GCC Braces Itself For Iran’s Retaliation to Airstikes on Houthis
By Leila Hatoum
Dubai — Arab gulf states expect Iran to violently attack their interests in the region in response to airstrikes carried out by those states against what they deem “an Iranian-bred insurgency in Yemen.”
Iran’s retaliation, according to Arab Gulf diplomatic officials may take any form, including explosions targeting Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) businesses and/or embassies, among other means.
The anticipated violence may be carried out by “Iran’s regional operatives,” according to several officials in retaliation for the GCC-led coalition of 10 states targeting Shia insurgents known as Ansar Allah (God’s Supporters) in Yemen.
The coalition’s initial plan, under the banner of the Decisive Storm operation, is for a month of airstrikes. However, GCC diplomatic officials also say the airstrikes “may carry on for another five or six months.”
With the possibility of the military action dragging towards September 2015, Arab Gulf states are therefore looking at enlarging the coalition in any way possible, including having states join via humanitarian aid and logistical support.
The USA has been supplying technical support to the coalition in the form of intelligence reports and satellite images.
Oman, which shares common borders with Yemen, is the only GCC state refusing to take part in the military ops or bless it.
Ansar Allah, also known as the Houthis, (named after the founder Hussein al-Houthi), is a Zaidi group representing a minority percentage of Yemen’s 24 million-strong population.
The quick rise of the Houthis across most of Yemen’s northern territories became alarming to its neighboring majorly-Sunni Saudi Arabia, which also shares borders with northern Yemen.
What made the insurgency particularly dangerous were satellite images provided by the USA in January showing SCUD missiles in northern Yemen pointed towards Saudi Arabia.
GCC states believe Houthis are holding most of Yemen’s 300 SCUD missiles, with ranges of “250km and 650km.” If true, that means the Houthis can reach any city within the Kingdom.
News of Iran aiding the Yemeni insurgents with arms and funding doesn’t help Houthis’ case either.
Arab Gulf diplomats say “nearly 5000 Iranian, Hezbollah and Iraqi militia personnel are currently present in Yemen training and aiding the Houthis in their coup versus legitimacy.”
Though Houthis deny any Iranian affiliation with their proclaimed revolution, some slogans painted in Houthi-controlled areas are a replica of those used by Iran during their own Islamic revolution, as well as those used in the 1990s by Lebanon’s Hezbollah in its Beirut southern suburbs’ stronghold.
Wall graffiti painted in Iran’s flag colors, the red, green and white bearing slogans of “Death to America (USA); Death to Israel; Damn the Jews; Victory to Islam,” can be seen across Houthi-held areas. The slogans are often painted over in anti-Houthi areas by opposing tribes.
Houthis, who base some of their gains on a claim that current transitional president Mansoor Hadi is illegitimate as his term ended in 2014, also blame the state for marginalizing them.
However, it is understood that Houthis’ rise to power wouldn’t have been as swift as it was had it not been for the fact that the majority of northern yemenis are Zaidi.
The Zaidis are a part of Shia Islam. Shia in Yemen constitute about 35% of the population, of which the 400 zaidi tribes are the majority, with minor Shiaas belonging to the ismaili and twelvers divisions.
The remaining 65% majority of the population are Sunni, however, with most living in the south and southeastern regions, where Houthis are yet to have a foothold.
On the other hand, GCC states claim that Hadi’s transitional presidency remains legitimate until new presidential elections take place.
Following the Houthis’ takeover of the capital Sanaa, Hadi was forced to take refuge in the southern town of Aden, which he declared as a temporary capital.
Iran, which has publicly said it sympathizes with the Houthis, denies igniting sectarian strife. But its Arab gulf arch rivals blame it for taking advantage of anti-Israeli sentiment as well as the aspirations and fears of minorities in the region.
An endless bickering between the Shiite Iranian regime and its Sunni Arab counterparts, continues to feed into the region’s sectarian tension as well.
The Houthis’ insurgency has, so far, pushed some Sunni tribes to sympathize with the ultra-Sunni terrorist group Al-Qaeda, which has a strong foothold in Yemen’s southern region.
