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Middle East – North Africa News Brief – Extended

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Regional Low Intensity Conflicts. Covers December 12th to December 17th, 2017 – Current as of December 18th, 2017. This week’s report covers Bahrain, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Somaliland, Yemen and Iraq.

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. 

Various Shi’a affiliated militia movements continue to claim to have carried out various attacks against Bahraini security forces and installations. Few of these attacks ever receive an official confirmation from the Bahrain government. This week a handful of alleged attacks were claimed to have been carried out by a wide array of groups, including the Iran/Hezbollah affiliated Popular Resistance Brigades (Saraya al-Muqawama al-Shabiya) group.

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.

Egypt

Egyptian security forces continued their nationwide operations against safe houses and individuals believed to be affiliated with the Islamic State. At least 6 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 2 individuals having been detained.

Security operations continue along the Egyptian-Libyan border area with the Egyptian Air Force striking Salafist-Jihadist groups convoys crossing from Libya to Egypt. The border land, on the Libyan side, has become a haven for emerging new militia groups, including the al Qaeda-linked group Ansar al-Islam.

Egyptian authorities have announced that the national security readiness level has been raised to its maximum level in preparation of the Coptic holidays during December. Security forces will thus apply an 800-meter “safe area” around churches and government installations.

“Critical security confrontations with terrorist factions in North Sinai may prompt some of them to flee and try to sneak into cities, and this will require vigilance and preparation to face those attempts,” said the Egyptian Minister of Interior, Magdy Abdel Ghaffar, on December 15th.

The security level will be kept at its maximum until January 7th, when it will be reevaluated.

-December 15th, Ard el-Lewa Overpass, Ard el-Lewa Road and Sudan Road intersection, Sudan Street, Near West Cairo Central Power Station, Cairo, Egypt

Security Forces responded to two packages in plastic wrapping having been found on the Ard el-Lewa Overpass. The packages proved to be two active remote controlled Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). Police closed off the immediate area, and members from an Army Improvised Explosive Device Disposal (IEDD) unit dismantled the devices. The police believe the group that deployed the devices used the nearby train infrastructure for transportation to and from the area.

Sources inside the Egyptian Intelligence Directorate have informed Lima Charlie News that it has strong evidence to assume the involvement of the Salafist-Jihadist group Ansar al Islam being involved in the attempted attack.

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 22 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 2 arrests.

-December 13th, Inci Street, Bahcelievler District, Istanbul, Turkey

A minibus which contained explosives was stopped on Inci Street by Police forces. The police acted upon information received from the Turkish National Intelligence Agency (MIT). The bus was reportedly found to be carrying several ready-to-use explosive devices. According to later reports, two individuals with alleged affiliations with the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) were detained in relations to the minibus. Police sources indicate that the minibus was intended to be used as a Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED), and the target was the ongoing Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) conference in Istanbul.

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 an untold number of 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 December 16th that it has not detected any new cases of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) December 10th and December 16th.

Somalia and Somaliland

US air assets have increased air-to-ground operations against the Islamic State and affiliated organizations operatives and hubs. AFRICOM has carried out more than 12 strikes in Somalia targeting al-Shaabab and Islamic State fighters since it initiated its new, intensified, strategy on November 3rd. Since the intensified strategy was deployed, US air assets have carried out at least 16 attacks, resulting in an estimated 140 deaths.

The latest known major strike was against the so called “Raso Camp” in the Bulobarde province, roughly 100 miles north 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.

Yemen

US air assets have increased air-to-ground operations against Islamic State operatives and hubs. In the past week, US drones have carried out a series of attacks in recent months, resulting in the deaths of at least a hundred individuals. The majority of these attacks have been against targets and individuals described as being affiliated with the Islamic State. Since January, 2017, the US has carried out more than 100 strikes against ground targets in Yemen.

The anti-Houthi coalition, lead by Saudi Arabia, struck several ground targets during the week. At least 30 people have been reported as killed as a result of coalition airstrikes.

Iraq

December 13th, Nasiriyah, Iraq

Iraq’s federal government carried out the execution of a total of 38 suspected ISIS fighters in Nasiriyah, southern Iraq. The men had been sentenced by a local court to death for their participation in the Islamic States activities in Iraq. Tens of thousands of people are currently being held in Iraqi jails accused of affiliations with the extremist organisation.

From last week’s report:

Yemen

-December 4th, Marib highway, Sana’a Governorate

Former President Ali Abdullah Saleh was killed while traveling down the main road between Ma’rib and Sana’a. Upon arriving to the area of Sayan, part of the Sanhan district in the Sana’a governorate, the lone up armored Toyota Land Cruiser was chased by a al Houthi convoy consisting of at least 20 vehicles. When the Land Cruiser was within 7 kilometers of the relative safety of Bait el-Ahmar, Saleh’s birthplace, it was disabled by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) hit to its right side. Inside the vehicle was Former President Saleh, Saleh’s son Khaled, Saleh’s nephew Tarek, and 2 political affiliates. With their vehicle disabled, it was surrounded by 7 pickup trucks with al Houthi fighters inside. One of the fighters fired three rounds into the reinforced windshield. The rounds did not penetrate.

According to information provided to the Erudite Intelligence Group by known sources, a deal was proposed between the parties. Saleh and his driver, General People’s Congress’ assistant secretary Yasser al-Awadi, would exit the vehicle and be taken captive. The other 3 in the vehicle would be left free and unharmed. Upon exiting the vehicle, Saleh was executed, or shot by an al Houthi affiliated sniper. al-Awadi was executed next to the vehicle. Khaled, Saleh’s son, attempted to rush out of the vehicle but was beaten down and captured. The other 2 individuals inside the vehicle were also captured …

READ THE FULL REPORT.

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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