Doha denies involvement in Cairo church attack

Egyptian security forces (L) inspect the scene of a bomb explosion at the Saint Peter and Saint Paul Coptic Orthodox Church on December 11, 2016, in Cairo's Abbasiya neighbourhood. (AFP file photo)
Updated 15 December 2016

Doha denies involvement in Cairo church attack

DOHA: Qatar has denied any link with a Cairo church bombing that killed 25 people and accused critics of trying to sully the country’s name.
Doha’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs added that it condemned all “terrorism acts,” in a statement released through the Qatar News Agency on Tuesday night.
On Monday, Egypt accused fugitive Muslim Brotherhood leaders who fled to Qatar of training and financing those responsible for the deadly bomb attack on the Saint Peter and Saint Paul Church a day earlier.
Cairo’s Interior Ministry pointed a finger at suspect Mohab Mostafa El-Sayed Qassem, also known as “The Doctor,” who traveled to Qatar in 2015. It said Qassem was offered financial and logistical support to carry out attacks in Egypt. But Qatar said such claims were baseless. The Foreign Ministry condemned allegations that Qatar was involved in the bombing on “the pretext that the suspect visited Qatar in 2015.”
Ministry spokesman Ahmed Al-Rumaihi said such statements to “sully the name of Qatar” were an attempt to “cover up any failures of the relevant Egyptian authorities” and would inflame tensions.
Qassem visited Qatar on December 3, 2015, “like hundreds of thousands of others who are allowed to enter the country for work or a visit,” he said.
The suspect headed back to Cairo on Feb. 1, but Doha received no requests from Egypt to detain him, Al-Rumaihi said.

UN calls for Hodeidah ceasefire as momentum gathers for Yemen peace talks

Updated 46 min 25 sec ago

UN calls for Hodeidah ceasefire as momentum gathers for Yemen peace talks

  • Flurry of diplomacy to calm tensions ahead of a return to UN-backed talks
  • Yemeni military says 147 Houthis were killed in last 24 hours despite reports of reduced fighting

LONDON: The United Nations’ aid chief called Tuesday for a ceasefire around Hodeidah amid reports that fighting in the Yemeni city had reduced.

The appeal came amid a flurry of diplomacy to calm tensions ahead of a return to UN-backed talks to try and end the conflict.

Fighting intensified around Hodeidah last week as pro-government troops, supported by the Arab coalition, made advances around the port against the Iran-backed Houthi militia.

AP reported that an informal agreement to reduce hostilities in and around Hodeidah had taken hold in the last two days, in what could be a prelude to peace talks.

However, nearly 147 Houthi militants were killed and dozens wounded in the last 24 hours during battles with government troops, the Yemeni Ministry of Defense said on Tuesday.

The ministry said troops advanced in a number of neighborhoods, securing areas and a school and businesses from the Houthis.

Hodeidah, Yemen’s main port, has become the main focus of the conflict, which started in 2014 when the Houthis seized the capital Sanaa.

With dire warnings over the humanitarian situation in the county, pressure is growing for a negotiated end to the conflict. The United States has called for a ceasefire and talks on ending the war while Britain has said it is preparing a Security Council draft resolution that would pave the way to peace talks.

On Tuesday, Mark Lowcock, the UN’s under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, called for a cessation of hostilities, particularly “around all the infrastructure and facilities on which the aid operation and commercial importers rely.”

The UN envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, welcomed the reduction of clashes and said it was a “crucial step” to prevent further humanitarian suffering.

“I am confident that the parties are ready to work on a political solution and am encouraged by the constructive engagement received from all sides,” he said.

Sweden is ready to host peace talks as soon as possible to try and negotiate an end to the war in Yemen, Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said on Tuesday.

“We are preparing ourselves to, when the parties are ready, welcome them in Sweden,” she said.

Wallstrom said she hoped the negotiations could begin this month.

UN talks in Geneva to end the war, which has killed nearly 10,000 people, collapsed when the Houthis refused to attend.