Middle East Updates U.S. Navy Sends Aircraft Carriers Near Yemen Waters

Egypt sentences 22 members of Muslim Brotherhood to death; Air strike on missile base in Yemen capital causes huge explosion; Lebanon gets first shipment of $3B worth of French arms.

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Houthi fighters ride a patrol truck outside Sanaa Airport March 28, 2015.
Houthi fighters ride a patrol truck outside Sanaa Airport March 28, 2015.Credit: Reuters
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Latest updates:

9:57 P.M. U.S. Navy ships sent to waters near Yemen

The U.S. Navy has sent an aircraft carrier and a guided-missile cruiser into the waters near Yemen to conduct maritime security operations, a Pentagon spokesman said on Monday, but he denied the ships were on a mission to intercept Iranian arms shipments. (Reuters)

9:20 P.M. Saudi Arabia: One border guard killed by fire from Yemen

6:47 P.M. Forty Yemeni civilians killed in Saudi-led air raid

At least 40 civilians were killed and over 300 injured when warplanes of the Saudi-led coalition hit a military base in the Yemeni capital Sana'a, medical officials said on Monday.

A huge explosion rocked the city as coalition planes targeted the Faj Attan base, used by a missile brigade of the Yemeni army, but currently controlled by the mainly Shiite Houthi rebels.

Most of the victims were killed in the partial collapse of nearby residential buildings, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The studios of Yemen FM radio were damaged in the raid, killing journalist Mohammed Shaman and injuring several other members of staff. Residents said dozens of families were fleeing the area.

Over 400 civilians have died in the airstrikes and in fighting pitting the Houthis and allied military units against Hadi loyalists and local fighters in southern and eastern Yemen, according to the UN.

The Houthis say they are seeking to rid the country of corruption and extremism. Rebel leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi on Sunday accused Saudi Arabia of trying to bring al-Qaeda to power in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia fears that the rebel advance will bolster its regional rival, Shiite Iran, whom it accuses of backing the Houthis. (DPA)

6:38 P.M. Iran charging U.S. journalist with espionage, other crimes

Iran is charging Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian with espionage and three other crimes, the newspaper said on Monday in a report offering the first details about the exact charges against him.

Rezaian, the Post's bureau chief in Tehran, was detained in Iran about nine months ago. He is accused of "collaborating with hostile governments" and "propaganda against the establishment," according to a statement from Rezaian's attorney, Leilah Ahsan, the Post reported. (Reuters)

6:23 P.M. Islamic extremists bomb UN van in Somalia, 4 UNICEF workers killed

Islamic extremists set off a bomb in a U.N. van in normally tranquil northern Somalia on Monday, killing at least seven people, including four employees of the U.N. children's agency in an attack that was widely denounced.

Two Kenyans, one Ugandan, one Afghan and three Somalis died in the explosion in Garowe town and one American, one Sierra Leonean, one Ugandan, one Kenyan and four Somalis were wounded, police Col. Ali Salad told The Associated Press.

Al-Shabab, which is battling to convert Somalia into a hard-line Islamic state, claimed responsibility through its radio station for the attack in Garowe, capital of Puntland state.

The bomb was apparently planted under a seat and was detonated by remote control, said police official Yusuf Ali.

Garowe resident Jama Hashi said he heard a thunderous blast inside the van, which he said was passing near the offices of the U.N.'s food agency when the bomb went off. Human limbs were scattered around the scene, he said. Security forces sealed off the area as ambulances carried the wounded away. Photos showed the roof had apparently been blown off. A corpse leaned out of a window whose glass had been blown away, dripping blood onto the side of the van.

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for an attack earlier this month at a college in northeastern Kenya in which at least 148 people, most of them students, were killed. Kenya has sent troops into Somalia as part of the AU force to stabilize the government and attack al-Shabab, which is allied with al-Qaida. (Associated Press)

5:59 P.M. Three Egyptian soldiers killed in blast claimed by Islamic State affiliate

An Egyptian army captain and two other soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in Rafah, near the border with the Gaza Strip on Monday, security and medical sources said.

A Twitter feed that describes itself as the official account for Sinai Province, the Egyptian affiliate of the ultra-hardline militant group Islamic State, claimed responsibility for the attack in the Sinai Peninsula, which borders Gaza, Israel and the Suez Canal.

North Sinai is the epicentre of an insurgency that has killed hundreds of members of the security services since mid-2013, when Egypt's then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted Islamist president Mohamed Mursi after mass protests against his rule.

