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Middle East – North Africa News Brief – Regional Low Intensity Conflicts

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MENA Regional Low Intensity Conflicts: September 24th to October 1st, 2017. 

United States of America:

  • 24th September
    • Washington D.C., USA
      • The US administration announced new travel restrictions for citizens from Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen for travel to the United States. The new restrictions include that all visas for citizens from Syria, Yemen and Libya are suspended, even if traveling with valid current visas. Iranian citizens can still enter the US, but only if they travel on already issued exchange visitors or student visas. Entry for Somalis traveling to the US with the intent to immigrate is suspended. All individuals entering the US from these nations will now “be subject to enhanced screening and vetting.”

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 contain less than 20 people. Security forces made minor arrests relating to Shia opposition groups. The government is however reporting that 2017 have seen a noteworthy increase in Shia government opposition related violence.

Egypt:

Egyptian security forces continued their nationwide operations against safe houses and individuals believed to be affiliated with the Islamic State.

Security forces also continued their operations against safe houses and individuals believed to be affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and its various breakaway factions.

  • 28th September
    • Border region between Libya and Egypt
      • Ministry of Defence (MoD) stated that its Air Force targeted 10 SUVs carrying weapons and ammunition while the vehicles were attempting to enter Egypt. 9 out of 10 vehicles were destroyed, with 1 vehicle managing to escape.
  • 30th September
    • Zamalek, Cairo
      • The Muslim Brotherhood militant offshoot group Hasm detonated an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) outside of the Myanmar Embassy at 1845 local time. No injuries or deaths have been reported.

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 80 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 25 arrests.

  • 24th September
    • The cities of Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir
      • Large crowds gathered in parks and squares to protest the upcoming Kurdish independence referendum in Northern Iraq.
    • Ankara
      • Turkish Minister of Defense, Nurettin Canikli, accused the United States and Germany for imposing a de facto arms embargo against Turkey. During a speech given at an emergency session at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara Canikli said that operations in Syria have been difficult due to this embargo. The minister stated that US and German arms manufacturers were either halting shipments of spare parts of weapons systems to Turkey, or deliberately delaying them.
  • 26th September
    • Ankara
      • Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan warned Iraqi Kurds in regards to enacting the newly passed referendum for Kurdish independence. “(They) will be left in the lurch when we start imposing our sanctions,” Erdogan said in a speech broadcast live on television. “It will be over when we close the oil taps, all (their) revenues will vanish, and they will not be able to find food when our trucks stop going to northern Iraq.
  • 27th September
    • Hancioglu Street, Findikli neighbourhood, Istanbul
      • A Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) safe house was raided at 0200 hours, local time, resulting in 4 arrests. According to local media reports, police seized at least one 9mm handgun with accompanying boxes of ammunition.
  • 28th September
    • Ankara
      • The government says that if the Kurdistan independence referendum is enacted that Turkey might refuse to buy oil from the Kurdish government, favoring the Iraqi government in Baghdad instead.
  • 29th September
    • Istanbul
      • City wide raids were carried out against Islamic State safe houses. At least 12 safe houses were reportedly raided by counter terrorism police units. The raids resulted in the arrests of at least 50 individuals. The majority of the individuals arrested have, by authorities, been described as foreigners.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia:

  • 26th September
    • Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
      • King Salman issued a decree allowing for women to obtain driver’s licenses. The decree is set to come into action in June, 2018.

Iraq:

  • 25th September
    • Nassiriya, Southern Iraq
      • 42 Sunni militants were executed by hanging at a prison outside of Nassiriya in Southern Iraq. The 42 were sentenced for their involvement in car bombings resulting in the death of at least 60 people.
    • Kurdistan, Northern Iraq
      • A public vote was held if the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) should declare independence from Iraq.
  • 26th September
    • Baghdad
      • Iraq’s Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi issued an order that the KRG must return the oil revenues that it has seen throughout 2017 and parts of 2016. This in response to the independence referendum. The Baghdad government has stated that it intends to safeguard the oil fields in the Kurdish enclave of the country regardless of the outcome of the public vote on September 25th.
  • 27th September
    • Kurdistan, Northern Iraq
      • Kurdistan’s Independent High Elections and Referendum Commission (IHERC) states that 92.7% of the ballots cast in the Kurdistan independence referendum supported the creation of an independent Kurdish state. The reported voter turnout was 72.16%.
  • 27th September
    • Baghdad
      • In response to the KRG independence referendum, the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authorities informed airlines that international flights to and from KRG will be suspended as of 29th September.

