Tunisian interior ministry says there are threats to president’s life

Official spokesperson of the Ministry of Interior, Fadhila Khlifi, speaks during a news conference in Tunis on Friday. (Reuters)
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Updated 24 June 2022

Tunisian interior ministry says there are threats to president’s life

  • The ministry said both internal and external elements were involved in plans targeting the president
  • An attacker was arrested after injuring two police while targeting a security point outside a Tunis synagogue overnight

JEDDAH: Security chiefs in Tunisia have uncovered plots to assassinate President Kais Saied amid concerns over a growing political crisis, they said on Friday.

The threats were revealed as an attacker previously jailed on terrorism charges and released in 2021 tried to stab two police officers guarding a synagogue in the center of Tunis.

“According to credible information and investigations still underway, the president of the republic and the presidency as an institution are the target of serious threats,” Interior Ministry spokeswoman Fadhila Khelifi said.

“There is a plan by groups both at home and abroad to target the security of the president” and to “damage state security and create chaos,” she said.

In Tunis, the man armed with a knife attacked police deployed to guard the Grand Synagogue in the city center, wounding two officers before he was overpowered. The ministry said an investigation was underway.

Before its independence from France in 1956, Tunisia was home to over 100,000 Jews, but emigration has brought their numbers down to about 1,000.

Since the so-called “Arab Spring” revolution that overthrew dictator Zine El-Abidine ben Ali in 2011, a number of jihadist attacks in Tunisia have killed dozens of people.

The latest attack comes amid a deep economic and political crisis almost a year since Saied assumed complete power in July 2021. The president’s opponents accuse him of a coup for ruling by decree and preparing a new constitution that he plans to put to a referendum next month.

Opposition to Saied has broadened over recent months as nearly all major political parties and the powerful labor union have come out against his plans, holding street rallies against him.

However, while critics of the president say his moves have raised concerns over rights and freedoms won in the 2011 revolution, there has been no widespread crackdown on the opposition.

Saied says his moves are legal and were needed to save Tunisia from years of political
paralysis, economic stagnation and the malign influence of Islamist groups.

Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, a prominent left-wing politician and Saied opponent, cast doubt on claims of a plot to kill the president. “This is just to justify new arrests and to take revenge against his rivals,” Chebbi said. “The president is politically isolated and is trying to stir up public sympathy.”

Ennahdha, the Islamist party that had dominated Tunisian politics before Saied took power, dismissed the threats as “theater.”


Sokhna port welcomes first cruise ships amid ongoing development

Updated 6 sec ago

Sokhna port welcomes first cruise ships amid ongoing development

  • Movement of vessels ‘working perfectly’ alongside construction, official says
  • More than 3,000 tourists arrived by ship on Saturday

CAIRO: Development work at the Suez Canal Economic Zone is progressing well, a senior official said, with the new berth at Sokhna port recently welcoming its first cruise ships.

Walid Youssef, deputy chairman of the southern part of the zone, said that the circulation and reception of vessels was “working perfectly” alongside the construction work, which was nearing completion.

The development included four new basins and 18 km of marine berths, as well as commercial and logistical areas covering 5.3 sq. km, he said.

The area is served by a rail network stretching 33 km, which also connects to the Sokhna-El Alamein electric train service.

Youssef said there was constant coordination with the relevant authorities to ensure the smooth operation of the port as the work progressed.

On Saturday, the port welcomed the cruise ship Splendida MSC with 2,826 passengers aboard. It was en route from Yanbu to Safaga.

It also received the Emerald Azzurra, carrying 75 tourists from Sharm El-Sheikh, and the Clio, which had traveled from Hurghada with 85 passengers.


Iran ex-president, former PM call for political change

Updated 05 February 2023

Iran ex-president, former PM call for political change

  • Khatami hopes the use of ‘non-violent civil methods’ can ‘force the governing system to change its approach and accept reforms’

