Tuesday, March 31, 2015

US lifts suspension of military aid to Egypt

President Barack Obam
Photo AP
President Barack Obama on Tuesday released military aid to Egypt that was suspended after the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. The White House said Obama notified Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi in a phone call Tuesday. It said that Egypt will remain the second-largest recipient of U.S. foreign military financing worldwide.
The funds were suspended 21 months ago after the ouster of president Mohammed Morsi. Washington could not provide the annual aid package until it certified advances by el-Sisi's government on democracy, human rights and rule of law,  or issued a declaration that such aid is in the interests of U.S. national security. Now that Egypt demonstrates to what extend it is combatting the extremist threat in the region, the U.S. will be sending 12 F-16 fighter jets, 20 missiles and up to 125 tank kits, while continuing the $1.3 billion in military assistance for Egypt and the f unds so far upheld, according to Al Ahram Online.

Heavy fighting in Aden and at Saudi-Yemeni border, at least 40 civilians killed in aistrikes on refugee camp

Children killed in airstrikes on a refugee camp. According to Unicef at least 62 children have been killed in Yemen in the past week. (Photo Yemen Observer)

Saudi troops clashed with Yemeni Houthi fighters on Tuesday in the heaviest exchange of cross-border fire since the start of a Saudi-led air offensive last week, while Yemen's foreign minister called for a rapid Arab intervention on the ground. Residents and tribal sources in north Yemen reported artillery and rocket exchanges along several stretches of the Saudi border. Explosions and heavy gunfire were heard and Saudi helicopters flew overhead, they said.
In the southern port of Aden, Houthi fighters and their allies, army units loyal to former president Ali Abdallah Saleh, pressed an offensive against forces loyal to Hadi, trying to capture the last remaining major stronghold of the absent president's forces. At least 36 people were killed when Houthi forces shelled Hadi loyalists in Aden. Jets from the Saudi-led coalition bombed Houthi positions near the airport.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Saudis and allies attack Houthis in Yemen

Saudi Defence Minister Mohammad bin Salman coordinated the strikes from the Royal Saudi Air Force operations centre near Riyadh (Photo SPA]

Saudi Arabia and a coalition of regional allies have launched a military operation in Yemen against the Houthi rebels, who deposed the US-backed Yemeni president last month.
Adel al-Jubair, Saudi ambassador to the US, said on Wednesday that a coalition consisting of 10 countries, including the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), had begun airstrikes at 7pm Eastern time.
"The operation is to defend and support the legitimate government of Yemen and prevent the radical Houthi movement from taking over the country," Jubair told reporters in Washington.
At least 17 civilians were killed in Sanaa during the overnight offensive, civil defence sources told AFP news agency.
Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV channel reported that 100 Saudi warplanes were involved in the attacks. 
An Egyptian official told AFP news agency that Egypt would participate in the Yemen offensive. Saudi Arabian newsagency SPA said that also Pakistan, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan, have "expressed a desire to participate in the operation" which has got the name "Firmness Storm".

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Houthis capture airbase near Houta in South Yemen

The base Al-Anad

Houthis militias in Yemen on Wednesday captured a major airbase near President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi's southern refuge. Washington used to wage a drone war against Al-Qaeda militants from this base, with permission from the Yemeni government. But US military personnel evacuated the base on Friday because of security concerns.
After seizing the Al-Anad base, the Houthis advanced farther south and were just three kilometres away from Houta, the capital of Lahj province which is adjacent to Aden, the military official said. The Houthi militia, backed by troops allied to former strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, have clashed with forces loyal to Hadi in at least two southern provinces as they push towards Aden. Saleh, who resigned in 2012 following nationwide protests, has been accused of backing the Shia militia as he seeks to regain influence.
The Houthis seized the airport and a nearby military base Sunday in Taez, 180 kilometres (110 miles) north of Aden and seen as a strategic entry point to Hadi's southern stronghold.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Houthis seize southern Yemeni city of Taiz