Meanwhile, the Decisive Storm operation that is supposed to strike military targets in Yemen, has also seen civilian casualties among Yemenis, including children. The Houthis have taken advantage of the images of dead civilians, circulating them across social media to gather support.
The coalition has repeatedly said it does not target civilians and that the Houthis have spread some civilians in its military zones.
For now, GCC states say the solution to halt its airstrikes would be for Hadi to return to power and a cessation of Houthi hostilities. Only then could a return to dialogue be possible, a matter that Houthis see as unlikely at the moment.
Some photos from our meetings with the Patriarch, Rami Khouri at AUB, MP from the Phalange party Nadim Gemayel, Walid Jumblatt, former Syrian vice prime minister Abdallah Dardari, May Akl senior advisor to General Michel Aoun, and many others!
13th Beirut Exchange Conference ends; Meetings with Jumblatt, FPM, Future, Hezbollah officials, among others!
The 13th Beirut Exchange is about to end after a grueling week! Below is the completed series of meetings for this (short) seven day Exchange. Deadline I is April 15 to apply for the two week Beirut Exchange, July 5-19 (visit www.thebeirutexchange.com for all of our upcoming programs in Tuns, the Gulf, Turkey and of course Beirut!).
5:30pm – Abdallah Dardari, ESCWA, Former Vice PM Syrian Arab Republic
8:00pm – Safety and Security Briefing
8:30am – Nicholas Noe, Mideastwire.com
10:30am – Ayman Mhanna, Samir Kassir Foundation
2:00pm – Nicholas Blanford, Daily Star/Times of London
6:30pm – Omar Nashabe, Consultant for the Defense Counsel, STL
9:00am – Alex Rowell, Now Media
11:30am – Nadim Houri, Human Rights Watch
2:30pm – Karim Makdisi, AUB
4:30pm – Tannous Mouawad, LAF (Ret.)
9:00am – Rabih Shibley, AUB
11:00am – Ahmad Fatfat, MP Future Movement
1:30pm – May Akl, Senior Advisor to General Michel Aoun FPM
6:30pm – Walid Jumblat, PSP
9:30am – Nicolas Pouillard, IFPO
11:30am – Alain Aoun, MP FPM
1:00pm – UNRWA
3:00pm – Mohammed Afif, Hizbullah
7:00pm – Saleh Mashnouq, Cambridge University
9:00am – UNIFIL
11:00am – Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Staff
12:30pm – Robert Fisk, The Independent
2:30pm – Ali Fayyad, Hizbullah
4:30pm – Rami Khouri, AUB
6:00pm – Nadim Gemayel, MP Kateab
10:30am – Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi
12:00pm – Antoine Habchi, Lebanese Forces
4:00pm – Mustapha Alloush, Future Movement
8:00pm – Timur Goksel, Former Chief Spokesperson UNIFIL
10:00am – Visit to Mleeta Museum South Lebanon
5:00pm – End Program
Open and (recently) “unprecedented” Hezbollah non-violent activity near Blue Line raising Israeli ire
Although many friends have been talking about some “unprecedented” behavior by Hezbollah in the south – all accurately described in this Israeli article it seems – the issue is finally rising to the surface as a potential area of concern:
“Hezbollah terrorists stroll along the border openly filming patrols, have taken Shi’ite towns, experts say – and a war will cost billions”
What is interesting and useful in this piece is:
1) Acknowledgement in Israel that “The Next War” TNW – will have HUGE military and economic costs on BOTH sides… it is NOT just a matter of making Lebanon a parking lot.
2) The Israelis seem perplexed as to why Hezbollah is “Acting out” in this manner at the border where “everyone has an interest” in keeping it relatively calm.
3) There is a frank acknowledgement that in TNW tunnels are not really needed by Hezbollah to execute significant operations in the Galilee.
