The leaked video showing General National Congress President Nuri Abu Sahmain begging a militia leader, trying to explain why he was caught with two women in his residence highlights how weak Libya’s most prominent politicians are in the face of militias. Over the past two years, militias have assassinated some 200 prominent figures, including top police officials, prosecutors, judges, and activists. Investigators do not dare to go to crime scenes or make arrests, and witnesses rarely testify for fear of retaliation. Courts have been shut down because judges fear assassination. [AP, 4/10/2014]



Egypt licenses over 17,000 state-approved clerics
The Egyptian government has stepped up a campaign to curb Muslim Brotherhood influence over mosques, saying it has licensed more than 17,000 state-approved clerics to give Friday sermons. All of the newly-approved clerics had been trained at Al-Azhar University, which is a respected center of Sunni Islamic learning, and institutions run by the ministry of religious endowments, according to a statement issued by the prime minister’s office on Thursday. “That is to strengthen the ministry’s supervision over all Egypt’s mosques so that they do not fall into the hands of extremists and the unqualified” and to prevent mosques being used for “party or sectarian” purposes, it said. [Reuters, 4/10/2014]

Egypt government to implement terrorist law against Brotherhood
Egypt’s Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab issued a formal decision on Thursday to impose the penalties stipulated by the newly-enacted “anti-terrorism” law on anyone who belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood or promotes or funds it. “These penalties apply in accordance with the court ruling that designated the Brotherhood organization as a terrorist group to anyone who joins the group or continues to be a member of it,” said the Premier’s decision. [Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, Shorouk (Arabic), 4/10/2014]

Electricity minister says summer power cuts will not exceed one hour
Electricity Minister Mohamed Shaker said on Tuesday that electricity outages, which started last month, would be limited to one hour for each area block during the summer. Shaker said that if the Electricity Ministry receives the full amount of fuel needed, the electricity shortage would be limited to 1000 to 1500 megawatts at all times, with a few exceptional cases where the shortage would reach 2000 megawatts. In related news, the Egyptian government said on Wednesday that Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab has given orders to step up police efforts to tackle the theft of electricity by arresting the perpetrators and enforcing the law. [Mada Masr, 4/9/2014]

United States blacklists Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis; Egypt welcomes decision
The United States designated Egypt’s most active militant group, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, a foreign terrorist organization on Wednesday, making it a crime to support the group. The formal designation signals US willingness to pursue groups responsible for some of the ongoing violence in Egypt, which has seen a string of attacks on security forces by various factions since the military ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi last summer. By naming the group, US officials can freeze its assets. The Egyptian foreign ministry welcomed the decision saying that it is the result of “continuous and intensive efforts exerted by the foreign ministry and the Egyptian embassies abroad over the last seven months.” [DNE, AP, Reuters, Mada Masr, 4/9/2014]


Libya’s NOC awaits ministry go-ahead to start exports at two ports
Libya’s state National Oil Corp (NOC) is still waiting for government instructions to resume exports from two eastern oil ports, an NOC spokesman said on Thursday. The ports of Zueitina and Hariga were reopened after a deal was struck with Ibrahim Jadhran’s federalist group which has been blockading Libya’s main oil terminals in the east for nine months. The government is still negotiating to reopen its two largest ports, Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, which is expected to take a few more weeks. The major western oilfields of El Sharara and El Feel remain closed after protesters blocked pipelines connecting the fields to ports last month. [Reuters, 4/10/2014]

Libya officer killed, family wounded when car explodes
A Libyan air force officer was killed Wednesday, and his wife and daughter seriously injured, when a bomb placed under his car exploded in the eastern city of Benghazi, officials said. In a separate incident, a jihadist leader was killed in the eastern town of Derna. Benghazi was the cradle of the revolution that ousted Qaddafi and has since been plagued by violence that has killed dozens of members of the security forces, judges, and foreigners. Wednesday marked the fourth day of a general strike to denounce the lack of security, as well as to call for the suspension of the legislature and early elections. [AFP, 4/9/2014]

In Libya, politicians in fear of powerful militias
The leaked video showing General National Congress President Nuri Abu Sahmain begging a militia leader, trying to explain why he was caught with two women in his residence highlights how weak Libya’s most prominent politicians are in the face of militias. Over the past two years, militias have assassinated some 200 prominent figures, including top police officials, prosecutors, judges, and activists. Investigators do not dare to go to crime scenes or make arrests, and witnesses rarely testify for fear of retaliation. Courts have been shut down because judges fear assassination. [AP, 4/10/2014]


Twin car bombs in Homs kill twenty-five, wound more than one hundred
Two car bombs exploded Wednesday in a government-held district of Homs, killing at least twenty-five and wounding more than one hundred. The blasts hit a commercial street inhabited mostly by members of President Bashar Assad’s minority Alawi sect in the central city, where government forces have been imposing a heavy siege on rebel-controlled districts. One car blew up near a sweets shop in a busy street and about half an hour later another car exploded nearby “in order to inflict the biggest numbers of casualties among citizens,” as reported by SANA. [AP, NYT, Naharnet/AFP, Reuters, 4/10/2014]

Nusra loses ground to jihadist rivals on Iraq border
Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate lost ground to its jihadist rivals around a town on the Iraqi border on Thursday in heavy fighting that left two dozen dead. Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a cross-border group which has been disowned by the al-Qaeda leadership, launched a three-pronged assault on positions held by al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front and its allies. ISIS fighters were driven out of Albu Kamal in heavy fighting earlier this year and are seeking to link up with their comrades over the border in Iraq. A rebel commander loyal to the mainstream Free Syrian Army (FSA) said it continued to control the nearby border crossing to the Iraqi town of al-Qa’im and reporters confirmed the FSA flag still flies over it. [AFP, 4/10/2014]

