Middle East Updates / Wave of Bombings Around Baghdad Kills 28 People

Egyptian president issues new anti-terrorism law; Ban says UN mission in Libya should be cut substantially; France confirms French woman kidnapped in Yemen; ISIS militants abduct at least 90 Syrian Christians.

AFP

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An Egyptian air force fighter jet landing at an undisclosed location in Egypt following air strikes
AFP

Latest updates:

8:05 P.M. Egyptian president issues new anti-terrorism law

The Egyptian president has issued a law that broadens the state's definition of terrorism to include anyone who threatens public order "by any means," and gives authorities powers to draw up lists of alleged terrorists with little judicial recourse.

Under the new law, prosecutors can name someone a terrorist, freezing their assets, and barring them from public life or travel, with only simple approval from a panel of judges, and without a trial. The listing is valid for three years and can be renewed.

The legislation was signed in the form of a decree by President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi last week and was distributed to reporters on Tuesday.

It is part of the government's stepped-up campaign against an expanding insurgency by militant groups, including one that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group fighting in Iraq and Syria. (AP)

7:00 P.M. Wave of bombings around Baghdad kills 28 people

A wave of bomb attacks around Baghdad killed 28 people on Tuesday, as at least seven explosions struck in or near the Iraqi capital, police and medical sources said.

Fifteen people were killed in the Jisr Diyala district, southeast of the city, in two blasts on Tuesday evening, one of them caused by a car bomb. Earlier, five other explosions hit northern and southern neighbourhoods, the sources said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, which come as Iraqi security forces battle ISIS militants who control large areas of north and west Iraq, and who have claimed many recent bombings in Baghdad.

In the western province of Anbar, Iraqi troops backed by Shi'ite militia and tribal fighters are trying to drive ISIS fighters out of al-Baghdadi on the Euphrates River.

The town is just five km (3 miles) east of the Ain al-Asad airbase where U.S. Marines are training Iraqi forces for a larger offensive against Islamic State. (Reuters)

6:05 P.M. Ban says UN mission in Libya should be cut substantially

The United Nations secretary-general says the U.N. mission in Libya should be cut substantially because of the new and more dangerous situation there.

Ban Ki-moon's report circulated Tuesday says the mission should be limited to 15 to 20 people inside the north African country while keeping a temporary base in Tunisia. He stresses this "does not mean that the United Nations is disengaging from Libya."

Libya's neighbors are calling for more U.N. action amid chaos that includes two separate governments, multiple armed groups and the growing presence of ISIS. 

The mission evacuated from Libya last year and has been trying to find compromise between a Western-backed government and another backed by Islamist militias. 

Ban says the mission's first goal must be ending the conflict. (AP) 

4:25 P.M. Iran promises to speed up cooperation with IAEA as deadline looms

Iran's nuclear negotiator promised speedier cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency on Tuesday, days after the U.N. watchdog said Tehran was continuing to stall parts of an investigation into its nuclear program. 

"We agreed ... to move faster and in a better sense (in cooperating with the IAEA)," Abbas Araqchi told reporters after meeting IAEA head Yukiya Amano in Vienna.

The U.N. investigation is happening in parallel with talks between Iran and the United States, Russia, Britain, China, France and Germany aimed at reaching a framework deal by an end-March deadline over Iranian nuclear energy work that the West fears is a cover for a weapons program. (Reuters) 

3:57 P.M. France confirms French woman kidnapped in Yemen

France's foreign ministry confirmed on Tuesday that a French woman had been kidnapped in Yemen.

"We unfortunately confirm the kidnapping this morning, in Sanaa, of a French national working for an international organisation," the ministry said in a statement. "We are fully mobilized to try and locate her and ensure a speedy liberation."