The full article can be accessed for free here:
Wednesday’s terrorist attack at the national museum in the heart of Tunis, in which two gunman wearing military uniforms killed 17 tourists and two Tunisians, may have shocked outsiders who still describe Tunisia as “the one success story” of the so-called Arab Spring. Yet the attack should not have come as a shock to anyone, least of all to Tunisians. Although no side claimed responsibility, press speculation in Tunisia centered on Islamic State-linked groups that have been operating in neighboring Libya, specifically Ansar ash-Sharia which is believed to be behind a series of assassinations in recent years in the capital as well as an ongoing insurgency in central Tunisia.
Indeed, for much of the last four years following the forced exit of the country’s longtime dictator, Ben Ali, Tunisian society, its political and economic leaderships, as well as key actors in the security sector have all been living under a barely sublimated, deep-seated fear that the country is wholly unprepared to defend itself from the massive security breakdown that is enveloping the entire region and steadily eating away at Tunisia’s own borders.
Periodically, of course, these fears have burst to the surface: When gunmen assassinated two left-leaning politicians in early 2013; when the national army (deliberately hobbled over the decades by dictators that saw it as a threat) were unable to dislodge a small band of insurgents who are still operating right in the middle of the country; and when the chief of staff of the Tunisian Armed Forces, General Rachid Ammar, inexplicably announced that “angels” would probably protect the country from the spillover of violence in Libya and the thousands of returning fighters from Syria…”
Continue reading via:
Israeli scholar says Army is not well prepared for conflict with Hezbollah; Hamas war showed major flaws
This is a sober report by Eitan Shamir. The implications are clear: Israel’s QME (quality military edge) with Hezbollah has deteriorated over the years, while Hamas’s fighting on the ground has materially improved. This is the negative teleology of technology that Hillary Clinton warned the Israelis about in her 2010 AIPAC speech…. overtime you can dome and wall yourself off with technology – and the US will pay heavily to help – but the arc is likely against your effectiveness over time. Peace, settlement, conflict mitigation are desperately needed.
“…Prior to Operation Protective Edge, the IDF was forced to make some decisions regarding its future force structure as a result of a shrinking budget. In effect, the IDF had to choose between one of two options: strengthen its relative weaknesses (maneuver-oriented ground forces) or, conversely, increase its relative strengths (standoff fire, precision fire, intelligence, cyber, and special forces). The IDF apparently chose the second course of action, but the consequences for its standing and reserves ground forces would be significant: cutting back supply plans for the Namer APC (armored personnel carrier); delaying the Merkava 5 tank projects; closing armor, artillery, and aircraft units; and dramatically reducing training. The ground forces could have found themselves in dire straits as they did prior to the 2006 Lebanon war.
|Operation Protective Edge was not a repeat of previous campaigns where Israel’s air supremacy pressed rivals to end the conflict.|
The assumption behind this decision was that the ground forces’ unique capabilities would become less relevant to defeating future threats and were, therefore, no longer necessary in such strengths. Instead, it was decided that accurate, long-range fire and special forces raids aimed through precise intelligence could rapidly destroy the enemy’s capabilities. However, this assumes the ability to anticipate the nature of these threats, such as the prediction that the IDF will not face a symmetrical enemy (a large-scale, regular army). Rival armies do exist, but the IDF planners assumed they would not be used. Forecasting the future is always difficult, but Israeli military planners envisioned a repeat of previous operations whereby Israel’s air supremacy pressed rivals to seek ways to end the conflict. Operation Protective Edge failed to live up to these expectations.
Ground fighting proved much fiercer than anticipated. In Operation Cast Lead (December 2008-January 2009), when Israeli ground troops entered Gaza, Hamas ground forces fled. This time, they fought to defend the tunnel system. Israeli forces searching for the tunnels inside Gaza suffered approximately 700 casualties—45 of them fatal; still, casualties among Palestinian fighters were significantly higher. While the Israelis searched for the tunnels, Hamas conducted three raids into Israel via yet undiscovered tunnels. Most of the raiders were killed, but the IDF suffered casualties. The ground battle did not stop the firing of Palestinian rockets and missiles, but it did reduce it considerably. Hamas also made two amphibious raids conducted in the first days of the war. Both were detected, and all the participants killed.