Taiz in the morning by nova70Taiz

Yemen's Shiíte Houthi rebels have seized the southern city of Taiz and its airport and are pushing to seize more territory across the country, Al Jazeera correspondents reported. Correspondents said the rebels were pushing south towards the city of Aden, where President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has set up a rival administration after the Houthis forced him out of power.
They seized the airport in Taiz, the third-largest city, on Sunday after clashes with forces loyal to Hadi, reported the AFP news agency, citing security sources.  Tens of tanks and armoured personnel carriers carrying Houthi fighters had crossed into al-Dhalie and Aden governorates, Al Jazeera correspondents said.
A Yemeni political activist, Ahmed al-Wafi, said the Houthis had taken full control of Taiz military airbase and had deployed fighters to man checkpoints at the city's entry points and streets.
Al-Masirah TV, a pro-Houthi channel, announced that Houthi leader Abdel-Malik al-Houthi would deliver a speech in the evening.

Friday, March 20, 2015

At least 142 killed in suicide attacks in mosques in Sanaa

Yemen bomb
Blankets coverc bodies in a mosque in Sanaa. (Photo AP)  

Triple suicide bombings killed 142 people and wounded 351 others Friday at mosques in the Yemeni capital attended by Shiite Houthi militiamen who have seized the city, medics said.One suicide bomber struck inside Badr mosque in southern Sanaa while another targeted worshippers as they fled outside, witnesses said. The third suicide bomber targeted Al-Hashahush mosque in northern Sanaa.
Nashwan al-Atab, a member of the health ministry's operations committee, told AFP that 142 people were killed and at least 351 were wounded..Leading Houthi cleric Al-Murtada bin Zayd al-Muhatwari, the imam of the Badr mosque, was among those killed, a medical source said.
Footage aired by Al-Massira showed bodies lying in pools of blood outside the mosques, as worshippers rushed the wounded to hospitals in pick-up trucks. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Another suicide bomber blew himself up outside a mosque in the northern Houthi stronghold of Saada, a source close to the militia said. Only the assailant was killed in that explosion and tight security at the mosque prevented the bomber from going inside, the source added.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Attackers kill 20 tourists and three Tunisians in Tunisian Bardo museum

Update. The death toll of Wednesday's attack at the Bardo Museum in Tunishs has risen. Not 17 but 20 foreign tourists have been killd, as well as three Tunisians. Among the dead were Japanese, Italian, Spanish and British visitors.The attack has been praised by the Islamic State in an audio recording in which it called the attackers  "knights of the Islamic State" armed with machineguns and bombs.
The two gunmen were trained at a jihadist camp in Libya, the Tunisian government said. Interior ministry official Rafik Chelli said the two men had been recruited at mosques in Tunisia and traveled to Libya in September. The two dead militants were identified as Tunisians, Hatem al-Khashnawi and Yassin al-Abidi. Two local newspapers reported Abidi had spent time in Iraq and Libya, but officials did not confirm that. Tunisia's Prime Minister Habib Essid said Abidi had been under surveillance but "not for anything very special". (End of Update).

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Egypt sends 41 judges of the Morsi-era into early retirement

Judge Waleed Al-Sharab
(File-photo Al-Ahram)  Press conference by the ''Judges of Egypt''.

A disciplinary committee referred Saturday 41 judges for early retirement in two separate cases on charges of involvement in political activities. Of the 41 referred, 31 were convicted of signing a statement supporting ousted Mohamed Morsi following his removal from office in July 2013. Twenty-five judges were acquitted in the same case.
Another 10 judges belonging to the reformist "Judges of Egypt" were referred in a separate case for early retirement on charges of involvement in political activities. Five judges were acquitted in the second case.
Judges for Egypt is a group of Egyptian reformist judges that helped monitor the post-25 January Revolution presidential elections, won by deposed president Mohamed Morsi. The group has been accused of affiliation to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

IS destroys another ancient city in Iraq

Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have bulldozed the ancient city of Hatra, Iraqi officials say. In a statement posted on its website on Saturday, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities quoted media outlets about the "looting and destruction of the ruins of the anciety city of Hatra."
Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf, who is reporting from Baghdad, said ISIL fighters used bulldozers to go into the site.
Last Thursday, ISIL fighters also bulldozed the 3,000-year-old Assyrian city of Nimrud.

