Middle East – North Africa News Brief

MENA BRIEF, SITREP June 12 – June 20: Middle East and Northern Africa News Composition – Regional Low Intensity Conflicts.

| [MISC]: State adds Indonesian group to Specially Designated Global Terrorist list: The US Department of State (DoS) included the Indonesian group Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI) as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) group on JUN12. The group was founded in 2000 by Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, and DoS has now designated the group as posing a direct threat against US interests and the safety of its citizens. The group has in the past claimed a number of attacks on Westerners, including the high profile attack on Canadian author Irshad Manji in MAY-2012. The group has close ties to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al-Nusra Front in Syria, also known as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. The political spokesperson for the group, Secretary-General Shabbarin Syakur, has rejected the inclusion and states that the group has “not even conducted any activities for years, and MMI is anti-Islamic State.” The reasoning for the DoS inclusion of MMI at this point is unclear, but it could be in relation to rumors that members of the group have joined al Qaeda in Syria.

Russia might have killed the Islamic State founder and Caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi: Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) stated in a press release that it targeted a high level gathering of Islamic State leaders near al Raqqa on MAY28, and struck it using air-to-ground missiles. According to the MoD al Baghdadi was one of the leaders in attendance, and is likely to have perished in the missile strike. This would be the 4th time in 2017 that al Baghdadi is believed to have perished in a drone or air strike. Confirmation remains pending on all four accounts.

Did Twitter choose a side in the Gulf-Qatar crisis by closing down Al Jazeera Arabic twitter account? The Twitter account belonging to the news agency al Jazeera’s Arabic channel, @AJArabic, was suspended temporarily on JUN17. Twitter is yet to publically present a reason for this incident.


JUN18, Diraz, Bahrain; The Ministry of Interior (MoI) has stated that a police officer was killed and two others injured when an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) detonated near the home of prominent Shiite cleric Isa Qassim. Qassim’s Bahraini citizenship was revoked in JUN-2016, and his house has since become a symbol for Shiite opposition groups and the oppression of the Shiite community in Bahrain.

JUN18, US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT), Bahrain; Bahrain has ordered all Qatari troops currently stationed at NAVCENT to leave Bahrain within 48 hours. Qatari troops stationed at NAVCENT are part of the anti-Islamic State coalition, and is believed to number no more than 15 in total.


JUN13, al-Qatif, Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia; Ministry of Interior (MoI) has identified the two individuals that died in a car explosion on JUN1. Fadel Abdullah Mohammed al-Hamada and Muhammad Hassan al-Suweimel were traveling in a white Ford Explorer when their cargo of ammunition and explosives detonated. Both individuals were known for anti-government operations. Al-Hamada has been accused of having participated in shootings that resulted in the death of over 10 Saudi Arabian security forces members. Al-Suweimel has been accused of having participated in the AUG16-2016 attack on a al-Qatif police station, and the assassination of two soldiers on APR28 and APR29. While the individuals did not have overt ties with the Islamic State or al Qaeda, it is believed that they had affiliations or connections to members of both groups inside Saudi Arabia.

JUN13, al-Qatif, Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia; Regional news outlets state that a member of the Security Forces was shot and wounded during an anti-government militia ambush on the al-Awamiyah highway. The event occurred during a scheduled patrol of the area.

JUN13, ad-Dayer, Jazan Province, Saudi Arabia; The MoI has stated that a Saudi Border Guard was killed by a landmine in the border region between Saudi and Yemen. The incident happened at 0900 local time. The border area is heavily mined from the many conflicts that have occurred between the two countries.

JUN14, ad-Dayer, Jazan Province, Saudi Arabia; The MoI has stated that a Saudi Border Guard was killed by a landmine in the border region between Saudi and Yemen. The incident happened at 0100 local time. This is the second such incident this week.

JUN17, Shahi neighborhood, Najran City, Saudi Arabia; al Houthi shells struck several civilian buildings on the morning of JUN17 according to Saudi news outlets. According to said reports, there were no casualties but one child was injured by shrapnel.

JUN11-17, Saudi Arabia; 16 new cases of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus (MERS-CoV) was reported in the time period between JUN11 and JUN17. The majority of reported cases were located within the greater area of Riyadh.

JUN19, Murjan Oilfields, Saudi Arabian territorial waters; Three unidentified speedboats reportedly approached the shore line of the Murjan oilfields at 2030 local time. The boats failed to respond to security forces giving warning shots, leading the security forces to engage the boats. Two of the boats evaded capture, but a third one was damaged and its crew detained. Reports indicate that the boat was loaded with weapons. The incident took place on the same day that Iranian media reported that two Iranian fishing boats were taken off course due to weather conditions, causing them to enter the international waters of Bushehr – not far from the Saudi territorial waters of Murjan.  


JUN13, Cairo, Egypt; A parliamentary committee approved the Red Sea islands’ transfer to Saudi Arabia, and referred to the legislation to commit to a final vote. The deal between Egypt and Saudi Arabia is to transfer the sovereignty of the islands Tiran and Sanafir in the Red Sea. Egypt intends to maintain the administrative control of the islands.

