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Middle East – North Africa News Brief – Extended

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Regional Low Intensity Conflicts. Covers November 13th to November 19th, 2017 – Current as of November 20th, 2017.

| [Read Middle East Bureau Chief John Sjoholm’s analysis of the ongoing developments in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.]

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Bahrain

Shia government opposition groups continue to call for nationwide protests, but have so far failed to reach a critical mass with the majority of resulting public gatherings containing less than 15 people. Security forces made minor arrests relating to Shia opposition groups. The government is however reporting that 2017 has seen a noteworthy increase in Shia government opposition related violence.

Bahrain is quickly finding itself on the forefront of the increasingly active low intensity conflict between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Iran. Several incidents, particularly a recent surge in Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks, in the past few months have been attributed to Shi’a militia organizations that allegedly have direct or indirect ties to Iran. The recent November 10th attack on the oil pipeline hub in Buri has been attributed to Iranian proxy agents.

Egypt

Egyptian security forces continued their nationwide operations against safe houses and individuals believed to be affiliated with the Islamic State. At least 4 individuals believed to be affiliated with the Islamic State have been detained in the past week.

Security forces continue their operations against the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), and associated organizations, throughout the country. In the past week several raids have been conducted against believed safe houses and individuals with alleged MB affiliations. According to reports, the raids resulted in at least 25 individuals having been detained, and at least 3 individuals dead.

-November 18th, Faisal district, Suez City, Egypt

3 individuals were arrested by police. The 3 stand accused of having planned a series of attacks against civilian and security hubs in the Suez area. The police are yet to publicaly disclose the individual’s names, but have stated that they believe them to be affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

 -November 20th, Spanish District, 6th of October City, Giza Province, Egypt

Over 10 kilograms of explosive materials were discovered during a raid on an apartment in the Spanish district of 6th of October City. The police acted based on reports that the apartment was being used by a Muslim Brotherhood affiliated bombmaker. The bombmaker evaded capture, is believed to be in hiding in a nearby safe house.

Turkey

Security forces have continued their nationwide crackdown on safe houses and individuals believed to be affiliated with the Islamic State. Several raids were carried out this past week, resulting in at least 45 individuals believed to have Islamic State affiliations having been detained, the majority of which have been described as foreigners.

Security forces also continued their long-standing nationwide crackdown on safe houses and on individuals believed to be affiliated with the Kurdish political and/or militant opposition. Several raids were carried out this past week, resulting in at least 8 arrests.

-November 17th, Istanbul, Turkey

Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), issued a public apology to Turkey. This after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered the immediate withdrawal of Turkish troops from a joint NATO exercise due to Erdogan finding certain actions by NATO personnel personally insulting. Among the grievances were that one technician at the Joint Warfare Center (JWC) had created an internal website describing the joint exercises fictitious enemy. The profile of the enemy included a picture of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the modern Turkish state. In a statement later made by Turkish military officials, the incident was described as a likely inadvertent error made by the technician.

In the same statement the Turkish military official stated that the more serious incident was due to the actions of a civilian contractor affiliated with the Norwegian armed forces. The civilian contractor had created a simulated version of the internet as part of the exercises. The fictitious version of the internet included a simulated version of twitter, which had a fake account for Erdogan, with several offensive tweets.

-November 20th, Barbaros Hayrettin Pasa, Esenyurt District, Istanbul, Turkey

A journalist by the name of Ali Tarakci, Turkish national, was reportedly shot and is in critical condition. The shooting reportedly occurred as part of a personal dispute with a local driver.

 Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA)

Security forces continue their operations to counter the rising militant insurgency throughout the Kingdom. In the past week several raids have been conducted against believed safe houses and individuals with alleged militant affiliations. According to reports, the raids resulted in at least 3 individuals having been detained.

The Shi’a al Houthi militia in Yemen continue to send ballistic missiles aimed at population centers in Saudi Arabia. The majority of incoming missiles are reportedly shot down by the Saudi surface-to-air system (SAM), operated by the Royal Saudi Air Defense forces, which consists primarily of a series of US provided MIM-104 Patriot systems. The al Houthi tend to utilize variations of Soviet-era designed ballistic missile systems. One such example is the Qaher-1 missile, which is an improved variation of the Soviet SA-2 short to medium range ballistic missile design. There were no casualties reported due to al Houthi missile strikes this week.

The Saudi Ministry of Health (MoH) announced on November 20th that 4 new cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) were discovered between November 12th and 18th. The majority of which were discovered in the greater Riyadh provincial area.

-November 13th, Jazan Province, KSA

The Saudi military released a statement through the government affiliated Saudi Press Agency (SPA) that one of its soldiers had died during clashes with Yemeni militia near or on the Saudi-Yemeni border.