TEHRAN: Iran’s former president Mohammad Khatami and former premier Mir Hossein Mousavi have both called for political changes amid the protests triggered by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini.
As the 44th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution approaches, one of the country’s main opposition figures, Mousavi, called on Saturday for the “fundamental transformation” of a political system he said was facing a crisis of legitimacy.
And on Sunday Khatami, the leader of the reformist movement, in a statement said: “What is evident today is widespread discontent.”
Khatami said he hoped that the use of “non-violent civil methods” can “force the governing system to change its approach and accept reforms.”
In a statement carried by local media, Mousavi said: “Iran and Iranians need and are ready for a fundamental transformation whose outline is drawn by the pure ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ movement.”
He was referring to the main slogan chanted in demonstrations sparked by the death on September 16 of Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd.
She had been arrested three days earlier by the morality police in Tehran for an alleged breach of the Islamic republic’s dress code for women.
Mousavi, 80, said the protest movement began in the context of “interdependent crises” and proposed holding a “free and healthy referendum on the need to change or draft a new constitution.”
He called the current system’s structure “unsustainable.”
An unsuccessful presidential candidate in 2009, Mousavi alleged large-scale fraud in favor of populist incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, leading to mass protests.
He has been under house arrest without charge in Tehran for 12 years, along with his wife Zahra Rahnavard.
A close confidant of the Islamic republic’s founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Mousavi was prime minister from 1981 to 1989.
“People have the right to make fundamental revisions in order to overcome crises and pave the way for freedom, justice, democracy and development,” Mousavi said in his statement.
“The refusal to take the smallest step toward realizing the rights of citizens as defined in the constitution... has discouraged the community from carrying out reforms.”
Khatami, 79, made similar remarks, warning that “there is no sign of the ruling system’s desire for reform and avoiding the mistakes of the past and present.”
President from 1997 to 2005 before being forced into silence, Khatami said he regretted that Iran’s population was “disappointed with Reformism as well as with the ruling system.”


Turkiye increases counterterrorism operations against Daesh

Updated 44 min 54 sec ago

Turkiye increases counterterrorism operations against Daesh

  • Authorities announce arrests of 15 suspects with links to terror group
  • But police find “no concrete proof” of plan to attack foreign consulates

ANKARA: Turkish authorities on Saturday announced the arrests of 15 suspects with connections to Daesh and conflict zones in Syria, as counterterrorism teams from the Istanbul police department continue to flush out cells.

Following the Qur’an-burning protest in front of the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm last month, intelligence reports claimed that the leaders of the Khorasan branch of Daesh had instructed members to conduct terror acts against Swedish and Dutch consulates in Istanbul, as well as places of Christian and Jewish worship.

Despite the arrests, the police department said it had found “no concrete proof” of plans to attack foreign missions or places of worship.

Several Western countries, including the US, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Canada, Netherlands, Germany, the UK and France, closed their consulates in Istanbul last week as a precaution against possible terror attacks.

All of the missions are located in Beyoglu district, which is a popular tourist area in Istanbul. A French high school in the district also closed its doors.

The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office also warned its citizens of the possible risk of traveling to Turkiye.

“There is a potential that citizens from Western countries may be targets or caught up in attacks, particularly in the major cities,” it said.

The German Consulate advised expats and visitors to avoid Istanbul’s tourism hot spots and “international crowds” in general.

Nihat Ali Ozcan, a retired major and security analyst at Ankara-based think tank TEPAV, said the rapprochement between Syrian President Bashar Assad and the Turkish government should be taken into consideration when evaluating the terror threat.

“The beginning of negotiations between Turkiye and Syria, with the support of Russia, has triggered anger among radical groups in some Turkish-controlled regions in Syria, which makes Turkiye open to the terror provocations,” he told Arab News.

In November, six people were killed and dozens injured in a bombing close to the consulates in Beyoglu that is thought to have been carried out by a woman with links to the Syrian Kurdish YPG.

However, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu on Thursday rejected the international terror-threat notices, saying they were part of a psychological war against his country.

“We all know very well that they are trying to outshine Turkiye’s stability and peace,” he said, adding that the closure of the embassies coincided with the day Turkiye announced its target to attract 60 million tourists annually.

He accused the US ambassador in Turkiye of trying to undermine national stability.

“I know which journalists you made write articles. Keep your dirty hands off Turkiye,” he said.

The US was the first country to issue a terror-threat notice, warning its citizens in a note on Jan. 30 of possible “retaliatory attacks by terrorists against churches, synagogues and diplomatic missions in Istanbul or other places Westerners frequent.”

Since the start of the year, Turkiye has carried out about 60 operations against Daesh and detained 95 suspects. Last year, it conducted more than 1,000 such operations and arrested about 2,000 suspects.

The Turkish Interior Ministry said last week that authorities had “detained a number of suspects following a warning from a friendly country, but did not find any weapons, ammunition, or signs of a planned act of violence.”

