Weekly News 22 – 26 April 2019 | Mediterranean Affairs


Monday, 22 April 2019

Sri Lanka: The death toll in Sri Lanka has soared to 290 after a wave of blasts hit churches and luxury hotels across the country on Sunday. Police said 24 people had been arrested, but it is not yet known who carried out the attacks. About 500 people are injured and at least 35 foreigners are among the dead. The Easter Sunday bombings were the deadliest violence Sri Lanka has witnessed since the end of the country’s civil war in 2009. (BBC)

North Ireland: Two teenagers arrested in connection with the murder of journalist Lyra McKee have been released without charge. The males, aged 18 and 19, were released on Sunday evening, the PSNI confirmed. Lyra was shot in the head during disturbances in the Creggan area of Londonderry on Thursday evening. Detectives from PSNI Major Investigation Team continue to appeal for help from the local community in Creggan. (Belfast Telegraph)

Turkey: A mob attacked main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu on April 21 during the funeral of a fallen Turkish soldier in Ankara. The group chanted slogans against the outlawed PKK before attacking Kılıçdaroğlu at the funeral of Private Yener Kırıkcı in the Çubuk district of Ankara who was among soldiers killed in clashes with the PKK on the Turkish-Iraqi border on April 19. A video of the incident showed the CHP leader hit on the head at least twice as a clutch of security guards attempted to keep dozens of shouting and fist-pumping men away. (Daily News)

Morocco: Thousands of people have protested in Morocco’s capital Rabat, demanding the release of 42 activists who had rallied against corruption and unemployment. Sunday’s “march of the Moroccan people” was organised by political and civil rights groups, as well as the families of detainees. (BBC)

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Egypt: Egyptian voters have overwhelmingly backed constitutional changes allowing President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to remain in power until 2030, the election commission has said. “These [changes] are effective from now as your constitution,” the commission’s chairman Lasheen Ibrahim told a press conference on Tuesday. Turnout during the three-day vote was 44.33 percent and 88.83 percent of those taking part voted “yes” for the amendments, with 11.17 percent voting “no”, he added. (Al Jazeera)

Sudan: Sudanese protesters have called on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to “keep their money” a day after Riyadh and Abu Dhabi offered to send Khartoum $3bn aid. Hours after the oil-rich Gulf states made the announcement on Sunday, demonstrators at the sit-in outside Sudan’s military headquarters in the capital started chanting: “We don’t want Saudi support.” “They are lobbying and using money to try and control Sudan. (Al Jazeera)  

Libya: Refugees and migrants trapped in a detention centre on the front line of conflict in Tripoli for weeks say they were shot at indiscriminately on Tuesday by fighters aligned with eastern forces advancing on Libya’s capital. At least 10 people were seriously wounded by gunfire, detainees said. “Right now they are attacking the centre, shooting more people … They are shooting us directly,” an Eritrean man told Al Jazeera through the messaging service WhatsApp. (Al Jazeera)

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Sri Lanka: The Police, Tri-Forces and other branches of the security apparatus would be restructured within a week and changes will be made to those heading security institutions within the next 24 hours, President Maithripala Sirisena said yesterday night. The President said he would take stern action against officials who failed to heed and act on warnings from intelligence agencies from a friendly neighbouring country about the threat of an attack. (Daily News)

Libya: A group of armed French nationals intercepted along the Tunisia-Libya border last week are members of France’s intelligence services, according to an unnamed source in Tunisia’s presidency who was quoted by Radio France International (RFI). Tunisia’s government denied the story, which came amid reports suggesting French citizens may have assisted renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar as his forces attempt to capture the Libyan capital, Tripoli. Tunisian authorities said they stopped more than 20 Europeans carrying weapons last week, including 13 French citizens, attempting to cross into the country from neighbouring Libya. (Al Jazeera)

Saudi Arabia: Long before Saudi Arabia announced it had carried out one of the largest mass executions in its history earlier this week, some of the men condemned to death had made impassioned pleas to the courts in a bid to save their lives. Many said they were totally innocent, that their confessions had been written by the same people who had tortured them. Some claimed to have evidence of their abuse at the hands of their interrogators. None of these arguments swayed the judges overseeing their trials in 2016, and the suspects were convicted of terror-related crimes and sentenced to death. (Middle East Eye)