Iraq and Kurdistan

-November 13th, outside of the town of Hawija, North Iraq

Investigations continue in the mass graves found outside of Hawija, a recently liberated from the Islamic State’s area. Authorities believe that up to 400 bodies are buried in the mass graves, but that more graves could be discovered. The majority of the bodies are believed to be those of civilians from the area.

-November 14th, Erbil, Kurdistan Region, North Iraq

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) released a statement indicating that it will reverse policy in regards to the September 25th Referendum of Independence. The KRG statement acknowledges the Iraqi courts ruling that federal regions of Iraq do not have the right to secede from the nation without prior approval from the central government in Baghdad. Lima Charlie News had additional information on the subject available <HERE>.

-November 17th, Rawa, Anbar Province, Iraq

Iraqi forces captured the city of Rawa, situated in the Anbar province; the last remaining stronghold of the Islamic State in Iraq. The city remains largely unsecured, but is said to be under tactical control of the Iraqi armed forces.

Syria

-November 13th, Albu Kamal, Deir Ezzor Province, Eastern Syria

Islamic State forces regained control of the town of Albu Kamal in the eastern Deir Ezzor province. The town was largely under the control by the Shi’a militia Hezbollah, which regrouped in the outskirts of the town. Albu Kamal is considered a major supply and communication hub in the province, and is located near the border to Iraq. Its sister town, al Qaim, in Iraq is also under the Islamic States’ control, and the two are being used to funnel supplies and disrupt logistic lines of the anti-IS coalition.

Somalia and Somaliland

US air assets have increased in air-to-ground operations against Islamic State operatives and hubs. In the past week, US drones under the control of US Africa Command (AFRICOM) have carried out at least 3 attacks, resulting in the death of 29 individuals that are described as Islamic State fighters. AFRICOM has carried out more than 5 strikes in Somalia targeting al-Shaabab and Islamic State fighters since it initiated its new, intensified, strategy on November 3rd. Since the strategy was deployed, US air assets have carried out at least 12 attacks, resulting in an estimated 40 deaths. The latest strike was conducted roughly 60 miles northwest of Mogadishu and was coordinated with the central Somali government.

The number of US military forces in Somalia has more than doubled during 2017 to over 500 people, this according to a recently released Pentagon report. The majority of men deployed are described as special operations personnel on a mission to advise local forces in the US-supported fight against Islamic militants throughout Somalia. The men largely fall under the command of AFRICOM. The total contingent of US military personnel in Somalia is now the largest it has been since the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” incident, where 18 US soldiers died.

-November 13, Hargeisa, Somaliland

Polling stations opened in the self-proclaimed republic of Somaliland for its 3rd ever national presidential election. The first Somalilands’ presidential election was held in 2003. The 2017 election was postponed by 6 months due to the drought conditions in the region. At least 2 people were killed in post-election violence throughout the week, after one of the two opposition parties claimed “massive” polling irregularities. The results are yet to be composed and released.

Yemen

US air assets have increased in air-to-ground operations against Islamic State operatives and hubs. In the past week, US drones have carried out at least 3 attacks, resulting in the death of 5 individuals that are described as Islamic State fighters.

Iran

-November 17th, London, United Kingdom (UK)

“An outstanding debt owed by the U.K. to Tehran will be transferred to the Central Bank of Iran in the coming days,” according to a statement made by Nazanin Zahari-Ratcliffe, the Iranian ambassador to the UK. The debt dates back to an arms transaction initiated before the Iranian revolution in 1979 which totaled over 400 million pounds ($527 million). The then-Iranian government paid up front for 1,750 Chieftain tanks and other vehicles, but most were never delivered because of sanctions imposed on Tehran after the revolution. A British government official, who asked not to be named, stated that the Iranian ambassador’s statements were “speculation” that the money would be paid, this according to a Reuters report on the matter.

-November 17th, Al Bukamal, Syria

The Shi’a Iraqi militia group Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba posted a series of photos depicting Major General Qassem Soleimani, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Qods Force chief, inspecting positions near Al Bukamal in Syria. The border town Al Bukamal is a vital logistics hub, and recently fell under the control of the Shi’a militia group Hezbollah. The photo was allegedly taken on November 14th, and seemingly underscores the significance that the Tehran government is putting in its activities in eastern Syria. Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba is nominally a member of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), which is affiliated with the Iranian supported Iraqi Shi’a cleric al Sadr.

LIMA CHARLIE, MENA Desk

Lima Charlie provides global news, insight & analysis by military veterans and service members Worldwide.

For up-to-date MENA news, please follow us on twitter at @LimaCharlieMENA and John Sjoholm @JohnSjoholmLC

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