Yemen's interior ministry confirmed that 55 al Qaeda linked militants were killed in what a Yemeni official called an "unprecedented" joint aerial campaign between Yemen and the United States in the mountainous Abyan, Shabwa, and Bayda provinces from Saturday to Monday. Air strikes, possibly from U.S. drones, reportedly targeted a training camp as well as several vehicles in the region. Another Yemeni official estimated the number of dead in the 40s. According to the interior ministry, three senior members of al Qaeda were among the fatalities as well as three civilians. Additionally, reports suggest Ibrahim al-Asiri, al Qaeda's chief bomb maker, may have been killed in an ambush over the weekend by U.S. backed special forces. Since the weekend's strikes, gunmen have killed four senior security officers, according to Yemeni officials.
The United States is looking into whether a toxic chemical, likely chlorine, was used in an attack against the rebel held Hama province village of Kfar Zeita on April 11. State Department spokesperson Jennifer Psaki said, "We are examining allegations that the government was responsible." The statement came after French President Francois Holland said he has evidence suggesting the recent use of chemical weapons, but no definitive proof. Meanwhile, the United Nations, European Union, and United States have denounced Syria's plan to hold a presidential election on June 3. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the planned vote would "hamper the prospects for a political solution." Psaki said, "Calling for a de-facto referendum rings especially hollow now as the regime continues to massacre the very electorate it purports to represent."
- Saudi Arabia has fired its health minister, Abdullah al-Rabiah, as two more deaths were reported from the Mers virus in the kingdom.
- The trial of three Al Jazeera journalists and several others held on terrorism charges resumed in Egypt on Tuesday for a sixth session.
- Several Iranian lawmakers are demanding an inquiry into the alleged beatings of political prisoners at Tehran's Evin Prison, which penal authorities claim was a routine inspection for contraband.
Arguments and Analysis
'Vote or Die: Syria's reelection of a mass murderer' (Brooklyn Middleton, Al Arabiya)
"At the same time the
world is applauding the Syrian regime for reportedly shipping out 80 percent of
its chemical weapons and as Bashar al-Assad announces he will run in
presidential elections slated for 3 June, new reports emerge that Damascus has
reinvented a way to massacre its own people: barrel bombs packed with toxic
chlorine gas dropped from helicopters.
In what could prove to be a truly worst case scenario, it appears the Assad regime has carved out a way to continue waging chemical warfare that is less deadly than the major East Ghouta attack but still effective at targeting large areas."
'Arab election season' (Marc Lynch, The Washington Post)
"In the years following 2011, there was reason to hope for something more from Arab elections - hopes vindicated to varying degrees by competitive, surprising, reasonably free and fair, and meaningful elections in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt. The parliaments and presidencies produced by those elections struggled to consolidate their legitimacy amidst the deep institutional uncertainty, ongoing contentious mobilization, and political polarization that followed. But while elections have never been sufficient for meaningful democracy, they are manifestly necessary. It is painfully ironic that the mantra "democracy is more than elections" took hold following one of the only Arab elections that actually approached the minimal standard for democracy. Those votes really were different from the dozens of earlier elections across the region, offering a tantalizing potential for the consolidation of representative, accountable government and the peaceful rotation of power. That's now mostly gone, with even the idea of democratic legitimacy mortally wounded. Few of the current round of elections have much to do with any of that."
-- Mary Casey
MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images