TRANSLATED: Warnings in Arabic media about impending security events, strategic & tactical weaknesses in Tunisia
I have a piece coming out in the next few hours in regards to yesterday’s terrorist attack.
Some interesting clips over the last few months below for consideration, with most from Mideastwire.com (for a free trial contact email@example.com).
On August 10, the Qatari owned Al-Quds al-Arabi reported: “Shaykh Farid El Beji has said that a major terrorist scheme targeting Tunisia is being prepared involving about 16,000 extremists holding various nationalities. He called for activating the emergency law, organizing religious discourse, and banning the Salafi parties in the country. In an exclusive interview with Al-Quds al-Arabi, the renowned cleric and security affairs researcher, added: “The investigations that the authorities are conducting have revealed that an operation is being prepared called “Yawm al-Zilzal” or a call to arms. Initially, about 4,000 terrorists from Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, and elsewhere are expected to participate in it. They are now training in Libya, especially for this day. They will carry out at least 50 strikes in several areas at the same time and on the same day, thus creating confusion and chaos in society and the security establishment and providing the chance for the rest of the terrorists to enter Tu! nisia from Libya and Algeria.”
“El Beji added that the sleeping cells or “the cells on call” – as he described them – in Tunisia that consist of about 12,000 elements will participate in this operation as they wait for the suitable moment. Shaykh El Beji went on to say: “The authorities have been aware of this for some time. The antiterrorism teams have delayed this blow by aborting some of the schemes and arresting several emirs of the terrorist groups. Moreover, the situation in Libya has also delayed this terrorist scheme. However, it is still expected to be carried out prior to the upcoming elections.”
“Security sources had said earlier that about 5,000 extremists holding various nationalities are being trained in a camp in the town of Al-Zintan supervised by Saif Allah Ben Hussein (Abu-Ayyad), the leader of Ansar al-Shari’ah, in cooperation with his Algerian ally, Mokhtar Belmokhtar (leader of the Signed With Blood Brigade). The sources had pointed out that they are plotting to carry out a series of attacks in southern Tunisia. Shaykh El Beji (chairman of the Dar al-Hadith al-Zaytouniyah Association and member of the Tunisian Centre for Global Security Studies) added: “The alliance between Abu-Ayyad and Mokhtar Belmokhtar is natural and to be expected. All the terrorist jihadist movements ultimately return to the same ideological origin, namely, the Al-Wahhabi ideology. They may sometimes differ in some jihadist methods and in the strategy of advancing, retreating, and stopping, but they can agree and reconcile in a minute. I have soli! d information that Abu-Ayyad made huge efforts to unify the ranks of the jihadists to attack Tunisia.” Tunisia has recently been the scene of several terrorist operations.
“The most serious was the attack in the Mount Chaambi region that killed 14 Tunisian soldiers in July. The Uqbah Bin-Nafi Brigade affiliated with the Ansar al-Shari’ah organization that is allied with Al-Qa’idah in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for this attack. El Beji is one of the researchers that had warned that terrorist attacks might take place during the month of Ramadan. He adds that the liquidation of political figures in Tunisia is still on the agenda of the terrorist groups. However, he added that recently, these groups have begun to focus on major strikes rather than on individual figures. El-Beji goes on to say: “Nevertheless, the assassination of senior national figures continues to exist. Such acts creates chaos in the country and facilitates the infiltration! of society and the vital institutions.” A few days ago, the Interior Ministry advised Hamma Hammami, spokesman of the Popular Front, to stay at home after it received information about a new scheme to assassinate him. Other security sources had referred earlier to a plot to assassinate senior political figures like Beji Caid Sebsi, leader of the Nida Tounes Party; Shaykh Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the Ennahdah Party; and others.
