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Monday, August 19, 2013

Egypt Continues Descent into Turmoil

The situation in Egypt continued its deterioration over the weekend, with government security teams forcibly clearing a mosque in Cairo of more than 700 Islamist protesters on Saturday, the same day 79 people were killed in clashes nationwide. The Fateh mosque in Ramses Square had been housing anti-government protesters following clashes with police and the military on Friday. Sunday, the government admitted having killed 38 Muslim Brotherhood members that had been arrested. State media reported those deaths as the result of a riot, with Islamist prisoners attempting to escape from police custody.

Earlier today, Islamist militants in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt’s north ambushed and killed 24 policemen. The attack was the latest in a series of strikes that militants in the region, against government forces.

The European Union has stated that it will “urgently review” its aid packages for Egypt, which is leaving the current leadership defiant and apparently undeterred. Egypt’s foreign minister, Nabil Fahmy, described the current crisis an internal affair and warned against its “internationalization.” Meanwhile, the United States is taking steps to withdraw economic support for Egypt. The economic aid package that the Obama administration is expected to withhold is relatively small, on the order of $250 million annually, and is independent of the much larger U.S. funding of the Egyptian military ($1.3 billion annually), which so far remains untouched.

Ex-Dictator Mubarak Could Be Freed This Week

Adding further fuel to the fire in Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, the former president who was deposed during the initial Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, could be released within days, after a court ordered him cleared of charges in a corruption case in which he was being held. The 85-year-old is still awaiting a retrial on appeals after his conviction and sentencing for complicity in the deaths of protesters during the 2011 uprising. Despite receiving a sentence of life in prison at the conclusion of the original trial, Mubarak will likely walk free, as Egyptian law does not mandate incarceration during the appeals process.

Mubarak is currently being held at Tora prison in southern Cairo, the same facility that’s currently housing much of the Muslim Brotherhood leadership, along with Egypt’s most recently deposed president, Mohamed Morsi.

Nigeria Claims Boko Haram Leader May Be Dead

Nigerian army officials believe that Abubakar Shekau, the vocal leader of the regional Islamist group Boko Haram, may have died following a recent clash with government forces. A statement released by the army said “It is greatly believed that Shekau might have died between 25 July [and] 3 August 2013″. The rebel leader was reportedly shot on June 30, outside a Boko Haram camp in northeastern Nigeria. It should be noted, however, that the government has not yet provided any actual proof of Shekau’s death, and the news has been difficult for journalists in the area to confirm.

Shekau recently made waves by challenging western leaders, including President Obama, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and French president Francois Hollande. “They are no match for me.” The United States government considered Shekau a “global terrorist” and had previously placed a $7 million bounty on his head.

U.S. Urges 60 Year Sentence for Manning

Military lawyers have requested that U.S. army private Bradley Manning “spend the majority of his remaining life” in prison, for his part in providing thousands of pages of classified documents to WikiLeaks. Manning’s military trial is in its final stages, as the judge, Colonel Denise Lind, begins deliberation on his sentence. He was found guilty of 20 charges last month, but acquitted of aiding the enemy, the most
charge against him.

The lead military lawyer for the prosecution, Captain Joe Morrow, painted Manning as a “determined insider” who acted with an agenda, not someone trying to spark debate for the greater good, as Manning himself has claimed.

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