Egypt – Six policemen were killed and three wounded on the 9 Dec 16 when a bomb placed in a rubbish bin exploded at a security checkpoint in Cairo, security sources and state media said. Egypt's state-run news agency MENA said the blast occurred on Pyramids Road, the main avenue leading from the city centre out to the Giza pyramids. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which also injured at least four civilians. The attack, close to a government building in a middle-class neighbourhood of Cairo, was the latest in a series of similar across Egypt. Security forces killed three gunmen on the 6 Dec 16 in a raid on a hideout in southern Egypt used by what they described as an armed wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, which claimed responsibility in September for an assassination attempt on a senior prosecutor. An Egyptian general was killed by militants on the 4 Nov 16 near his home in North Sinai in an attack for which ISIL claimed responsibility. He was the second military officer of his rank to be shot dead in as many weeks. A new group calling itself Liwa al-Thawra, or the Revolution Brigade, claimed responsibility for an attack on the 22 Oct 16 in Cairo. Another group, which calls itself the Hasam Movement, has claimed several attacks in or near Cairo, including the assassination of a police officer and the attempted killing of a senior prosecutor. The attacks have dented the recovery of tourism after a 2011 uprising drove away tourists, a major source of hard currency. Import-dependent Egypt is facing a shortage of foreign exchange that has stifled business activity and hit confidence in the economy.
Egypt – A bomb blast killed at least 25 people during Sunday mass (11 Dec 16) inside a Cairo church near the main Coptic Christian cathedral reported by Egyptian state TV. The explosion ripped through St Peter's Church at around 1000am hrs local time, wounding at least another 35 people, according to Egyptian security officials. St Peter's Church is beside St Mark's Cathedral, which is the seat of Egypt's Orthodox Christian church and is home to the office of its spiritual leader, Pope Tawadros II. Services were being held in St Peter's on Sunday morning, while St Mark's Cathedral was being renovated. A state-run news agency reported that a bomb was lobbed inside the church, though a news agency cited witnesses saying the bomb was planted inside the building itself. The presidency declared national mourning after the attack. President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi described the bombing as a "terrorist act" that has no place in Egypt. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Follow-on Report – Da’esh have claimed responsibility for the 11 Dec 16 deadly Cairo Coptic cathedral bombing that killed 25 people and injured 35 on the 14 Dec 16. Suicide bomber Abu Abdallah al-Masri carried out the attack, the group said in the statement, one day after authorities named the bomber as Mahmoud Shafik Mohamed Mostafa. The bomber “got in between the crowd” and detonated his explosive belt, the extremist group said in the statement. The group said it would continue attacks against “every infidel and apostate in Egypt, and everywhere.”
Kenya/Iran/Israel – Two Iranians and their Kenyan driver, who worked for the Iranian embassy in Nairobi, were charged on the 1 Dec 16 with collecting information for a terrorist act after filming the Israeli embassy, lawyers said. Sayed Nasrollah Ebrahimi, Abdolhosein Ghola Safafe and driver Moses Keyah Mmboga “were found taking video clips of the Israeli embassy ... for the use in the commission of a terrorist act”, according to a charge sheet produced in court. The three men were in a car belonging to the Iranian embassy when they were arrested on the 29 Nov 16 the court papers said. The diplomatic status of the two Iranians was unclear. The Iranian embassy did not respond to requests for comment. “My clients pleaded not guilty and have been detained by the ATPU (Kenya’s Anti Terrorism Police Unit) for further interrogation,” defence lawyer Cohen Amanya said after the men’s court appearance. Prosecutor Duncan Ondimu said the two Iranians were visiting Kenya but gave no further details. Kenya has suffered repeated militant attacks in recent years but those were mainly carried out by ethnically Somali militants who would be hostile to Iran because of sectarian differences. In 2002, 15 people died when an Israeli-owned hotel was bombed in the coastal town of Mombasa at the same time two missiles were fired at an Israeli jet, narrowly missing it. In 2013, a Kenyan court jailed two Iranians for life on terrorism-related charges, including possessing explosives. The sentence was reduced to 15 years on appeal.