“Shaykh Farid El Beji argues that the phenomenon of terrorism in Tunisia is due to the strategic mistake made by past governments, especially the troika government, for providing the Ansar al-Shari’ah organization with a political and media cover before classifying it as a terrorist organization.” However, he goes on to say that religious, economic, social, and psychological causes as well as conditions in the region contributed to the exacerbation of this dangerous phenomenon in the country. Nevertheless, he lauded the security forces that succeeded (after they were slightly given a free hand) in aborting hundreds of military operations. He added that the big cooperation between the Tunisian people and the anti-terrorism system by refraining from supporting the terrorists weakened the people’s support for them. He refutes reports that some are propagating that the rate of terrorism grew after the fall of the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. He argues that th! e principal reason “is not Ben Ali’s fall. The main reason is the call that political parties and human rights societies made after his fall. They called for a general legislative pardon and acquittal of all the terrorists and granting them broad powers to form societies, appear in the media, and organize conferences. When the revolution erupted, I recall being invited to attend conferences and would be taken by surprise to see some terrorists among the audience. This general laxity was caused by the Islamists and advocates of human rights.”
“El Beji also believes that the closing of mosques sent the wrong message to both the terrorists and the Tunisian people: “It looked as if the state was too weak or unable to evict the terrorists from the mosques. This step led to a counter reaction among a large sector of the people that thought that terrorism is not caused by religious extremism but by the old regime that was trying to return to power.” However, El Beji hailed the closing of societies involved in providing logistic and financial support to the terrorists. He adds: “As for the media outlets, media talk shows should not host extremists. For example, a media outlet hosted a shaykh for a whole month to preach to the people about religion, although he had issued a fatwa that young men should be sent to wage jihad in Syria. It would have been better to stop this man than to shut down the outlet.” El Beji believes that the solution lies in pursuing the terrorists instead of ! shutting down the places they frequent. “The Tunisian Government’s anti-terrorism strategy is beset with a weak and fumbling vision,” he added. He went on to say: “The Government still submits to the authority of the constituent assembly that can remove it in one day. It is worried about its reactions, so it cannot make fateful decisions. I can say that the anti-terrorism law is being obstructed by the constituent assembly some of whose members, unfortunately, continue to support the terrorists and refuse to sign the anti-terrorism law. In fact, they are providing the terrorists with political and media support and cover; they defend them strongly to this very day.”
“Shaykh Farid El Beji offers a four-point solution to the dilemma of terrorism in Tunisia. The first step is “the theory of preemptive security” by incriminating and convicting anyone that endorses the jihadist Salafi ideology, banning the Salafi parties, including Hizb al-Tahrir, and revoking their licenses. In the second step, El Beji calls on the president of the republic to re-activate the emergency law since the country is at war with terrorism. Thirdly, he calls for controlling the religious discourse in the mosques by compelling the preachers not to incite to violence and takfiri thinking and not to advocate partisanship and religious sectarianism and to take to court anyone that does not abide by these rules. El Beji adds: “Fourthly, I urge all the political parties to make the fight against terrorism a national issue distant from party differences. We also call for the activation of Ch! apter VI of the constitution that stipulates the confrontation of all takfiri calls and instigation to hatred and violence.” Some see a contradiction between the emergency law and the new climate of freedom in the country. El Beji, however, replies: “What good does freedom do you if you are about to lose your head? Our national security and existence are threatened; existence is the root and freedom is the branch. How can you protect your freedom if your existence is threatened?”
“Regarding the charge that he has outlawed the wearing of the niqab, Shaykh Farid El Beji says: “I was clear about this matter from the beginning. We are not opposed to covering the face, but the niqab and black cloaks have recently been used in terrorist operations. Therefore, we believe that our national interests and security require our women who wish to wear the niqab to wear traditional Tunisian clothes that also include covering the face. It is safer than the niqab.” Earlier, Shaykh Farid ElBeji had warned that a radical religious organization is trying to invade the Tunisian society and impose its hegemony on the state and overthrow it through ideological armed terrorism.”
Tunisian TV July 24
The specialist counterterrorism forces succeeded in the past 24 hours in arresting 52 persons wanted by the security and judicial authorities for their direct or indirect involvement in terrorist cases by supporting terrorism.