In cabinet reshuffle: Egypt's president replaces minister of the Interior

Magdi Abdel Ghaffar
The Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Thursday replaced eight ministers in his cabinet and declared the formation of two new ministries.The changes signaled the end of the tenure of the controversial minister of the Interior, general Mohammed Ibrahim. Ibrahim, who served as interior minister since January 2013, and who has been widely lambasted for the brutal security crackdown on political dissidents after former President Mohamed Morsi's ouster in July 2013. His time in office also saw a dramatic rise in fatal attacks on police personnel, including an attempt on his life in September 2013.
The president's office announced that Ibrahim will now serve as security affairs adviser to the prime minister. Major General Magdy Abdel Ghaffar, who headed up the National Security Agency (NSA) in 2011, took over his post. He was sworn in on Thursday by president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

New 3.500 year old tomb found in Luxor in Egypt

Pictures Facebookpage of the Egyptian ministry of Antiquities.  

A team of American archeologists and local laborers uncovered a colorful tomb in Luxor that is thought to date back to Ancient Egypt’s New Kingdom, and is perhaps over 3,500 years old.
The tomb was unearthed on Tuesday 3 March in the archeological site of Al-Qurna in Luxor City (formerly Thebes), over 720 kilometers south of Cairo. It is presumed to have been built for a nobleman or ancient priest in the Cult of Amoun, perhaps also a member of the then-ruling dynasty.
The owner of the tomb has reportedly been identified as “Amenhotep” — not to be confused with the pharaoh of the same name.

Friday, March 6, 2015

IS bulldozes ancient city of Nimrud

Search BiggerIslamic State fighters have looted and bulldozed the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud in northern Iraq, the government and a local tribal source said.
The destruction at Nimrud came a week after the radical Islamist militants released a video showing them destroying Assyrian era statues and sculptures in the city of Mosul, which they seized in June last year.
Islamic State members came to the Nimrud archaeological city and looted the valuables in it and then they proceeded to level the site to the ground," the tribal source from near Mosul, where ancient Nimrud is located, told Reuters.
Entrance of King Ashurnasirpal II Palace
Entrance of the palace of King Ashurnasirpal II

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Fourth life sentence for leader of Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood

An Egyptian court on Saturday sentenced to life imprisonment the head of the banned Muslim Brotherhood over the killing of protesters who stormed the group's Cairo headquarters in 2013. Three co-defendants of Mohamed Badie -- the Islamist movement's spiritual leader who already faces three other life terms from other cases -- were sentenced to death in the same trial.
© AFP | Egyptian Brotherhood's supreme leader Mohamed Badie flashes the "Rabaa" sign -- remembering those killed in the crackdown on the Rabaa al-Adawiya protest camp during his 2014 trial in Cairo
Mohammed Badie
Fourteen others, including Badie's deputies Khairat al-Shater and Saad al-Katatni, were handed life terms.
All were convicted on charges of "murder" and "incitement to murder" as well as possessing arms, but can appeal the verdicts. Badie and the other defendants present in court for the verdict denounced the sentence and shouted: "Down with military rule".
On June 30, 2013, protesters stormed and torched the Cairo headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood as millions took to the streets of Egypt demanding the resignation of president Mohamed Morsi.

Egyptian Supreme Court rules election law unconstitutional

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told the government on Sunday to amend a law regulating elections after it was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Constitutional Court, in no more than a month, state television reported. Sisi called on the government to take the necessary legal procedures to avoid a delay in holding parliamentary elections.  The body overseeing the elections, the Supreme Elections Commission (SEC) held an urgent meeting after the supreme court issued its ruling earlier today. The commission said in a statement that "a new shcedule will be announced once the legislative amendments [are made]."  
The Supreme Constitutional Court decided against the constitutionality of one of the three laws governing the parliamentary elections.

Egypty dissolves 169 NGO's connected with Muslim Brotherhood

The Egyptian ministry of Social Solidarity decided on Monday to dissolve 169 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in nine governorates across Egypt for their "ties with the Muslim Brotherhood."
In a statement, the ministry provided a breakdown of how many NGOs were ordered disbanded in which governorates. The northern governorate of Kafr el-Sheikh leads with 52 NGOs, followed by 51 in Alexandria.
The ministry said dissolving the NGOs is in compliance with the law and is based on the decision by an urgent matters court in September 2013, which banned the Brotherhood.