening refugee crisis in the Middle East and North Africa by issuing new bonds to help displaced people and support reconstruction in the region. The United Nations, World Bank, and Islamic Development Bank announced the proposal on Saturday after global policy makers met to discuss ways to ease the growing humanitarian and economic crisis stemming from conflicts in countries including Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya. The two track initiative will ask donor countries to provide guarantees for bonds raising money for certain projects, ranging from support for refugees to rebuilding to allow displaced people to return home. Some would be Islamic bonds that would target investors in the region. Donors would also be asked for grants to cut the interest rate for countries hosting the bulk of refugees from commercial rates to as low as zero, said World Bank Vice President for Middle East and Europe Hafez Ghanem. A working group will finalize details of the proposed fund raising, which would also make resources available to other development agencies, by February. [Reuters, 8/10/2015]

Egypt expects $1.5 billion in loans from World Bank, AfDB by end of 2015
Egypt expects to receive $1.5 billion in loans from the World Bank and African Development Bank by the end of 2015, according to Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said. The loans aim to boost Egypt’s foreign currency reserves and bolster the economy. Egypt’s foreign currency reserves, which have more than halved since 2011, stood at $16.335 billion at the end of September. According to the Central Bank, Egypt’s external debt rose by 4.3 percent to $48 billion in the fiscal year ending on June 30. However, Egypt’s net foreign direct investments (FDI) rose by 54.6 percent in the fiscal year, reaching $6.37 billion. In September, Investment Minister Ashraf Salman said the country needs $10 billion in FDI and $51.1 billion in domestic investments to grow at 5 percent. Last week, Ismail formed a ministerial economic committee to examine a general framework for economic and monetary policies and the promotion of investment. Meanwhile, revenue from the Suez Canal rose to $462.1 million in August from $437.7 million in July, according to the Suez Canal Authority. [Reuters, 8/11/2015]

France, Saudi Arabia sign EUR 10 billion worth of deals
France and Saudi Arabia signed deals worth EUR 10 billion during a visit by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, and Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. Valls announced the deals on Twitter on Tuesday. The deals include contracts and letters of intent between the two countries, including a Saudi order for thirty patrol boats. The deals also cover energy, health, food, satellites, and infrastructure, according to Valls’ office. A French official added that a military helicopter deal is also expected to be signed in Riyadh. On Monday, Valls opened the Saudi-French Business Opportunities Forum to promote commercial ties between firms from the two countries. “France is now the third largest investor in Saudi Arabia and there are opportunities for development for Saudi companies in France,” he said. About 200 French companies attended the forum. Prior to the visit, Reuters reported that Saudi Arabia had shown interest in purchasing flexible assault naval vessels and spy satellites, and that France was hoping to sell two pressurized reactors to Saudi Arabia. [AP, World Bulletin, RFI, 10/13/2015]

World Bank says revises up Turkey growth forecast
Turkey’s economy grew faster than expected in the second quarter of the fiscal year, prompting the World Bank to revise its 2015 growth forecast to 3.2 percent. While “private and public consumption continued to lose momentum,” according to the Bank, “private investment unexpectedly surged and became the main driver of growth.” Despite the upward revision, the bank said economic activity would decelerate in the second half of the year as political uncertainty and tensions in the southeast affect investment. “Businesses are likely to cut investment spending from the second quarter and postpone investment decisions until a new stable political equilibrium is reached,” the Bank said. The Bank also said that Turkey’s high current account deficit is unlikely to fall below 5.5 percent of gross domestic product without structural reforms, and that inflation would remain above target at around 7.5 percent by the end of the year. [Reuters, Hurriyet, 8/13/2015]

Iraq halts plan for international bond issue due to high price
Iraq has halted its plan to issue international bonds because the yield it would have to pay on the debt was too high, Deputy Finance Minister Fathil Nabi said on Sunday. “[Finance Minister Hoshiyar Zebari] ordered that the bond be halted because the interest rate is high,” Nabi said. He did not comment further and it was unclear if the plan will be revived. The Iraqi government had said it needed the proceeds of the bond to pay salaries and fund infrastructure projects in the oil and gas, electricity, and transportation sectors. However, investors demanded extremely high yields that would have been financially burdensome for Iraq. Zebari told members of the parliament’s financial committee last week that it was too difficult to accept paying an 11.5 percent yield in return for an $2 billion bond, the committee’s secretary Ahmed Haji Rashid said. “There was an expectations mismatch on the Iraq bond pricing,” said an official at a European investment firm. [Reuters, 8/11/2015]

Kuwait sovereign fund may sell assets to cover deficit
The Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) considering selling assets to cover a state budget deficit caused by low oil prices, the country’s Al-Anba newspaper reported on Sunday, quoting unnamed sources.  The KIA, which is estimated to have more than $500 billion of assets, is studying whether to liquidate assets that generate annual returns of below 9 percent, the newspaper said. The newspaper did not specify which asset classes might be sold, but said that the size of the sales was expected to be about 9 billion dinars ($30 billion). Officials believe the sale would be a relatively cheap method of covering the budget deficit and financing planned large infrastructure projects. Meanwhile, Oil Minister Ali al-Omair said Kuwait would not slow the development of its oil industry projects in response to the fall of crude prices. On Tuesday, Kuwait’s National Petroleum Company said it plans to sign the main contracts awarded to companies to build the Al-Zour oil refinery. [Reuters, 8/11/2015]