Middle East Update

Middle East – North Africa News Brief

MENA Regional Low Intensity Conflicts, April 9 – April 15

[SAUDI ARABIA]: Shiite militants opened fire on a vehicle traveling through al Qudaih, part of the al Qatatif area, of the Eastern Province, on April 7th. The driver was shot 12 times, but was able to drive himself to a nearby security station where he received medical aid and was evacuated. The identity of the victim is not presently known.

Al Houthi shelled the Najran Province of Saudi Arabia on April 7th. The shelling killed 4 civilians, all Indian nationals in Saudi Arabia as guest workers.

3 additional Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus (MERS-CoV) cases have been reported by the Ministry of Health (MoH) throughout the week.

A lawsuit against 2 Saudi banks, having alleged affiliations with Osama Bin Laden, was filed in Manhattan, NY, USA, on April 12th. The banks being sued are al Rajhi Bank, and National Commercial Bank. In addition to the two banks, Dallah Avco, the Mohamed Binladin Corporation, and the Muslim World League, were joined. The lawsuit states that these organizations “aided and abetted” the September 2001 attacks.

[IRAN]: Shi’ite cleric Ebrahim Raisi announced on April 9th that he intends to enter the Presidential election, which is being held in May. He will be challenging the moderate, and current President Hassan Rouhani. Raisi is considered a hardliner, and is a critic of the West and its influence in the region.

[EGYPT]: Two linked suicide bomber attacks killed at least 44 on April 9th. The first attack occurred in Tanta, with a second in Alexandria. The attacks targeted Coptic churches. Shortly after, the government declared a state of emergency and additional military and police forces mobilized to secure perimeters around churches. The Security Forces have received immense critique in the aftermath for failing to protect the sites. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks on April 10th through the usual channels. According to a statement by the Ministry of Interior (MoI) the attack in Alexandria was carried out by 31-year-old Mahmoud Hassan Mubarak Abdullah, a known militant that was wanted for his ties to an Islamic State affiliated group inside Egypt.

1 Army officer was killed, and 5 Army soldiers injured, during an ambush by an unknown group on the Suez-Cairo Road on April 12th. The Ministry of Interior is yet to release further information on the incident.

The Ministry of Interior (MoI) has confirmed that a member of the Hasm group (an offshoot, much like Liwa al-Thawra, of the Muslim Brotherhood) died in a clash with security forces on March 27th. The clash occurred in al-Basartah, outside of Damietta. The Hasm member was wanted by the Security Forces for his alleged involvement in the fatal shooting of a police officer in Damietta in late March.

MoI confirmed that 7 individuals suspected for having been part of a militia group died in a clash with security forces in al-Awamer, Asyut Province, on April 10th. The clash began when security forces approached the camp where the individuals were being housed. The individuals were in possession of Islamic State propaganda, and a large weapons cache. The Egyptian government’s theory is that these individuals were part of a larger Islamic State operation against Coptic churches.

2 individuals linked to the Liwa al-Thawra group died during a security forces raid on a farm in Beheira Province, northwest of Cairo, on April 8th. An official statement by the Egyptian MoI states that the farm was being used as a hideout and facility to train and equip militants.

A rocket fired by militants in the Sinai Peninsula against Israel hit a green house in the community of Yevul, in the Eshkol region of Israel.

[TURKEY]: Turkey is currently going through a public vote in regards to a Presidential referendum that could come to change the political influence of the executive branch. Tension is high throughout the country, and clashes between police and voters are occurring. At the time of writing, the ‘Yes’ side to the referendum (in favor of additional powers being given to the Executive Branch of Turkey) is leading.

Turkish security forces arrested 159 individuals during a nationwide raid on April 6th. 26 of the individuals detained are alleged to have direct affiliations with the Islamic State in the Levant. The nationwide security operation took place across 20 districts, and 4 provinces. At least 40 of the detained are of foreign nationality.

Turkish security forces arrested 31 individuals during security operations on April 8th. The individuals detained are alleged to be members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Arms, ammunition, and false identity papers were found on at least one of the premises raided. 4 individuals are said to have escaped capture during the raids.

Turkish politician Sinan Ogan, part of the opposition/shadow government, alleged that he was targeted for assassination on April 9th. Ogan claims that his bodyguards spotted an armed man approaching during a visit to a shop in Bafra.

Turkish security forces detained 19 individuals for having Islamic State affiliations on April 11. Ten of the individuals detained are Turkish citizens, and 9 Syrian nationals. The Turkish Ministry of Security states that the men are suspected of preparing to sabotage the presidential referendum.

The special counter-terrorist unit of the national police has arrested 27 alleged PKK affiliated individuals in Istanbul. The individuals are accused of having been preparing to carry out attacks within the city. A further 412 suspected PKK members were detained throughout the country on April 12th.

[BAHRAIN]: The Formula One race, at the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) in Sakhir, was held on April 14th, and will continue till April 16th. Shiite opposition have condemned the race, and there is a security concern that the race might increase tension inside the country.

An explosion in the large open door market of Bab Al-Bahrain occurred on April 13th. The explosion was caused by a faulty gas canister inside a restaurant inside the market area.

Continuing Shiite affiliated opposition groups call for public gatherings and marches in support of Shiite Imams and causes. 

[KUWAIT]: Security forces have confirmed that they detained a Kuwaiti national and his Syrian wife on March 25th for suspected Islamic State affiliations. The couple stand accused of having planned a series of bombings against multiple targets throughout the Kingdom. The targets mentioned are: a Shiite meeting hall in Sulabikhat, east to Kuwait City, and an unspecified United States military base in Kuwait. The Islamic State presence in the Kingdom is considered minute. The group’s last claimed attack was in June 2015, when a suicide bomber killed 27 in a Shiite mosque in Kuwait City.

[UAE]: 1 case of MERS-CoV has been reported in UAE this week. This is the first new case in the country since June 2016. Details of the case have not yet been released by the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD) but is expected to be released in the coming week.

[LIBYA]: 97 people are feared dead after a boat full of asylum seekers sunk off the Libyan coastline on April 13th.

[LEBANON]: Violent clashes inside the Ein el-Hilweh, an Palestinian refugee camp near the city of Sideon, resulted in 6 dead and 35 wounded on April 14th. The clashes began when fighters from a joint Palestinian militia group that operates as a security force inside the camp came under fire by radicals. The joint security force had been sent there to disarm the radical militia group, which is being led by Bilal Badr. The fighting is still ongoing.

[YEMEN]: Yemeni security forces, of Hadi affiliation, attacked al Houthi affiliated fighters outside of the southeastern port city of Mocha on April 12th. The attack resulted in the death of 38.

An airstrike carried out by the U.S. that killed 3 al Qaeda operatives, including Khattab al-Wuhayshi, on April 6th has been confirmed. Khattab al-Wuhayshi was the brother of Nasir al-Wuhayshi. Nasir was the previous leader of the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) group, and was killed nearly 2 years ago, also by a US airstrike. He was succeeded by Qasim al-Rimi. 

[SOMALIA]: At least 10 people died in a suicide attack which sought to kill General Ahmed Mohamed Jimale, the newly appointed commander of the Somalian Army, on April 9th. The casualties are described as civilians by the Somalian government.

[MISC]: Increased security presence and delays in travel through the MENA region are to be expected during the Easter holidays. In recent weeks the number of attacks against civilian targets in non-overt conflict areas have increased, and throughout the region there is an increase of nervousness. Attacks that have been carried out appear to be focusing primarily on Christian sites, such as churches, but foreigners have also been singled out and targeted directly.

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