Saudi Arabia: The UN human rights chief on Wednesday called Saudi Arabia’s mass executions of 37 men “shocking” and “abhorrent”, joining a growing chorus of condemnation by rights groups and activists. Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry said on Tuesday it beheaded dozens of its citizens over terrorism-related crimes, publicly pinning two of the bodies to a pole as a warning to others. “I strongly condemn these shocking mass executions across six cities in Saudi Arabia yesterday,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in a statement. “It is particularly abhorrent that at least three of those killed were minors at the time of their sentencing,” she added. (Al Jazeera)

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Sri Lanka: Mohammad Yusuf Ibrahim built his fortune on spices. He was feted by Sri Lanka’s former president for “outstanding service provided to the nation.” But on Wednesday the narrative of Mohammad Yusuf Ibrahim, one of Sri Lanka’s wealthiest spice traders, was ripped apart. Officials revealed he was in custody in connection with the devastating suicide attacks on Easter Sunday that killed hundreds of people. An Indian official said that two of Mr. Ibrahim’s sons were among the eight suicide bombers who struck at hotels and churches across this island. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack, and investigators said Mr. Ibrahim was being extensively interrogated. (The New York Times)

Sudan: Sudan’s ruling military council has met organisers of the protests that toppled former President Omar al-Bashir after they had suspended talks with the generals over the weekend. The council said in a statement before Wednesday’s meeting that it was willing to discuss proposals from the coalition of groups behind the protests for an immediate transfer of power to a transitional civilian government. (Al Jazeera)  

Turkey: Six staff members of Turkey’s opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper were jailed to serve out the remainder of their sentences after failed appeals against terrorism convictions. Among the six was cartoonist Musa Kart, after an appeals court unanimously upheld their jail sentences on Thursday. The six, also including four administrators and one accountant, were returned to Kandira prison to serve the rest of their time. Middle East Eye

Egypt: Egypt observers and analysts have expressed serious doubts over the higher-than-normal turnout figures announced by the country’s electoral authority, adding to reports of vote buying and the overall climate of repression that surrounded the vote that ended on Monday. As the country braces itself for a new period of a state of emergency, announced on Wednesday, observers have noted the discrepancy between anecdotal and photographic evidence and the 44 percent official turnout announced with the results. (Middle East Eye)

Friday, 26 April 2019

Syria: The US-backed assault to drive the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) from its Syrian capital Raqqa in 2017 killed more than 1,600 civilians, a figure 10 times what the coalition has acknowledged, according to a new report. The investigation, published by Amnesty International and the monitoring group Airwars on Thursday, urged top coalition members to “end almost two years of denial about the massive civilian death toll and destruction it unleashed in Raqqa”. (Al Jazeera)

Sri Lanka: The alleged ringleader behind Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday bombings was killed in the attacks, President Maithripala Sirisena said. Mr Sirisena said Zahran Hashim, a radical preacher, died at the Shangri-La hotel in the capital, Colombo. He said Hashim led the attack on the popular tourist hotel, accompanied by a second bomber identified as “Ilham”. At least 250 people died in the wave of bombings on Sunday, which targeted churches and hotels in Colombo. (BBC)

Sudan: Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is not welcome in Sudan’s protest movement. President of Egypt, the country’s neighbour to the north, Sisi’s recent intervention calling for Sudan’s military to remain in power for three months was widely rejected by demonstrators in Khartoum.  “Tell Sisi this is Sudan, your borders are just [until] Aswan,” Sudanese pro-democracy protesters chanted, referring to southern Egypt. (Middle East Eye)

Libya: The United Nations has evacuated 350 more refugees from a detention centre in southern Tripoli amid escalating violence near the Libyan capital. The Libyan National Army (LNA), led by renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar, which is allied to a rival government in eastern Libya, mounted an offensive on Tripoli earlier this month, but has so far failed to breach the city’s southern defences. The group of refugees could be seen travelling on Thursday in buses to a detention centre in Zawiya, a town 40km west of the capital, bringing the total evacuated since Wednesday to around 675. (Al Jazeera)