Sinai Province, which was known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis before it pledged allegience to Islamic State, is the most active militant group in the Sinai. (Reuters)

2:36 P.M. Egypt sentences 22 members of Muslim Brotherhood to death

An Egyptian court sentenced 22 members of the Muslim Brotherhood to death on Monday over an attack on a police station in a district outside Cairo in 2013, judicial sources said.

The assault was part of a wave of violence that rocked the country after the army removed elected Islamist president Mohamed Mursi from power following mass protests against his rule in June 2013.

One other defendant, who is a juvenile, was given a 10 year sentence, the sources said. A lawyer for the convicted men said they would appeal.

Egyptian authorities have jailed thousands of suspected members of the Brotherhood and the courts have sentenced hundreds to death. The government says the outlawed Brotherhood is a major security threat, but the Brotherhood says it does not condone violence.

The defendants were convicted of murder, attempted murder, and the destruction of public facilities, among other charges during an attack on the police station in Kerdasa district, in which one policeman was killed.

The judge overseeing Monday's decision was Mohamed Nagi Shehata, who has played a prominent role in the Egyptian judiciary's mass jailings of Islamist and liberal demonstrators. (Reuters)

11:40 A.M. Air strike on missile base in Yemen capital causes huge explosion

An air strike on a Scud missile base in the Yemeni capital Sanaa caused a massive explosion that blew out windows in houses, residents said, adding that it was the largest explosion in more than three weeks of bombing.

There was no immediate word of casualties from the blast, which sent a thick pillar of smoke into the air.

Saudi Arabia has led an alliance of Sunni Arab countries in air strikes against the Iran-allied Shi'ite Houthi rebel group in Yemen.

11:15 A.M. Lebanon gets first shipment of $3B worth of French arms

Lebanon has received the first installment of $3 billion worth of French weapons paid for by Saudi Arabia.

The handover ceremony held Monday at Beirut's international airport was attended by Lebanese and French defense ministers and top army officers.

The deal, first announced in 2013, aims to boost Lebanon's military as it struggles to contain a rising tide of violence linked to the civil war in neighboring Syria.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says the deal will include dozens of armored vehicles, six transport helicopters and other types of weapons.

The deal also includes training programs for Lebanese troops run by the French military.

Lebanese Defense Minister Samir Moqbel said "Lebanon's victory against terrorism is a victory to all nations threatened by terrorism." (AP)

10:05 A.M. Three Egyptian soldiers killed in blast claimed by ISIS affiliate

An Egyptian army captain and two other soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in Rafah, near the border with the Gaza Strip on Monday, security and medical sources said.

A Twitter feed that describes itself as the official account for Sinai Province, the Egyptian affiliate of the ultra-hardline militant group Islamic State, claimed responsibility for the attack in the Sinai Peninsula, which borders Gaza, Israel and the Suez Canal.

North Sinai is the epicenter of an insurgency that has killed hundreds of members of the security services since mid-2013, when Egypt's then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted Islamist president Mohamed Mursi after mass protests against his rule.

Sinai Province, which was known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis before it pledged allegience to Islamic State, is the most active militant group in the Sinai. (Reuters)

9:10 A.M. Aid agency Oxfam condemns Saudi air strike in Yemen

International aid agency Oxfam has condemned a Saudi Arabian air strike in Yemen that it said hit one of its stores containing humanitarian supplies in the Houthi militia's northern stronghold of Saada.

"We have shared detailed information with the coalition on the locations of our offices and storage facilities. The contents of the warehouse had no military value. It only contained humanitarian supplies," said Grace Ommer, Oxfam's country director, in a press statement posted on its website on Sunday.

Saudi Arabia has not yet commented on the incident, but the spokesman for its military campaign, Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri, has said targets are chosen to avoid civilian casualties, and that the Houthis often put guns in residential areas. (Reuters)

2:34 A.M. Yemen Shi'ite rebel leader vows not to surrender amid Saudi-led airstrikes

A Shi'ite rebel leader in Yemen vowed to not surrender Sunday amid Saudi-led airstrikes in a rambling speech that rejected UN efforts to halt violence there, even as the political party of the country's former leader welcomed international efforts for a cease-fire.

The speech by rebel leader Abdul-Malek al-Houthi, his first since the Saudi campaign began, offered signs of cracks appearing in his alliance with Yemen's one-time President Ali Abdullah Saleh. However, his speech signaled no sign of his rebels backing down from their offensive after earlier seizing the capital, Sanaa, and forcing President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi into exile.

"The great Yemeni people will never surrender and never be subjugated," al-Houthi said. (AP)

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