JUN14, Cairo, Egypt; In response to the parliamentary approval of the Red Sea islands’ transfer, public protests amassed outside of the parliament building. Other, secondary, protests were carried out at the Egyptian Social Democratic Party (ESDP) headquarters on El-Bostan Street, Cairo, at the Mesaha Square, Giza, and Gamal Abd El-Nasser Street in Alexandria. A walking protest was carried out on the road between Talaat Harb Square and Tahrir Square. The protests continued unhindered until JUN15, at which point Security Forces arrested 40 individuals across the country. The police continued its counter-protest actions in the days following, with an estimated additional 32 individuals having been detained.

JUN18, Basateen, Cairo, Egypt; An Improvised Explosive Device (IED) detonated at 0045, local time, on Autostorad Road in Basateen, a suburb to Cairo, killing one police officer and injuring four others. The IED is believed to have been remote activated by the use of a cell phone. The Muslim Brotherhood offshoot Hasm claimed the attack 24 hours later.  


JUN16, Istanbul, Turkey; 6 Islamic State operatives were detained by security forces during a morning raid in Istanbul. The individuals are believed to have been traveling towards Raqqa, in Syria, through Turkey, and been staying at a safe house in Istanbul. Additional raids took place in Kocaeli and Konya, targeting Jihadists and Kurdish militants.

JUN16, Mamak, Ankara, Turkey; One person was seriously wounded during a fire exchange on Tip Fakultesi Street, in the Balkiraz neighborhood of Mamak, in eastern Ankara. The incident is believed to have been carried out through a drive-by shooting, and is believed to have been related to organized criminal elements.

JUN16, Istanbul; US Consulate in Istanbul has made a public alert to all citizens inside Turkey of increased security presence and concerns due to a “possible terrorist threat”. No further information is presently available.


JUN16, Old City of Jerusalem, Israel; Israeli police shot and killed 3 Palestinian males after a knife attack by the Palestinian group left one policewoman dead and 2 others wounded.


JUN12, Bab al-Mandab (BAM) Strait, Yemen; In response to the piracy attack on the Marshall Island-flagged tanker MT Muskie on May 31st, the Combined Maritime Forces will be increasing its naval presence in the Bab al-Mandab (BAM) Strait. The Combined Maritime Forces is a security coalition of 31-nations, and seeks to prevent piracy in the area of Somalia and Yemen.

JUN15, Mocha Port, Yemen; An Emirati Naval vessel was struck by a missile in the waters outside of the Mocha Port early morning. The attack has been claimed by the al Houthis operating in the area. Seemingly, a Noor missile, the Iranian version of the Chinese C-802 anti-ship missile, was utilized.

JUN16, al Naqba, Shabwa Province, Yemen; A US Drone strike killed 2 individuals believed to have belonged to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The 2 individuals were traveling in an unidentified vehicle which was destroyed by what appears to have been a drone strike. The Shabwa province has become a haven for AQAP activities in recent years.


JUN14, Strait of Hormuz, International Waters; USS Cole and USS Batan encountered an unidentified Iranian Naval vessel, believed to belong to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) navy, which shone a spotlight and laser at a US Navy helicopter which was escorting the two US Navy destroyers. This is the fifth time this year that Iranian Naval vessels have disrupted US Navy operations in the Strait of Hormuz.

JUN17, Bushehr, Persian Gulf; The Iran government affiliated news agency Tasnim quoted a Ministry of Interior statement which specified that Saudi Border Guards fired on Iranian fishermen, killing one. According to the official report, two Iranian fishing boats were blown off course by the waves, and might have entered Saudi Arabian territorial water. Upon discovery, the Saudi Arabian Border Guards opened fire against both vessels, killing one sailor.


JUN14, Mogadishu, Somalia; 19 people were killed during an al Shabaab attack on a popular hotel and restaurant in central Mogadishu. The attack was initiated by a Suicide Vehicle Improvised Explosive Device (SVBIED) drove into the outer gate of the Posh Hotel, located in South Mogadishu, followed by a small team of al Shabaab fighters rushing into the adjacent restaurant called Pizza House. Inside the Pizza House, the al Shabaab gunmen took 20 individuals hostage. Police forces quickly responded by retaking the hotel and restaurant 4 hours later, killing 5 of the gunmen.

JUN17, el-Lahelay village, Bakol region, SW Somalia; An al-Shabaab attack against a military base in the outskirts of el-Lahelay, some 20 kilometers west of the provincial capital Hudur, left 8 people dead and 12 people injured.


JUN17; Recent heavy rains have caused floods and landslides in both Bangladesh, and northeastern India, resulting in the death of 156 people in under 2 days. Reuters reports that “Landslides hit three hilly districts in Bangladesh’s southeast early on Tuesday, killing 100 people in Rangamati, 36 in Chittagong and six in Bandarban, said Reaz Ahmed, head of the department of disaster management. Fresh landslides on Wednesday killed one person in the district of Khagrachari and two in the coastal town of Cox’s Bazar, he added. The town bordering Myanmar is home to thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees and was just beginning to recover from Cyclone Mora.“

JUN12, Himalayan Region, Kashmir, Disputed Area; Pakistani and Indian troops exchanged fire in the Jandrot and Hot Spring area of Himalaya on JUN19, resulting in the death of 2 Pakistani civilians and 3 others wounded.


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