Middle East Update

Middle East – North Africa News Brief

MENA Regional Low Intensity Conflicts, April 22 – April 29

[MISC]: ADVISORY: Throughout May 1st there will be travel disruptions, and possible protests, due to the International Workers’ Day celebrations. In the past this day has also marked an increase of low-level militancy and other anti-government activities. Unofficial events held by individuals, or by political organizations, run an increased risk of seeing security force intervention.

This advisory concerns all of the Middle East, but the celebrations tend to be particularly noticeable in Egypt, Bahrain, and Turkey. Foreigners are advised to avoid these celebrations unless in controlled and private settings. US and UK Embassies throughout the region are warning to avoid any and all public events on this day.

A Turkish government sanctioned gathering to celebrate the date will be held near the Bakirkoy Market, in Istanbul. At the present there is no information of a Bahrain government sanctioned gathering.

[BAHRAIN]: The country continues to see Shiite opposition demonstrations, with little to no police intervention in recent weeks.

[SAUDI ARABIA]: Renewed calls for public, non-government sanctioned, protests against the kingdom’s rising unemployment numbers have been circulating. Throughout the week a twitter hashtag referring to an “April 30th unemployment rally” has been in use but has failed to gain noticeable usage by users originating from KSA IP addresses. The calls for protests have so far not been organized, and no formal plans have been presented. The likelihood of unauthorized protests of this nature to materialize are deemed low. If a minor, localized, demonstration would occur it is likely that the turnout would be in the low double digits, and with security forces intervening.

The Ministry of Health (MoH) reported a total of 10 new cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus (MERS-CoV) for the period of April 16-29. The majority of cases were found in the greater Riyadh provincial area.

The Ministry of Interior (MoI) has confirmed that two border guard members were killed by a landmine in the al-Radha area of Jazan Province, the Saudi-Yemeni border area, on April 20th. They were on patrol when the incident occurred. It remains unclear if the mine was recently deployed or remaining from one of several conflicts in recent decades between the two countries.

Security forces apprehended over 100 pistols and nearly 3,000 bullets from gunrunners on April 30th. The gunrunners were attempting to cross from Yemen near ad-Dayer. It is not clear if the men detained are affiliated, or involved, with any of the warring factions in Yemen.

[EGYPT]: 5 in dividuals with alleged ties to the Islamic State were arrested in Port Said on April 26th. The individuals are believed to have been gathering funds, and carrying out a recruitment drive, on behalf of the Islamic State leadership in al Raqqa, Syria. Several rifles and sidearms were discovered on the scene of the arrest.

Egypt is actively disrupting voice over internet protocol (VoIP) services such as Facebook Messenger, Skype, Viber, and WhatsApp, as part of renewed counter-terrorism responses. Text chatting still works using these services, but voice communication is not presently possible without the use of virtual private network (VPN) or proxy services.

[TURKEY]: Turkish authorities suspended 9,103 police employees as part of an investigation over alleged links to Gûlan, the exiled cleric that Ankara accuses of having orchestrated the failed coup d’etat in July 2016, in the past week. 1,000 of the individuals suspended have been detained for questioning as part of the nationwide purge and raids.

27 individuals with alleged ties to the Islamic State were arrested in Sakarya, 110 kilometers east of Istanbul, on April 24th. 8 of the 27 have been formally arrested. All of the detained individuals are Iraqi nationals.

12 individuals with alleged ties to the Islamic State were arrested in Istanbul on April 21st. The individuals are believed to have entered the country illegally with the intent of carrying out terrorist attacks.

[QATAR]: 26 Qatari men were released from Kata’eb Hezbollah in Syria on April 21st. The men had been held in captivity by the group since their abduction from southern Iraq in December 2015.

[ISRAEL and PALESTINE]: A male Palestinian teenager stabbed and wounded four Israelis in central Tel Aviv on April 23rd. The male was arrested by responding security forces.

[LIBYA]: A major political agreement has been reached between the two main warring parties in Libya, the House of Representatives and the State Council. The agreement was spearheaded and overseen by Angelino Alfano, the Italian Foreign Minister. Both presidents of the House of Representatives, Ageela Saleh, and the State Council, Abdulrahman Sewehli, attended the signing ceremony on April 23rd. The House of Representatives has for more than a year refused to approve any creation of a government based out of Tripoli, stating that it can not do so until a revised Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) is created that diversifies political power away from a Tripoli government. The situation caused a political deadlock, and a standoff between forces loyal to varying factions.

[LEBANON]: 3 Australian nationals have been detained by the Lebanese National Army over alleged ties to the Islamic State. The individuals are all Australian-Lebanese dual nationals.

[IRAN]: 10 Iranian border guards were killed in an attack by Sunni militants in Mirjaveh county in Sistan-Baluchestan province, near the Iranian-Pakistani border, on April 25th. The guards were killed using what has been described as “long-range guns“. The group that carried out the attack is believed to be the Jaish al-Adl militia group. Jaish al-Adl claims to be fighting on behalf of the discriminated Sunni Muslims and Baluch ethnic group in the province. In October 2013 and April 2015 they carried out similar attacks which resulted in the deaths of 14 and 8 border guards, respectively.


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