Syria:

  • 24th September
    • al-Izba gas fields, Deir Ezzor province
      • Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) captured the al-Izba gas fields after a series of battles in and around the fields.
    • Conoco gas fields, Deir Ezzor province
      • SDF captured the Conoco gas fields after a series of battles in and around the fields. The offensive was carried out by forces advancing from the  nearby village of Khsham under the cover of airstrikes by the US-led coalition. Conoco is the largest gas field in Syria.
  • 27th September
    • Unspecified location
      • A new audio recording by Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was released. While the 46-minute long recording is undated, it makes references to the situation in North Korea. In the recording al-Baghdadi encourage continuing attacks against Western targets, and to keep fighting against Syrian and Iraqi forces, in favor of his Caliphate.
  • 28th September
    • Ankara, Turkey
      • Russian President, Vladimir Putin, met with Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to discuss the facilitation of the “necessary conditions” to end the civil war in Syria. During a subsequent joint press conference Erdogan stated that Turkey “will continue close cooperation with Russia for reaching a political solution to the crisis in Syria.” Erdogan also said that Russia and Turkey have agreed to “pursue more intensely” the creation of a “de-escalation zone” in Idlib Province.
  • 29th September
    • South of the town of Sukna, east of Palmyra
      • 58 Syrian government troops died during an offensive against Islamic State positions and a resulting counter offensive by those positions.
    • Mayadin, in the Deir Ezzor province
      • The US-led coalition announced that 3 of the Islamic State’s “senior and highly skilled” “drone experts” had died as a result of coalition airstrikes.
    • Al Shola, in the Deir Ezzor province
      • Islamic State forces carried out a counter attack on government forces positions in the town of Al Shola. Al Shole was under Islamic State’s control until two weeks ago, when it fell to the Syrian government as part of its Deir Ezzor offensive. According to Islamic State affiliated news outlets, the government forces suffered heavy losses. Government affiliated news outlets confirm the counter attack, but make no mention of casualties.
    • Syrian air defence complex, near Masyaf
      • Russian Ministry of Defense have deployed a second S-400 air defence system to Syria. It is presently located inside the Syrian Air Defence complex in the coastal mountain area of Masyaf.
  • 30th September
    • Idlib
      • The UK-based Syrian Civil War monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) claims that “at least 28 civilians” were killed by airstrikes aimed at the remaining government opposition enclaves in the city of Idlib. 4 of the dead are described as children. The SOHR says that it is not clear if it was Syrian or Russian Air Force assets that carried out the attacks.

Lebanon:

  • 28th September
    • Beirut
      • The Salafist-Jihadist cleric Ahmad al-Assir was sentenced to death by a Beirut court. Al-Assir stood charged for having incited attacks on the government security forces, resulting in the death of at least 18 soldiers. Lebanon has not carried out an execution in the past 14 years.

Afghanistan:

  • 25th September
    • Unspecified location
      • A US Defense Department Inspector General’s (IG) report released this week details that the US can not account for the use or distribution of $702 millions worth of ammunition between 2015 and 2016. The intended distribution was towards units inside the Afghan National Army. The IG report says that “Without consistent, timely, and accurate reporting from the ministries, CSTC-A (Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan) cannot account for all ammunition consumed by the ANDSF (Afghan National Defense and Security Forces)”. The main mission of the CSTC-A is to train Afghan institutions on effective management, oversight and application of rule of law. The IG report also states that “CSTC-A did not provide effective oversight of ammunition that was procured by the DoD and provided to the ANDSF”.
  • 27th September
    • Kabul
      • US Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, visited Afghanistan to meet with military and political leaders.
      • An rocket assault was carried out against the Kabul Airport shortly after US Secretary of Defense plane landed. Mr Mattis had already been escorted out of the airport area by the time of the attack. Both the Islamic State and the Taliban have individually claimed the attack, with the Islamic State releasing a short video showing a fighter firing an SPG-9 (Russian made Self Propelled Grenade launcher type 9) against targets unknown.
  • 29th September
    • Kabul
      • A suicide bomber attacked a Afghan National Police (ANP) checkpoint set up 1,000 meters from the central Hussainia Mosque, resulting in the death of 5. 29 others were wounded. The attack is yet to be claimed by any outfit.
    • Bala Bluk, Farah province
      • A suicide bomber attacked a Afghan National Police (ANP) checkpoint set up outside of a school area in the Farah province, resulting in the death of 5 police officers. 2 others were wounded. A followup attack on the checkpoint was carried out. The Afghan National Army (ANA) responded and reinforced the ANP forces. After a battle that reportedly lasted for at least 3 hours the assaulting forces withdrew. Afghan Air Force struck 3 vehicles during the withdrawal, killing at least “20 of the militants” inside the vehicles. The attack was claimed within 2 hours by the Taliban movement.
    • Unspecified location
      • US Air Force 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron conducted the first airdrop of military supplies to US troops in Afghanistan since September 2014. This in light of ground security conditions deteriorating at some frontline positions. “In order to keep our aircraft and aircrews out of harm’s way, we have been attempting to airdrop supplies into areas which have historically seen higher levels of engagements against airborne assets,” a U.S. Air Forces Central Command spokesman (AFCENT) told media.

Libya:

  • 24th September
    • South East of Sirte
      • A series of airstrikes were carried out by US Air Force against target believed to belong to the Islamic State. According to a statement made by the US Air Force, the strikes resulted in the death of “several Islamic State militants”. The Islamic State continues to have a growing presence in Libya.

Iran:

  • 27th September
    • New York City, USA
      • If Washington decides to pull out of the deal (the so called Iran Nuclear Deal), Iran has the option of withdrawal and other options.” said Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, in an interview with al Jazeera. The agreement has a total of 8 signatories, including Iran and the US.
    • Unspecified locations throughout Syria
      • Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have deployed additional armed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), ie drones, to Syria. Primarily of the Iranian Shahed-129 UAV model. IRGC specifies that it intends to use the drone assets to support advancing allied ground forces against Islamic State positions.
  • 28th September
    • New York City, USA
      • US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has critiqued a Russian delegation bid in the United Nations General Assembly to “shield Iran from inspections by the United Nations nuclear watchdog”. The Russian delegations bid comes as a reaction to the US seeking to widen inspections of Iranian facilities to include military sites.  

Israel and Palestine:

  • 26th September
    • Jewish settlement Har Adar, West Bank
      • A Palestinian man opened fire with a pistol at a checkpoint, killing 2 security guards and 1 paramilitary policeman. A 4th individual was “seriously wounded” as well.
  • 27th September
    • Lyon, France
      • Interpol has approved the State of Palestine’s request for membership. The approval came despite formal objections by the Israeli government, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “This victory was made possible because of the principled position of the majority of Interpol members,” Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said in a statement. Interpol now has 192 members.
    • Jerusalem
      • A newly released Israel Defense Forces (IDF) assessment states that Iran is continuing to supply Hezbollah with increasingly accurate missile systems, which it intends to use against Israel. According to the IDF assessment, Hezbollah is currently possessing approximately 120,000 missiles and rockets of varying quality and precision in Lebanon. This, the assessment specifies, indicates that “in a future war” Hezbollah will be able to launch over a thousand rockets a day against Israeli targets.
  • 28th September
    • Jerusalem
      • A Shin Bet security services spokesperson said that the security and intelligence agency had thwarted a plan by two Israeli Arabs with Islamic State affiliations to attack holy sites in Jerusalem. The two suspects, aged 26 and 16, are in custody.

Yemen:

  • 25th September
    • Sana’a
      • An American oil worker was abducted while traveling in a vehicle through Sana’a, the capital of Yemen. The individual has been identified as Danny Lavone Burch (63), an engineer at Safer Oil Co., a state-owned company. Burch was alone in the vehicle at the time, and had no security. No ransom demand has so far been delivered.
  • 29th September
    • New York City, USA
      • The UN Human Rights Council has agreed to send war crimes investigators to Yemen to examine alleged human rights violations throughout the civil war torn nation.

LIMA CHARLIE, MENA Desk

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

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