Said Kouachi, one of the brothers suspected of carrying out the attack on the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo that killed 12 people Wednesday in Paris, spent a number of months training with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen in 2011.
- By Mary Casey-Baker<p> Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p>
U.S. and European sources have reported that Said Kouachi, one of the brothers suspected of carrying out the attack on the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo that killed 12 people Wednesday in Paris, spent a number of months training with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen in 2011. The suspect reportedly trained in small arms combat and marksmanship before returning to France. U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials are investigating whether AQAP had directly ordered the attack. A Yemeni official said the government is looking into possible ties between Kouachi and AQAP. Additionally, a Yemeni intelligence source said, while in Yemen, Kouachi met with U.S.-born al Qaeda preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed by a drone strike in September 2011.
Al-Nusra Front and other Islamist factions have launched attacks overnight on two predominantly Shiite towns in northern Syria. The militants have besieged Nubul and Zahra, two towns near the highway connecting the city of Aleppo with the Turkish border, and have carried out repeated attacks since spring 2013. However, pro-government forces repelled the militants, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, after they briefly controlled small areas in both towns.
- The United States has called on Saudi Arabia to rescind its sentencing of blogger Raif Badawi, convicted of cybercrime and insulting Islam, of 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail.
- Egypt has scheduled parliamentary elections, which will be held in two phases beginning March 22-23.
- Yemeni police have arrested six suspects in Wednesday’s car bombing outside a police academy in Sanaa that killed 40 people.
- The U.N. Envoy to Libya met with members of the Tobruk-based parliament and former Gen. Khalifa Heftar Thursday pushing for negotiations after talks scheduled for this week were postponed.
Arguments and Analysis
‘American Public Attitudes Toward ISIS and Syria’ (Shibley Telhami, The Brookings Institution)
“One of the striking findings is the reasoning respondents select for favoring the deployment of ground forces. Among those who support deploying ground forces, 43% say that what justifies such deployment is that ISIS is an extension of Al Qaeda, against whom the United States is in a war that must be finished. The next justification, selected by 33%, is ISIS’s ruthlessness and intolerance. These two top categories hold across party lines. In comparison, few respondents select ISIS’s threats to allies (7%), or even ISIS’s potential to threaten most of America’s vital interests, including domestic interests (16%), as justification for deploying ground troops.”
‘Federalism and Decentralization in Libya’s Constitutional Proposals’ (Reidar Visser, Iraq and Gulf Analysis)
“On administrative structure, there are two papers. Reflecting the longstanding polarization in the Arab world between competing visions for state structure, there is one paper featuring decentralization and one paper using federalism as point of departure.
On closer inspection, beyond terminological issues (‘regions’ or aqalim versus ‘governorates’ or muhafazat, literally the same as in the Iraqi constitution) the differences between the two papers on state structure are less than one would think. Structurally, there is of course some difference, since the federalism position outlines a tripartite Libya consisting of Tripoli, Cyrenaica (Barqa in Arabic) and Fezzan, largely consisting of historical divisions that were also the chief organizing principle during Libya’s past existence as a federation in the 1950s and the 1960s. Conversely, the paper advocating administrative decentralization within a unified state sets out a map of 32 governorates. Most of those units are corresponding to Libya’s administrative map of 2001 which had the same number of administrative units before some mergers ensued in subsequent years. Provision is made for a cabinet decision on exact administrative boundaries, suggesting that at least some demarcation ambiguities remain. But unlike the Iraqi constitution – a Spanish-inspired hybrid of established regions (Kurdistan) and potential regions (elsewhere) which has also been suggested for Yemen – there is no suggestion that future federal regions in Libya will emerge based on popular initiatives. Whichever version is adopted, it is assumed that the administrative structure of Libya will be decided top-down, by the constitutional committee itself.”
‘The Christian Exodus from the Sinai’ (Muhamed Sabry, Fikra Forum)
“Girgis, of the Egypt Copts Coalition, says that the number of Christian families in North Sinai has dwindled to 650 after the departure of around 200 families over the past year. He attributes the kidnapping of Christians to groups seeking ransom from the families of the victims in order to buy arms – which they then use in their attacks on security forces and Christians alike.
Although a number of Christians have left the Sinai out of fear for their lives and those of their families, many still hope to stay and believe that the situation in the governorate will improve. However, they are disgruntled about the fact that their destroyed churches have not been rebuilt, despite the many promises they have received from the government. Out of North Sinai’s churches, only two in Dahiyat al-Salam and al-Masaid remain, while the rest of the churches in Rafah and al-Arish wither away – not unlike the populations they once served.”
— Mary Casey-Baker