Weekly News 17th – 21st April, 2017 | Mediterranean Affairs

Monday 17

Iraq: Iraqi forces have gained ground in door-to-door fighting in the Old City of Mosul. Drones are being used to locate and direct air strikes on the group, which is dug in among civilians. As many as half a million people are estimated to remain overall in neighbourhoods still under control of ISIL in western Mosul, facing terrifying risks. (Al Jazeera)

Syria: At least 68 children were among 126 people killed in Saturday’s bomb attack on buses carrying evacuees from besieged Syrian towns. A vehicle filled with explosives hit the convoy near Aleppo. The bomb went off at Rashidin, west of government-held Aleppo, at about 15:30 local time (12:30 GMT) at the checkpoint where the handover of evacuees was due to take place. No group has claimed responsibility for the bus attack. (BBC)

Turkey: The Yes vote in the referendum that grants sweeping new powers to the president of Turkey is valid, the head of the electoral body says.
Sadi Guven was speaking after the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) cited irregularities, including the use of unstamped ballot papers.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s push for an executive presidency succeeded with 51.4% voting for it. The win was met with both celebrations and protests across Turkey. Three of Turkey’s biggest cities – Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir – all voted No to the constitutional changes. (BBC)

Weekly News 17th – 21st April, 2017 | Mediterranean Affairs

Tuesday 18

France: A machine gun, two hand guns and three kilos of TATP explosive were among the weapons found at a flat in Marseille raided by police on Tuesday after they foiled an imminent attack ahead of the French election, according to the Paris prosecutor.
The two Frenchmen had met while sharing a cell in prison and were known to police as having turned to radical Islam. (Reuters)

Ethiopia: A total of 669 people were killed in unrest that gripped Ethiopia for several months until authorities imposed a state of emergency last October, according to an investigation report presented to parliament on Tuesday. (Reuters)

Iraq: Iraqi’s army has built a new pontoon bridge over the Tigris river south of Mosul, after flooding had blocked all crossing points, opening an escape route for families fleeing fighting between government forces and Islamic State. (Reuters)

Migration crisis: Nearly 9,000 mainly African migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean this past long weekend after being put by smugglers in Libya onto unseaworthy boats heading toward Italy. The migrants, many from Nigeria and Senegal with some from Bangladesh, are among an estimated 20,000 held by criminal gangs in irregular detention centres in Libya, the International Organisation for Migration said. (Reuters)

Turkey: The deputy chairman of Turkey’s main opposition said the number of missing votes in a referendum handing President Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers was “unprecedented”, after submitting his party’s application to annul the results. (Reuters)

UK: Prime Minister Theresa May called on Tuesday for an election on June 8, saying Britain’s opposition parties risked worsening her negotiating hand in divorce talks with the European Union by opposing her Brexit plan. But she must first win the support of two-thirds of the parliament for her call for an early election. The main opposition Labour Party has said it is ready for a new election. (Reuters)

Weekly News 17th – 21st April, 2017 | Mediterranean Affairs 

Wednesday 19

Egypt: Gunmen attacked a checkpoint near the iconic St. Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai, one of the oldest Christian monasteries in the world, killing one police officer and wounding four others on Tuesday evening, Egypt’s Interior Ministry said.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the shooting through its Amaq news agency, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist communications. (The New York Times)

France: The first round of the French presidential election is set to be held on April 23.
One of the candidates expected to do well on Sunday is far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who is polling neck-and-neck with centrist Emmanuel Macron. (Al Jazeera)

Italy: Italy has called for the release of an Italian journalist who has been held in custody in Turkey for more than a week since he was detained while doing research for a book.
Gabriele Del Grande was arrested on April 9 close to Turkey’s border with Syria and transferred to a migrants center in the city of Mugla.
The Italian foreign ministry said it was working to ensure that Del Grande, who has not been charged with any crime, can receive legal assistance, a visit from the Italian consulate, and be allowed to communicate with his family. (Reuters)

Turkey: Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition HDP filed an appeal to the country’s electoral board on Wednesday for the annulment of a referendum which handed President Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers, saying there had been widespread violations. (Reuters)

UK: The UK parliament has voted in favour of Prime Minister Theresa May’s call for an early general election.
The parliament on Wednesday voted 522 to 13 in favour of the election taking place on June 8.
On Tuesday, May called for a snap election in a surprise announcement as Britain prepares for delicate negotiations on leaving the European Union. May’s Conservatives currently hold 330 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons. The opposition Labour Party and Liberal Democrats welcomed the chance to put their policies to voters, though the Scottish National Party called the election a cynical political ploy. (Al Jazeera)

 Thursday 20

France: French voters go to the polls on Sunday for the first round of their most unpredictable presidential election in living memory.
Opinion polls make independent centrist Emmanuel Macron the favorite.
But the gap separating him from the other top three contenders – Marine Le Pen on the far-right, conservative Francois Fillon and far-leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon – has narrowed.
Any two of the four might qualify on Sunday for the May 7 two-person run-off. (Reuters)

An attacker has killed a police officer and seriously wounded two others before being shot dead in an attack on the Champs Elysees shopping district in the French capital, according to Paris police and the interior ministry.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group claimed responsibility for the attack on Thursday evening, which took place three days before France’s first round of presidential election. (Al Jazeera)

Weekly News 17th – 21st April, 2017 | Mediterranean Affairs

Friday 21

Egypt: The Egyptian army has been accused of carrying out extrajudicial killings in Sinai province, with a leaked video purportedly showing soldiers executing detainees and then staging the incidents to make it appear as if they died in a gun battle.
The video , which was posted online on Thursday by Mekameleen, an opposition TV channel based in Turkey, allegedly shows two blindfolded men being shot in the head by uniformed soldiers. (Al Jazeera)

German: German police have detained a man early in connection with last week’s attack on football club Borussia Dortmund’s team bus, according to federal prosecutors.
Anti-terror police “have arrested a 28-year-old German-Russian national, Sergej W.”, a police statement said on Friday, indicating that the suspect was hoping to profit from a drop in the football club’s share price as a result of the attack. According to the investigation, the suspect had bought 78,000 euros ($84,000) worth of shares in the club online from the team’s hotel. (Al Jazeera)

Iran: Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been barred from standing in next month’s election by a top body of jurists and clerics which vets candidates, state media report.

A final list of candidates for the 19 May poll will be announced on 27 April.
More than 1,600 candidates sought to stand, but only about six are selected by the Guardian Council, whose members are chosen directly or indirectly by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (BBC)

Italy: The Italian consul to Ankara on Friday finally managed to see Gabriele Del Grande, an Italian reporter held in a Turkish detention centre after his arrest on the Syrian border 11 days ago, who has been on hunger strike since earlier this week. The lawyer of the 34-year-old blogger, rights activist and documentary maker also succeeded in seeing him and said his detention was illegal, adding that he had been held in isolation since his move to the detention centre nine days ago.
Del Grande’s detention is illegal because no charges have been pressed and it is therefore a purely punitive measure. (ANSAmed)

Syria: The first phase of a troubled population transfer has concluded, with thousands of displaced Syrians evacuated out of besieged areas and an agreement reached to release hundreds of government detainees, according to government news media and rebels. (Al Jazeera)

US troops have targeted and killed a leading member of the so-called Islamic State (IS) group in a commando raid in Syria, military officials say. The attack took place near the town of Mayadin in eastern Syria.
Abdurakhmon Uzbeki, who was believed to be from Uzbekistan, is said by the Americans to be a close associate of the IS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (BBC)