Libya – Rival militias clashed in Tripoli leaving at least seven people dead, Libyan media said, as journalists reported hearing gunshots and explosions in the south of the capital it was reported on the 2 Dec 16. Tanks, trucks and heavy weapons were seen on the streets but the cause of the conflict was not immediately clear. Tripoli is controlled by a loose alliance of militias of different political and religious factions, and clashes between them are an almost daily occurrence. Five years after Libya’s 2011 revolution that toppled longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi, the country is embroiled in violence and political chaos as the militias and two rival governments vie for power. A UN-backed Government of National Accord took up office in March with the hopes of re-establishing central power and stemming an extremist threat from ISIS. It was intended to replace the rival administrations but has failed to win a vote of confidence from the parliament in Tobruk while the Tripoli-based GNA considers it illegitimate. The GNA suffered a fresh setback in Oct 16 after the rival Government of National Salvation seized key offices in the capital.
Libya/Da’esh – Islamic State group jihadists are making a "last stand" in their former Libyan stronghold of Sirte, where they now control only around two blocks, the Pentagon said on the 1 Dec 16. The IS group had held all of the Mediterranean port city as recently as early this summer, establishing a significant foothold in Libya. The United States started a bombing campaign in August at the request the UN-supported Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) to help local forces recapture the city more than a year after the IS group seized it. Although the operation has taken months longer than initially expected, it has pushed back the group's control to around 50 buildings. The remaining jihadists are few in number "but they are persistent and fighting to the death," Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said. "It's a stubborn area." The fall of Sirte would represent a significant blow to the jihadists, who have also faced a series of setbacks and major assaults in Syria and Iraq. US warplanes, drones and helicopters have conducted 467 strikes since the air operation began on the 1 Aug 16. The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp and its contingent of aircraft, which were involved in earlier strikes, left the region in Oct 16 and continuing strikes are being conducted by drones.
Libya/Da’esh – Forces aligned to Libya's UN-backed national unity government said they were hunting down the last remaining ISIL fighters in Sirte after the group's ouster from its former bastion. Soldiers were said to be "chasing the last jihadists hiding in fewer than 10 houses" on the 6 Dec 16 in the seafront district of Al-Giza al-Bahriya, the last strip to fall in the almost seven-month-long battle. They also "managed to rescue a group of women and children that the defeated gangs of Da’esh were using as human shields", the force backing the Government of National Accord (GNA) said on its Facebook page. Mufath al-Fadeel, head of the pro-government 154th Brigade said that while Sirte was now under military control operations were ongoing. "The city is free of ISIL and we are tracking down some who fled, to finish them off," Fadeel said. "The city is liberated but the military operation is not over yet. It goes on until we ensure they are all tracked down." The pro-GNA force had announced full control of Sirte on ther 5 Dec 16 in a major blow to the armed group, and that dozens of its fighters had surrendered. Government fighters were cautious in storming some buildings believed to house holdouts. The most important reason behind this is trapped families, women and children which ISIL are using as human shields. Another reason was to force ISIL fighters to surrender after the siege imposed on them. We have seen some ISIL fighters handing themselves over to the forces after they ran out of ammunition and food supplies. There is fighting going on in nearby buildings, where ISIL fighters are fortified. While government forces were telling families to flee, eyewitnesses said that ISIL was shooting anyone trying to leave Sirte.
Morocco/Da’esh – Morocco’s Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ) has arrested eight men with alleged ties to the Islamic State jihadist group active in the cities of Fez and Tangiers, the interior ministry said on the 2 Dec 16. Two of the members of this alleged terrorist cell had been previously detained for their involvement in other cases related to terrorism. They were active in a cell led by a French national and preparing attacks in the kingdom and abroad and which was dismantled in 2003, said the ministry in a statement. A rifle, ammunition, knives and manuscripts inciting towards jihad were seized during the operation on the 1 Dec 16 it added. An initial investigation indicated that the men have ties with IS in Syria and Iraq, "recruiting, financing and sending Moroccan volunteers" there for jihad. Investigators also discovered that, following the various operations of this kind recently carried out in Morocco, the main objective of these recruitments was to train extremists to Syria in IS camps with the intention of sending them back to the North African kingdom to carry out terrorist attacks. A study by the US-based Soufan Group said in Dec 15 that at least 1,200 Moroccans had travelled to fight alongside IS in Iraq and Syria in the previous 18 months. In 2011, a cafe bombing killed 17 people, mostly foreign tourists, in the central city of Marrakesh. It was the deadliest attack in Morocco since Casablanca blasts in 2003 that killed 45 people, including 12 suicide bombers, and were claimed by Islamic militants.