[Mohamed] Ali Laroui, official spokesman of the Interior Ministry, confirmed this to the news [department], which also stressed that the specialist counterterrorism units were continuing their security campaigns to pursue the terrorist elements and to dry up their sources.
…The Interior Ministry has announced that the national research unit into the crimes of terrorism which belonged to the general administration of specialist services and units of national security in Mahdia, in coordination with the judicial authorities, succeeded at dawn today in arresting terrorist element Mohamed Anis Chaieb, one of the leading members of the banned Ansar al-Shari’ah organisation, for planning to carry out terrorist acts. The ministry announced that the investigations with the suspect were continuing.
“The same source said that “the Algerian security services arrested a leader belonging to a Libyan Takfiri Salafist group during a security operation in the province of Baskara to the South East of the Algerian capital.”He added that the Libyan Takfiri man is a member of Al-Qa’idah and was going to move from Algeria to Tunisia. He was in possession of documents and letters pertaining to terrorist organizations in Tunisia and Libya.”
“According to the same source, “the Algerian security services succeeded in the past few months in obtaining top secret pieces of information about the Salafist Jihadist groups in Libya, which allowed them to abort an attempt at kidnapping Algerian diplomats from the Algerian embassy in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, this past May.”
Al-Jazeera July 4
In the interview with channel one, Bousaidi spoke about his organisation, saying most of the leaders of armed groups hiding in mountains are Algerians from Al-Qa’idah.
Meanwhile, military operations continued in Mount Selloum near the town of Haie Ezouhour in Kasserine province, west Tunisia, according to Al-Jazeera.
Correspondent Mohamed Bakali said Bousaidi’s confessions should be put in context, considering that he made them in detention, raising questions whether broadcasting those confessions is permissible under international law and also in view of the fact that the court is yet to decide on his case.
Bakali highlighted three main points in Bousaidi’s interview.
First, the links between Tunisian, Algerian and Libyan armed groups, which are said to coordinate their activities and movements.
Second, those who lead armed attacks carried out in Tunisia are Algerians.
Third, armed groups operating in Tunisia are affiliated with Al-Qa’idah, Bakali said quoting Bousaidi.
If those confessions were true, then they could dispel fears about the arrival of the militant group ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) into Tunisia, the correspondent opined.
On weapons and ammunition, Bousaidi said armed groups used Kalashnikov rifles as well as weapons seized from Tunisian policemen and National Guard personnel, according to Bakali.
The Ministry of Interior calls Bousaidi a dangerous terrorist, which means he is either a leader of an armed group or one with special abilities on the ground, he added.
The ministry’s description of Bousaidi might be meant as a message of reassurance to Tunisians worried about a new wave of attacks and recent killings of members of security forces, he noted.
The anti-terrorist military operation, initially launched in Mount Chaambi, has been recently extended to Mount Selloum, Mount Samama and Mount Wargha, all near the border with Algeria, he explained.
The Tunisian army’s offensive is now a combination of airstrikes and ground operations, which seem to cost many military casualties, mostly from landmine explosions, the correspondent said.
Al-Jazeera also reported that the Tunisian Ministry of Religious Affairs dismissed an imam in the southern city of Ben Guerdane for refusing to lead a prayer for a soldier killed in a landmine explosion in Kef province on Wednesday (2 July).
The ministry said it would dismiss any imam with takfiri thoughts, calling on its own imams to adopt a moderate religious discourse and to adhere to tolerant values of Islam.
The dismissed imam is not one of the preachers with extremist thoughts working outside state control but had been appointed by the ministry, Bakali said.
The dismissal is likely to prompt the ministry to subject appointed imams to further scrutiny, he added.