Reports of rebels with tank-busters raises questions of US role in Syria
Videos of western-backed Syrian rebels using sophisticated anti-tank missiles indicate that Washington might have signed off on heavier weaponry being distributed to moderate groups. The videos appeared online this week amid deep divisions between John Kerry’s State Department and the Pentagon over how much more the US should involve itself militarily in the Syrian civil war. The videos of the US-made BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missiles were posted online by an FAS brigade in northwest Syria linked to former Supreme Military Council leader Selim Idriss. The Syrian Revolutionary Front of Jamal Marouf also now reportedly have the anti-tank missiles. Even though both rebel groups are linked to the SMC, they are reportedly backed respectively by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, who have supported competing groups within the SMC. [The National, 4/8/2014]


Security cooperation discussed between Tunisia and Libya
Following the reopening of the Ras Jedir border crossing, Tunisia’s interior minister, Lofti Ben Jeddou, and his Libyan counterpart, Saleh Mazek, agreed to revise security accords signed in 1984. The two sides underlined the importance of drafting a law on border crossing points and the exchange of information and expertise to meet security requirements in the wake of the two countries’ revolutions. With respect to Ras Jedir, both countries stressed the need to ensure the smooth flow of people and goods across the border. Mazek announced that Libyan security officials will be trained by Tunisia. [TAP, 4/9/2014]

Clashes between police and religious extremists continue in Rouhia
On Wednesday evening, clashes resumed in Rouhia between security forces and religious extremists believed to be closely related to Ansar al-Sharia. The clashes were in response to the arrest of sixteen “wanted takfiris” on Monday night. Around eighty people attempted to storm the Rouhia police station but were dispersed by tear gas and security forces. They responded to the security forces by throwing stones. [TAP, 4/9/2014]

Tunisia marks Martyrs’ Day with calm demonstrations
Martyrs’ Day commemorates the deaths of the twenty-two protesters who were killed and the 155 who were injured in protests on April 9, 1938 against French colonial rule. Martyrs’ Day celebrations in downtown Tunis were modest this year, with a group of leftist protesters from the Popular Front as the only visible political presence. Among them was the widow of assassinated politician Chokri Belaid. [Tunisia Live, 4/9/2014]


Clashes erupt in Amran between army and Houthi militants
Three soldiers were killed on Wednesday in renewed clashes between the army and Shiite Houthi militants in Yemen’s northern Amran province. A Houthi leader and six of his companions were also killed in the violence, according to local sources. The violence broke out when Houthi militants tried to set up military checkpoints at the province’s entrances. A new report by a local NGO and a youth commission claims that in the past four months 226 people have been killed in conflicts between Houthi and tribal militants. [al-Masdar (Arabic), World Bulletin; 4/10/2014]

Two Saudi guards killed in Yemen border attack, ministry says
Two Saudi soldiers were killed by unidentified gunmen who fired on them from across the border with Yemen, the Saudi interior ministry said Thursday. A border guard patrol in the southwestern Saudi province of Asir “came under heavy gunfire on Wednesday morning from unknown sources inside Yemeni territory,” said the ministry. Saudi authorities were coordinating with their Yemeni counterparts to investigate the attack. [AFP, 4/10/2014]

Yemen infrastructure investment aims to stimulate the economy
In its 2014 budget, Yemen allocated more than half a trillion rials towards infrastructure projects in a bid to stimulate economic growth and create job opportunities. About 591.2 billion rials ($2.8 billion) was allocated for infrastructure projects out of the overall budget of 2.88 trillion rials ($13.4 billion). [Al-Shorfa, 4/10/2014]

Popular committees threaten to stop cooperating with army in Abyan
The Popular Committees in Abyan province demanded that the government take charge of the security locations and checkpoints that the former has been in control of since 2011 when they took up arms to drive al-Qaeda out of the area. In February, the Popular Committees demanded that government and military officially conscript their 6,100 members and supply them with adequate weapons to confront al-Qaeda militants. According to the committees’ spokesman, their representatives met with the security authorities on Tuesday, but the latter did not take their demands seriously. Some fear that the Popular Committees’ withdrawal could lead to al-Qaeda’s returning to the territory. [The Yemen Times, 4/10/2014]


Anbar tribal leader says Iraqi Army not doing enough to stop extremism in province
Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki vowed to defeat militants in Anbar province on Wednesday, despite criticism from tribal leaders that Iraqi security forces were failing to prevent attacks. A member of the pro-government tribal Anbar Awakening Council, stated that the official security forces were lukewarm in their pursuit of militant groups, including ISIS, and that they were not acting on intelligence passed to them by tribal allies. In his weekly address on Wednesday, Maliki vowed to defeat ISIS, a day after government forces succeeded in reopening a Euphrates dam near Fallujah which ISIS had closed. But the Sahwa member claimed that government forces had been warned of the seizure of the dam and failed to act. [Asharq al-Awsat, 4/10/2014]

UK’s Human Rights and Democracy Report for 2013 published
The UK Foreign Office has released its annual report on human rights and democracy. The United Kingdom identified “countries of concern” in the Middle East as Iraq, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen. The report also featured case studies of Egypt titled “Post-revolution political upheaval,” and Bahrain titled “Progress on reform implementation.” [Foreign & Commonwealth Office, 4/10/2014]