Middle East & Balkans News Brief – 26 June 2011

News Summary


Tripoli (Libya). Three powerful explosions struck the eastern Tripoli suburb of Tajura, the site of a number of military installations. The explosions took place and columns of smoke could be seen from the centre of the capital. Tajura has been the repeated target of NATO air strikes against Gaddafi forces, but it was not immediately known whether the blasts resulted from such an attack.

Meanwhile, NATO rejected Libyan claims that alliance forces struck a civilian area in Brega, killing 15 people.
“NATO did target buildings in an abandoned area of Brega. These were legitimate military targets that were hit,” a NATO representative said. The Libyan State news agency Jana said the raid took place on 25 June, and spoke of five other citizens killed in raids the day before.

Cairo (Egypt). Former Egyptian trade and industry minister Rashid Mohammed Rashid was sentenced in absentia to five years in prison for embezzlement of public funds, state news agency Mena reported. Rashid, who is the subject of an international search warrant, was also ordered to pay a fine of more than nine million Egyptian pounds (over a million euros). Several businessmen and officials of Hosni Mubarak’s regime, which was toppled 11 February by a popular uprising, are under investigation for embezzlement and corruption. Uprooting corruption was and remains one of the central demands of the activist who pushed for Mubarak’s departure.

Damascus (Syria). Seven security officers and civilians were killed by armed men who took advantage of peaceful gatherings after June 25’s prayers, Syria’s official media SANA reported. Armed groups attacked security forces at al-Qadam district near Damascus, leaving one officer killed. The gunmen also opened fire at security forces at Barza neighborhood, killing three civilians and one officer.

Gunmen also reportedly attacked police patrols at al-Kiswa suburb and wounded a number of security personnel, saying that ” saboteurs” caused many property damages. In the central province of Homs, a civilian was killed in a shooting. Militants captured an ambulance carrying wounded people and used it to transport their wounded to the Syrian-Lebanese borders.

Riyadh (Yemen). President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is hospitalised in Saudi Arabia for injuries sustained in an attack, is over as a leader but his regime remains, a key opponent said in statements quoted by AFP.
“Saleh, as a person is no longer a political player in Yemen”, Yassin Saeed Noman, who heads the Common Forum grouping of parliamentary opposition parties, told the Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat.
Saleh has not appeared in public since he was flown to Riyadh for treatment to be treated for wounds sustained on 3 June when a bomb exploded as he prayed at a mosque in his palace in Sanaa. His absence has hiked up internal and international pressures on Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi to assume power.

Islamabad (Pakistan). At least 12 policemen were killed and a dozen others injured in an attack Saturday afternoon at a police station in northwest Pakistan, reported local Urdu TV channel Dunya. All the police held hostage by the attackers inside the police station were rescued after nearly five hours of crossfire between the security forces and the attackers, said the report. Five out of an estimated 10 to 12 attackers were also killed in the crossfire while the remaining militants managed to run away.Three of the attackers were killed by police while the other two blew themselves up. The three attackers killed include one woman and two of them were of foreign nationality.

The security forces have taken control of the police station and a search operation is underway. The attack took place at a police station in the Kulachi area of Dera Ismail Khan in northwest Pakistan. Kulachi is a small town, some 30 kilometers east of the militancy-plagued South Waziristan. Three blasts were heard when the security forces backed by armored vehicles tried to storm into the police station. No group has claimed the responsibility for the attack yet.


Bucharest (Romania). According to Mediafax, Romanian Police Inspector General Liviu Popa said that 1,300 officers will be laid off, adding that he would like the ones who are “incompatible” with the status of police officer to leave.The Romanian Police will be down to 52,385 officers, the general said. The officers who score lowest in a department-wide examination will be the ones laid off. More than 300 Interior Ministry employees will also be made redundant soon.

Gracanica (Kosovo) Eventually Serbia will recognise Kosovo but this will happen in many years, said Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg during his visit to Kosovo. “Someday Serbia will recognise Kosovo but this day is still in the distant future. Many years are needed for any historical conflict to be solved, even decades,” Schwarzenberg added, reminding that even the UK recognised the US.The Czech minister backed the dialog between Kosovo and Serbia on the technical issues.

Zagreb (Croatia). Croatia celebrated 20 years of independence on 25 June, buoyed by an offer from the European Union to take in the former Yugoslav republic as its 28th member in 2013. Croatia and its neighbour Slovenia declared their independence from communist Yugoslavia on 25 June 1991 – heralding the start of the multi-ethnic federation’s break-up in a series of wars in the 1990s. A recent opinion poll showed that although 38 percent of Slovenians and 43 percent of Croatians believe they live in worse conditions than 20 years ago, more than 90 percent in both countries said the decision for independence had been the right one.

Sofia (Bulgaria). Two new names have emerged as potential runners for the ruling GERB party in the upcoming presidential elections: prominent writer Stefan Tsanev and former Foreign Minister Solomon Passy.

Tsanev, known for his essays, plays, poems, and historical novels, and Passy, former Foreign Minister between 2001 and 2004, have been mentioned in the Bulgarian Parliament as the ruling party’s possible choices. Passy is also a chairman of the Atlantic Club in Bulgaria. Interior Minister and head of GERB’s election campaign, Tsvetan Tsvetanov said that the party will endorse a man who is “popular enough” in Bulgaria and the EU.

(Middle East & Balkans News, 26 June 2011)


About Johann Brandstätter

Photojournalist and documentary photographer based in Bulgaria, working mainly in the Balkans and the Middle East. Conflicts & crises, social and environmental issues, defense & military, travel, transportation.
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