MENA BRIEF, SITREP May 20 – May 27: Middle East and Northern Africa Regional Low Intensity Conflicts.
Ramadan 2017. At sundown on May 26th, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began. During this month, observing Muslims must fast from sunrise to sunset for the entirety of the moon cycle. They must also abstain from activities that are deemed to be in violation of the spirit and body, such as smoking or ingesting alcohol. As a result of these restrictions, school and work hours are often cut short throughout the Middle East. The intent with these limitations is to heighten one’s senses, purify the soul and body, and become closer to Allah.
However, historically the Ramadan period has also been the mark of intensifying Jihadist operations against civilians throughout the world. The creation of the so called Caliphate by the Islamic State was announced at the start of Ramadan 2014. Despite this, the overall affect of the observance tends to bring out the better in people.
Lima Charlie News Middle East and North Africa Bureau wish observing Muslims a joyous Ramadan.
Donald Trump visits the Middle East. Donald Trump visited the Middle East between May 20 and May 23rd. During this period, the President visited the capitals of Saudi Arabia and Israel, where Trump attended meetings with regional leaders. Trump also attended a meeting in Bethlehem with the head of the Palestinian National Authority, President Mahmoud Abbas. While in Riyadh, Trump gave a speech at a gathering of regional leaders. Key points within the speech were that the Arab nations must unify to fight extremism, and that America intends to support them fully. Trump also singled out Iran as a sponsor of worldwide terrorism.
[BAHRAIN]: Continuous protests throughout Bahrain. On May 21th small gatherings where held in response to the verdict of Shia cleric Isa Qassim, with protestors setting up roadblocks. On May 23rd one demonstrator died and several others were wounded, during clashes with Security Forces in Diraz. Throughout the week, Bahrain has remained on a slightly heightened state of security. As a result of increasing security concerns, over 300 individuals having been detained throughout the week.
A VBIED struck a security forces vehicle at the intersection of Avenue 15 and Road Number 2327 in Saar on May 27th. This marks the third attack featuring planted explosives against security forces this week. On May 25th an IED attack against a military vehicle traveling down the Shaikh Jaber al-Sabah Highway outside of Sitra was struck as it passed the Avenue 1 intersection. A few days earlier, on May 23rd, the Shiite militia group Revolutionary Struggle Organization had carried out a similar attack in Daih. The attack used an VBIED featuring shrapnel, and injured at least 2 police officers. The Ministry of Interior (MoI) have not made any informative statements in regards to these attacks.
[SAUDI ARABIA]: A total of 8 new cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus (MERS-CoV) have been reported in the past week. The majority of cases were reported in the general Riyadh area.
An incoming from Yemen ballistic missile was intercepted by a Saudi Patriot anti-missile installation on May 19th. The missile was intercepted near Ar-Rayn, some 200km south west of Riyadh. The missile was allegedly launched from al Houthi controlled parts of Yemen, and is believed to have been a Burkan-2 missile. Most notable with the incident, is that it occurred a day before US President Donald Trump was set to announce in Riyadh for a state visit.
[EGYPT]: The US Embassy in Cairo released a statement on May 24th, warning citizens that the Muslim Brotherhood breakaway faction known as Hasm, or “Arms of Egypt Movement,” were planning attacks. The Hasm group responded to the Embassy statement on May 25th saying that Hasm is a “resistance” and not a terrorist organization. Historically, the group has not targeted foreigners, but instead focused on targeting Egyptian army and security personnel. Hasm is considered a terrorist organization by the current Egyptian government.
On May 26, the Islamic State killed 29 and wounded 23 Coptic Christians west of Minya. The group set up a checkpoint, and ambushed a series of buses. It is unclear if the intent behind the attack was to ambush the traveling Coptics particularly. Coptic Christians have been increasingly targeted by Islamic State affiliated militants throughout 2017, including the April church bombings in Tanta and Alexandria.
[TURKEY]: Turkish police shot and killed 2 Islamic State suspects in an Ankara suburb, Yapracik, apartment on May 21st. The police were acting based on information retrieved from an Islamic State agent that had been apprehended earlier that day. Throughout the week, Turkish security forces have arrested 26 IS-linked suspects in raids throughout the nation.
[YEMEN]: The Convoy of UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, came under fire on May 22nd while traveling in central Sana’a, the capital of Yemen and currently under al Houthi control. The attack has been described by news outlets affiliated with Yemeni President Hadi, who is currently fighting a war in opposition to the al Houthis, as an Houthi assassination attempt.
US Special Operations Forces conducted a raid against an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) compound in the Marib Province on May 23rd. Seven AQAP militants were reported to have died, with at least as many injured. The US unit involved in the raid was reportedly US Navy Seal Team 6. Several of the American fighters were injured as well.
[IRAN]: President Hassan Rouhani was reelected during the May 19th Presidential election. He won by 57% of the votes.
Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander Amirali Hajizadeh stated in an interview with Iranian state media that Iran has built a third underground ballistic missile production factory. While the facility does not, apparently, violate the UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2231, monitoring groups have expressed concern.
LIMA CHARLIE, MENA Desk
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