On July 7, the daily El-Watan reported: “Protesters, gathered yesterday in front of the Tahar Djaout press house, openly accused a group affiliated to Mokhtar Belmokhtar of terrorizing the M’zab Valley. They called on the government to ensure the safety of the population. The M’zab Valley is in trouble. It is in the throes of anarchy and insecurity. Yesterday, its population launched the umpteenth distress call to the highest authorities of the country, calling for “security.” This claim was strongly expressed by dozens of Mozabite civil society representatives gathered outside the Tahar Djaout press house in Algiers. The demonstrators were very upset and protested against the deteriorating security situation in their region which is “left to the hands of terrorist groups operating under the control of Mokhtar Belmokhtar.” They chanted slogans against the authorities, which they accuse of being unable to resolve this “crisis” that is shaking the M’zab Valley and of protecting the population. They denounced the insecurity, banditry and terrorism which have been raging for several months in the Ghardaia Province.
“To bring home the reality of the situation, the Mozabites displayed portraits of victims, notably a portrait of El Yassa Aouf, the young man murdered last week by terrorists in the Bouhraoua neighborhood, not far from the RN1. This eighth victim was the straw that broke the camel’s back. “Where were the hundreds of police and gendarmes dispatched when El Yassa was executed by terrorists?” they shouted, decrying the actions of the “repentants” who rule the region. “These terrorists rampage and kill in full view of everyone. Today, the problem in Ghardaia is not an ethnic but a security one,” the leader of the protest deplored. These citizens have decided to take to the streets to attract national public attention to what is happening in Ghardaia. “We are here to denounce the serial murders that are the work of terrorist groups that have been polluting the M’zab Valley for some time lately. To make their actions visible, demonstrators display long banners that read “Amazigh, Mozabites, Ibadis; we are all Algerians,” “Enough of Belmokhtar,” “Where are Sellal’s promises?”, “Where is the authority of the state?” “Let’s put an end of impunity”, “Stop terrorism,” … They believe that the situation is very serious and that “Ghardaia is burning.”
“Abou Rabia, the leader of this action, wonders: “Is the state aware of what is happening in this southern region? Is it aware that the stability of Algeria depends on the stability of Ghardaia?” Representatives of the Ghardaia civil society are asking the state to fully shoulder its responsibilities. They speak of the dangerous developments in the situation and the daily violence they are experiencing due to a terrorist group. The Mozabites are asking: “The passive action of the government is intriguing and unacceptable. How does one explain its failure to provide appropriate solutions to the issues raised by the population of Ghardaia? ” The organizers of this action are incensed by Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal who, according to them, “makes a mockery” of the inhabitants of Ghardaia. “Sellal has not protected us. Farmers are prevented from tending to their palm trees. In our view, there is no political will to address the problems shaking the M’zab Valley. So we wonder: Who is benefiting from this deteriorating situation?” asks Mr Abou Rabia.”
On July 10, the Qatari-owned Al-Quds al-Arabi daily carried the following report: “A Tunisian military analyst expected to see suicide operations in her country, pointing to the fact that more than 45 million weapons were smuggled from Libya in the last few years. Badra Qaaloul, the director of the International Center for Military and Security Studies, said that Tunisia might witness suicide operations targeting the tourism sector and electoral posts in the country, indicating that a qualitative development had affected the culture of the extremist groups in the region. She added in exclusive statements to Al-Quds al-Arabi: “The new generation of Al-Qa’idah now has the culture of initiative and taking things into its own hands without going back to the center, i.e. the Al-Qa’idah command. This new culture poses a great threat to our country, and during the month of Ramadan and the tourism season, Tunisia might witness new terrorist operations.”
“She then assured that more than ever before, Tunisia was threatened with terrorism, adding that the terrorist groups were waiting for the right opportunity to carry out suicide operations targeting civilians, after they inflicted great losses on the army and security forces. Indeed, four Tunisian soldiers were killed a few days ago, after a landmine exploded on their path in Jebel Ouergha in the Kef province (northwest), where the army is carrying out a sweeping operation to look for extremist elements involved in terrorist operations inside the country. On the other hand, Qaaloul assured that the weapons trade was flourishing in the Arab Maghreb region lately, pointing out (according to a reliable Libyan security source) that more than 45 million weapons were smuggled from Libya to the neighboring states, Syria and Ukraine.
