Middle East Updates / 2014 Deadliest Year for Syrians With Over 76,000 Killed

Lawyer for jailed Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste has formally applied to Egyptian government for his deportation after Egypt's highest court ordered a retrial for Greste and two colleagues.

AFP

For Thursday's updates, click here

Latest updates:

10:11 P.M. Saudi ISIS cleric killed in Kobani, Syria

A Saudi cleric with the Islamic State group has been killed in the northern Syrian town of Kobani that has been witnessing intense clashes for months between jihadis and Kurdish gunmen, activists said Friday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Othman al-Nazeh al-Assiri was killed Thursday while battling Kurdish fighters in Kobani.

Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, including the Raqqa Media Center, which operates in areas under Islamic State control, said al-Assiri was killed in an air strike on Kobani by the U.S.-led coalition. (AP)

5:56 P.M. Saudi king needed help breathing due to lung infection, condition stable

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz temporarily needed help to breath through a tube on Friday due to a lung infection but the procedure was successful and his condition was now stable, state media said.

"After the necessary medical tests by the medical team, it became apparent that there was a lung infection that required the insertion of a tube to aid with breathing on a temporary basis this evening," according to a statement from the royal court carried on the Saudi Press Agency.

It said that the procedure had resulted in "stability and success."

Saudi Arabia's elderly monarch was admitted to hospital on Wednesday for medical tests, state media said, citing a royal court statement, after he suffered what one source described as breathing difficulties. (Reuters)

5:35 P.M. Tunisia PM sees main threat from chaotic Libya

Tunisia's outgoing prime minister says the greatest threat to his country, which recently completed its transition to democracy, comes from chaotic neighboring Libya.

Mehdi Jomaa — who became interim prime minister at the start of the year and guided the country through presidential and legislative elections — will soon be stepping down to the newly elected government.

He told The Associated Press Friday, on the eve of his trip to France, that terrorism remains a real threat and most of it is coming from Libya, which he described as being in a state of war among rival militias.

Since Tunisians overthrew their dictator in 2011, kicking off the region-wide Arab Spring movement, the country has been wracked by economic problems, social unrest and especially terrorist attacks. (AP)

2:23 P.M. Syria's war killed 76,021 in 2014

The conflict in Syria killed 76,021 people in 2014, just under half of them civilians, a group monitoring the war said on Thursday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 33,278 civilians were killed last year in the conflict, which started with protests in 2011 and has spiraled into a civil war.

The United Nations in August estimated the total number of people killed since the start of the conflict at 191,000 but activists say the actual figure is likely much higher. (Reuters)

2:20 P.M. Syrian opposition to discuss Russian peace plan

The main Western-backed Syrian opposition group opened a three-day meeting Friday to discuss a range of issues, including a Russian initiative to hold peace talks in Moscow to broker a resolution to Syria's civil war.

The Syrian National Coalition is also expected to elect a new president during the closed-door proceedings that opened Friday in Istanbul.

The meeting comes amid a push by Russia, a key supporter of President Bashar Assad, to try to bring the Syrian government and the opposition together in Moscow for talks to end a civil war that has killed more than 200,000 people. Russian diplomats have been shuttling between the sides in recent weeks to sound out their willingness to attend the meeting that the Kremlin has said it hopes to convene after Jan. 20.

The Coalition has not ruled out participating, but has so far insisted that any negotiated settlement be based on the so-called Geneva platform, which states that there should be a political transition toward democracy through the formation of a transitional governing body with full executive powers. (AP)

2:40 A.M. Jailed Australian journalist seeks presidential deportation from Egypt

The lawyer for jailed Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste has formally applied to the Egyptian government for the Australian's deportation, his family said on Friday, after Egypt's highest court ordered a retrial for Greste and two colleagues.

Greste, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian national Baher Mohamed were sentenced a year ago to seven to 10 years on charges including spreading lies to helping a "terrorist organisation" - a reference to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

The High Court in Cairo ordered the retrial on Thursday on the grounds of procedural flaws in the trial, defence lawyers said on Thursday.

The original trial had been condemned by human rights groups and Western governments and prompted the United Nations to question Egypt's judicial independence.

The reporters' imprisonment has been a thorny issue for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as he seeks to prove his commitment to democratic reforms.
"Now that Peter is essentially an innocent man, he's not convicted any more, it does allow for some room to move and for him (Sisi) to step in ... and deport him," Greste's brother Andrew told reporters in Brisbane.