Middle East Updates / Egypt: Strikes Kill 25 Sinai Militants in Two Days

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Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi.Credit: AP

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Latest updates:

10:45 P.M. UN Libya envoy says airstrikes threaten peace talks

The UN special envoy to Libya warned the warring parties in the North African country against carrying out airstrikes while sensitive negotiations are taking place in Morocco.

Bernardino Leon said Friday after the second day of talks that airstrikes over the past two days in Libya "were a serious threat" to the ongoing talks. "The international community will not accept such threats to the political process," he said.

For the first time, representatives of the two rival Libyan parliaments are engaging in talks to form a national unity government and come up with security arrangements. (AP)

7:35 P.M. France: Iran's nuclear commitments don't go far enough

Commitments offered by Iran in talks with six world powers on its nuclear program do not go far enough and more work needs to be done, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Friday.

Fabius said he had invited U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the foreign ministers of Germany and Britain to Paris on Saturday to review the state of the Iran nuclear negotiations. (Reuters) 

5:40 P.M. Egyptian strikes kill 25 militants in two days, security sources say

Egyptian military air strikes have killed 25 Islamist militants in Northern Sinai over the last two days, security sources said, targeting an insurgency that seeks to topple the Cairo government.

On Friday, air raids hit two houses south of the Sinai town of Sheikh Zuweid, killing 10 militants from Ansar Beit al-Maqdis - which renamed itself Sinai Province after pledging allegiance to Islamic State - the sources said.

At least 14 other militants were injured in the strikes. On Thursday, 15 militants were killed when air strikes hit three homes south of Sheikh Zuweid. Reuters could not immediately verify accounts of the attacks and the army spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

North Sinai is the epicentre of an Islamist militant insurgency that has killed hundreds of police and soldiers since then army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted Islamist president Mohamed Mursi in July 2013 after mass protests against his rule. (Reuters)

3:55 P.M. Al-Qaida's Syria branch confirms death of top field commander

Al-Qaida's Syrian affiliate confirmed on Friday that its top field commander was killed in an airstrike that targeted a meeting of the group's senior leadership.

Abu Anas al-Shami, the spokesman for the Nusra Front, was quoted on a prominent militant website as saying that Thursday's airstrike in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib killed Abu Hommam al-Shami, described as the group's "military commander."

Abu Hommam's death was first reported a day earlier by Syria's SANA state news agency and by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists inside Syria, said that other senior Nusra Front leaders were also killed in the attack. (AP) Read the full story

3:00 P.M. BP signs $12 billion deal to develop Egyptian gas field

he U.K.-based energy company BP has signed agreements worth $12 billion to develop a major gas field in Egypt, which has been trying to attract foreign investment after four years of unrest.

BP said in a statement Friday that the investment is "a vote of confidence in Egypt's investment climate."

The West Nile Delta project aims to produce 5 trillion cubic feet of gas and 55 million barrels of condensate. Production is expected to begin in 2017 and reach up to 1.2 billion cubic feet a day, or about 25 percent of Egypt's current production.

The announcement comes days ahead of a major economic conference aimed at boosting foreign investment. (AP)

1:30 P.M. Turkey blocks access to Charlie Hebdo website

Access to the Charlie Hebdo website was blocked as of Friday in Turkey along with specific webpages that had linked to the French satirical magazine. Users trying to access the site were given an unspecific error message.

The ban appears to be part of a court order from last month that blocked dozens of sites containing content judged insulting towards religion, according to local media reports at the time.

An order was also issued to block the website of Turkey's only atheist organization, the group said on its Facebook page.

Turkey is ranked 149th out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index published by advocacy group Reporters Without Borders. (DPA)

3:34 A.M. Iraq says ISIS militants bulldozed ancient city of Nimrud

Islamic State militants bulldozed the renowned archaeological site of the ancient city of Nimrud in northern Iraq on Thursday using heavy military vehicles, the government said.

A statement from Iraq's Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities didn't elaborate on the extent of the damage, saying only that the group continues to "defy the will of the world and the feelings of humanity" with this latest act, which came after an attack on the Mosul museum just days earlier. Read the full story

1:25 A.M. Turkey PM calls on Ban Ki-moon to present Cyprus reunification plan

Turkey's prime minister called on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Thursday to come up with a plan to reunify Cyprus before he leaves at the end of 2016.

Ahmet Davutoglu told a UN news conference after meeting Ban that Turkey "will do everything possible for a sustainable, comprehensive peace in Cyprus."

Cyprus was split into a Turkish-speaking north and Greek-speaking south in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of a union with Greece.

Davutoglu recalled the peace blueprint to reunite the island drafted by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan which was approved by Turkish Cypriots, but rejected by Greek Cypriots in separate referenda in April 2004.

"In 2004 we supported the Annan plan and I suggested to Mr. Ban Ki-moon that we need now a Ban Ki-moon plan before the end of his term to end this long-surviving crisis," he said. Ban's second five-year term ends on Dec. 31, 2016.

Talks to reunify the Mediterranean island are currently deadlocked. (AP)

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