“She added that there were very close ties between the weapon smugglers and traders on one hand and the terrorists in the region on the other… At the same time, the Arab Maghreb is witnessing dangerous developments, after Al-Qa’idah Organization in the Islamic Maghreb and Ansar ash-Shariaa organization pledged allegiance to ISIL Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but also in light of the talk about efforts being deployed by leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar in Libya, to unify the ranks of the fighters who have returned from Syria under the umbrella of a new terrorist organization. She said at this level: “ISIL is a provoked intelligence formation created by the West to generate anarchy and weaken the Arab countries, especially those enjoying massive underground wealth. The organization has nothing to do with Islam and its only doctrine is to generate turmoil and pillage the region’s wealth.”
“She continued that the pledge of allegiance to ISIL by Ansar ash-Shariaa fell in the context of “joint interests,” cautioning that this will lead to the increase of the terrorist operations in the region.” She added: “In regard to Mokhtar Belmokhtar, he is always seeking a leading position because he is obsessed with power. This is why he is always in conflict with the other extremist organizations. But I do not think he will be able to unify the extremist organizations in the context of a new one, because – as I have already said – the new generation of Al-Qa’idah advocates a new culture of rebellion against their commanders, although they had pledged loyalty to them in the past.””
Tunisian commanders in Syria
Al-Quds al-Arabi July 5
Speaking to Al-Quds al-Arabi, a Jordanian government source denied that the Jordanian Army took part in any military operations against DA’ISH [Arabic acronym for ISIL, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant]. At the same time, however, eyewitnesses asserted to Al-Quds al-Arabi that the night before last, unidentified military aircraft dropped paratroopers over a training camp belonging to DA’ISH in the Al-Ukayrishi area in the east of the Syrian Al-Raqqah Governorate.
The witnesses said that paratroopers were dropped from helicopters in the city the night before last following intensive sorties by Mig fighter planes. They added that a stealth helicopter dropped paratroopers in the Al-Ukayrishi area near DA’ISH’s training camp, known as Sheikh Usamah Bin-Ladin camp.
The eyewitnesses said: “Some of the soldiers blocked the Al-Raqqah Road that leads to the camp, under cover by warplanes, to be prepared to attack any force that might head to the camp site if assistance is needed. They also searched houses in the village, which is close to the camp.”
The witnesses asserted that the force members who spoke English began their attack on the camp after 2 am and first targeted all antiaircraft guns in the camp. Five DA’ISH members were killed and a number of others wounded as a result of an ensuing clash that lasted more than half an hour, the witnesses said.
Among the dead was Abu-al-Bara al-Tunisi and Abu-Muhammad al-Tunisi who worked as a trainer in the organization. Both of them are of a Tunisian origin.
Pieces of clothes belonging to the attacking soldiers were found in the camp, and the witnesses claimed that the clothes bore US and Jordanian insignias. They affirmed that there were casualties among the attackers.
It is known that the camp is an oil facility that the organization turned into an important detention centre where it investigates its prisoners. The detention centre is 20 km to the south of the Al-Ukayrishi Village.
It is recalled that the organization has many prisons located in various parts of the governorate. Most important among them is the governorate building, which is the organization’s main headquarters, the military court building in Al-Raqqah City, and the secret Ba’th Dam Prison, in addition to the prisons in Al-Mansurah, the border area of Tall Abyad, the municipal athletic field, the Al-Tala’i camp on the entrance to the city, and other areas in the Al-Raqqah Governorate.
A large number of the revolutionary movement leaders, media activists, and leaders of the free army, in addition to leaders of Islamic factions, are held in the DA’ISH prisons.
Observers said that the paratroopers may have been dropped in response to the military parade that the organization held in the Al-Raqqah City streets to celebrate the establishment of the “Islamic caliphate” and appointment of Abdallah Ibrahim Awwad, alias Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, as caliphate of Muslims on 29 June 2014.
Armoured US Hummer vehicles, which the organization recently seized from the Iraqi Army and some of which were brought into Syria across the border, appeared in the military parade. Also, tanks, armoured cars, large-caliber artillery guns, and a Scud missile loaded on a truck with a launching pad appeared in the parade.