Observers told Arab News that the unnamed “friendly country” was most probably Israel, which had provided significant amounts of intelligence to Turkiye in recent years that had helped to foil several major terror attacks against prominent figures and tourists.

Turkiye responded to the consulate closures by warning its citizens to avoid traveling to European countries over “possible Islamophobic, xenophobic and racist attacks.”

With Turkiye’s presidential election less than four months away there are fears of an escalation in terror attacks as was seen ahead of the 2015 poll.

Colin P. Clarke, a senior research fellow at the Soufan Center in New York, told Arab News that the security threat in Turkiye was high and likely to remain so for several reasons.

“First, geographic proximity to Syria. Daesh has been attenuated significantly, but still remains a potent threat. Daesh maintains logistical networks that stretch into Turkiye and also maintains the ability to conduct attacks there,” he said.

“These networks are long-standing and some likely date back many years. Some of these networks could be operating in plain sight.”

Also, as Turkish authorities were mostly focused on combating Kurdish groups, some Daesh activity was happening under the radar, Clarke said.

“Lastly, countering Daesh will be a generational challenge for the security forces in Turkiye. Dismantling these networks will require sustained, well-resourced and persistent intelligence operations,” he said.

Clarke also said that Daesh’s Khorasan branch was of greatest concern to counterterrorism authorities due to its potential to launch external operations and high-profile attacks elsewhere in the world.

“The security situation in Afghanistan is so unstable that there is a major concern that the group will recruit new members and grow in strength over the coming year,” he said.


Russia’s Lavrov visits Baghdad to discuss bilateral relations, energy cooperation: Iraqi statement

Updated 05 February 2023

Russia’s Lavrov visits Baghdad to discuss bilateral relations, energy cooperation: Iraqi statement

  • Visit will focus on encouraging investment opportunities between two countries, particularly energy sector

BAGHDAD: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will arrive in Baghdad on Sunday to discuss boosting bilateral relations and energy cooperation, Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement.
Lavrov, who is leading a delegation that includes oil and gas companies’ representatives, is scheduled to meet his Iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein on Monday, Ahmed Al-Sahhaf said in a statement.
Sahhaf said the visit will focus on “strategic relations with Russia and to encourage investment opportunities, especially in relating to energy sectors.”
The Russian foreign minister will also meet on Monday Iraqi top officials, including Prime Minister Mohammed Al-Sudani, President Abdul Latif Rashid and parliament speaker, Sahhaf said.


Iraqis protest after father kills YouTuber daughter

Updated 05 February 2023

Iraqis protest after father kills YouTuber daughter

  • Protestors held placards saying “Stop killing women” and “Tiba’s killer must be held to account”
  • Tiba Al-Ali had lived in Turkiye since 2017 and was visiting Iraq when she was killed

BAGHDAD: Iraqi activists protested Sunday to demand a law against domestic violence, days after a YouTuber was strangled by her father in a killing that has outraged the conservative country.
Tiba Al-Ali, 22, was killed by her father on January 31 in the southern province of Diwaniyah, interior ministry spokesman Saad Maan said on Twitter on Friday.
Maan said there had been an attempt to mediate between the young woman and her relatives to resolve a “family dispute.” The father later surrendered to the police and confessed to murdering his daughter.
On Sunday, security forces prevented some 20 activists from demonstrating outside the country’s Supreme Judicial Council, and they gathered instead at a road leading to the building, an AFP journalist said.
Some held placards saying “Stop killing women” and “Tiba’s killer must be held to account.”
“We demand laws to protect women, especially laws against domestic violence,” 22-year-old protester Rose Hamid told AFP.
“We came here to protest against Tiba’s murder and against all others. Who will be the next victim?“
Another demonstrator, Lina Ali, said: “We will keep mobilizing because of rising domestic violence and killings of women.”
On the sidelines of Sunday’s demonstration, human rights activist Hanaa Edwar was received by a magistrate from the Supreme Judicial Council to whom she presented the protesters’ grievances.
Tiba Al-Ali had lived in Turkiye since 2017 and was visiting Iraq when she was killed, a security official in Diwaniyah told AFP.
In Turkiye she had gained a following on YouTube, posting videos of her daily life in which her fiance often appeared.
Recordings have been shared on social media by a friend of Ali, and picked up by activists, reportedly of conversations with the father, angry because she was living in Turkiye.
In the recordings, she also accuses her brother of sexual harassment.
AFP could not independently verify the authenticity of the voice recordings.

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