Nigeria/Boko Haram – Two schoolgirl suicide bombers killed 45 people and wounded dozens in a coordinated attack on a crowded market in the north-eastern Nigerian town of Madagali, an army spokesman said. "From our updated records we have 45 dead and 33 injured in the twin suicide bomb explosions in Madagali," said Sa'ad Bello of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in Adamawa state. The attack on the morning of the 9 Dec 16 happened in Madagali, which was recaptured by Nigerian forces from Boko Haram fighters in 2015. Ahmadu Gulak, a driver who was buying tea at the market, said the two blasts struck simultaneously at opposite ends of a grains and vegetable market. "The two bombers were disguised as customers, detonated their suicide belts at the section of the market selling grains and second-hand clothing," said Yusuf Muhammad, the chairman of Madagali local government. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the blasts bore all the hallmarks of Boko Haram, which has carried out numerous suicide attacks in its seven-year campaign against the Nigerian government in the troubled region.
Somalia/Yemen/Iran – A newly-released report by independent research group Conflict Armament Research (CAR) published on the 1 Dec 16 “suggests” that there is an arms “pipeline” that extends from Iran to Somalia and Yemen. The UK-based CAR released its analysis on the 30 Nov 16 after US officials claimed in Oct 16 that they had seized five shipments of Iranian weapons bound for Yemen. “CAR’s analysis of the seized materiel suggests the existence of a weapon pipeline extending from Iran to Somalia and Yemen, which involves the transfer, by dhow, of significant quantities of Iranian-manufactured weapons and weapons that plausibly derive from Iranian stockpiles,” the report said. CAR also said in its report that after analysis of the caches of anti-tank missiles, rocket launchers and other light and small arms from the dhows that were heading to Somalia, they believe the arms were “probably supplied with the complicity of Iranian security forces.” Iran has denied US and Gulf claims that it supplies Houthi militias with arms, saying its support to the Houthis is merely diplomatic. Meanwhile, the UAE ambassador to the UN, Lana Nusseibeh, said CAR’s findings “would be a flagrant violation of UN security council resolutions,” according to the Abu Dhabi-based The National. “The UAE calls on the Security Council to take all measures necessary to demand that Iran comply with its obligations,” she added. These shipments are further evidence of Iran’s expansionist and destabilizing behaviour in Yemen, fuelling the conflict and endangering Yemeni civilians and Yemen’s neighbours.”
Somalia/al-Shabaab – An al-Shabaab suicide car bomber has struck the entrance of Mogadishu's largest port and an adjacent police complex, killing at least 29 people and wounding nearly 48 others, according to police sources on the 11 Dec 16. Initial reports had put the toll at 12 dead and 14 injured, but more bodies were discovered in the rubble of the collapsed buildings, according to officials. There were also more deaths as people succumbed to their injuries in hospital. Most of the victims were labourers and port workers, General Abdullahi Hassan Barise, a senior police officer, told a news agency. Among the dead were at least five police officers and two young boys. Civilians made up most of the wounded. The attack took place near the gate of Mogadishu's main port and is the latest in a series of attacks on the capital. The bomber drove a minibus packed with explosives into the police station and a security checkpoint, witnesses said. Al-Shabaab took responsibility for the attack via a statement on its radio station, Radio Andalus. The armed group said the suicide bomber was targeting the police station, where a number of officers also lived. The station was heavily damaged and a busy tax facility was also affected by the blast. The destruction also spread to nearby homes and vehicles. Gunfire could be heard from the police complex shortly after the explosion. Somalia is preparing to hold presidential elections on the 28 Dec 16.
Somalia – A bomb blast killed six people, mostly soldiers, and wounded a dozen other people in the Somali capital, hours after a car bomb exploded at a checkpoint killing the attacker. "Six people, most of them soldiers, were killed [by the bomb] which was planted under a tree close to a security checkpoint. Several others are also wounded," said Mogadishu administration spokesman Abdifatah Omar Halane. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks on the 15 Dec 16 but al-Shabab fighters have been trying to disrupt Somalia's protracted parliamentary elections - part of efforts to rebuild the fractured nation after decades of war. The three-month vote is due to end on December 29. Earlier in the day, a car bomb blew up at a checkpoint near the national theatre in Mogadishu, killing the bomber, police said. Witnesses said the explosion was followed by gunfire. The national theatre is about 500 metres away from the presidential palace.