Security sources said earlier on Tuesday that gunmen had kidnapped a French woman and her Yemeni driver in the center of Yemen's capital while she was heading to work. (Reuters) 

3:10 P.M. Spain says female jihadist recruiting network broken up

Spanish authorities on Tuesday announced the breakup of a ring dedicated to recruiting young women to join ISIS, part of a push by European nations to stop citizens from traveling to Syria and Iraq, to reduce the risk of them returning home to carry out terror attacks.

Two suspected recruiters were arrested in the Spanish north African enclave of Melilla and two suspects accused of spreading ISIS propaganda online were detained in the northeastern cities of Barcelona and Girona, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

The four were not identified but the ministry said the suspects arrested in Melilla "were dedicated to the recruitment of women who, after a process of indoctrination, would end up integrated into this terror group."

Beside overseeing a sophisticated online recruiting operation, the two held meetings in homes to show potential recruits ISIS videos. Some them had started preparations to move to the conflict zones where ISIS operates, the ministry said. (AP)

10:30 A.M. ISIS militants abduct at least 90 Syrian Christians

Islamic State militants have abducted at least 90 people from Assyrian Christian villages in northeastern Syria, a monitor that tracks violence in Syria said on Tuesday.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the abductions took place after dawn raids in villages inhabited by the ancient Christian minority near the town of Tel Tmar, a mainly Assyrian town, in the western countryside of the city of Hasaka, a city mainly held by the Kurds.

The latest offensive coincides with a push by Syrian Kurds in northeastern Syria near the Iraqi border since Sunday that had compounded losses for the militant group in Syria. (Reuters) Read the full story

10:30 A.M. Egyptian court acquits Mubarak-era officials of graft charges

An Egyptian court on Tuesday acquitted two top Hosni Mubarak-era officials of graft charges at a retrial, judicial sources said, a day after a prominent activist was sentenced to five years in jail.

Former Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, and former Interior Minister Habib el-Adly were both charged with illegal profiting and squandering public funds.

Nazif and Adly had been sentenced to a one-year suspended jail term, and a five-year jail term respectively in 2011. They appealed against the verdict and the High Court ordered the retrial.

The trials of Mubarak-era figures have generally seen them cleared of charges, while liberal and Islamist activists are getting lengthy sentences. (Reuters)

3:50 A.M. New Zealand to send troops to Iraq to train local forces in fight against ISIS

New Zealand plans to send a small number of troops to Iraq to help train local forces in their battle against the Islamic State group.

Prime Minister John Key on Tuesday told lawmakers the country would deploy up to 143 military personnel. He said the troops would be based "behind the wire" training Iraqi security forces and would not be involved in combat missions.

He said most of the troops would likely be based in the Taji military base north of Baghdad as part of a joint mission with Australia. He said the two-year deployment would begin about May and would be reviewed by the government after nine months.

Key said New Zealand was one of 62 nations that were part of an international coalition battling the Islamic State group. (AP)

1:32 A.M. Seven civilians killed in Egypt airstrikes on Libya city, Amnesty International claims

Seven civilians were killed when Egyptian jets attacked suspected Islamist militant targets in the eastern Libyan city of Derna last week, Amnesty International said on Monday, citing eyewitnesses.

Egypt had flown air strikes last Monday against Islamic State targets, a day after the militant group released a video showing the beheading of a group of Egyptian Christians.

On Sunday, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said the air force had hit 13 targets selected after a careful study and reconnaissance "with precision" to avoid civilian casualties.

But London-based Amnesty said in a report "new eyewitness testimonies... indicate that the Egyptian Air Force failed to take the necessary precautions in carrying out an attack which killed seven civilians in a residential neighborhood in the Libyan city of Derna on 16 February."

"Egypt has now joined the ranks of those placing civilians at risk in Libya," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International. "The killing of seven civilians, six of them in their own homes, must be investigated, as it appears to have been disproportionate."

Amnesty said Egyptian jets had mostly hit military targets in Derna but witnesses had said that two missiles had struck densely populated residential areas near the city's university. (Reuters)