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Egypt Declares State of Emergency After Fatal Church Attacks

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President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi
  • Egypt Declares State of Emergency After Fatal Church Attacks

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency and created a powerful new anti-terrorism body after Palm Sunday church bombings claimed by Islamic State left at least 43 dead.

Sunday’s declarations suggested a tougher approach to come against militants whose simmering war with the government has strained efforts to stabilize the country and revive an economy battered by years of unrest. Even before the new measures, Egypt’s onslaught against Islamists and other dissidents has been criticized by Western governments and human rights groups.

The attacks earlier in the day were the deadliest strike on the country’s Christian minority since El-Sisi was elected in 2014. They also reflected the potential for a troubling expansion of the militants’ theater of operations, at a time when Egyptians’ patience with reforms is being tested by soaring prices linked to the November decision to float the currency.

“I ask Egyptians to bear the pain,” El-Sisi said in a televised speech after the attacks.

At least 27 people were killed and more than 70 wounded in the first blast in the Nile Delta city of Tanta. A second explosion in a Coptic cathedral in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria left at least 16 others dead, officials said.

Trump Offers Support

The bombings came less than a week after El-Sisi met President Donald Trump at the White House, where he was praised for his efforts to fight terrorism. Trump tweeted on Sunday that he’s “sad to hear about the terrorist attack in Egypt” and has “great confidence that President Al Sisi will handle the situation properly.” He later spoke with the Egyptian leader by phone to express his condolences and offer support, the Egyptian presidency said in a statement.

By targeting two major cities outside its base in the northern Sinai Peninsula, Islamic State showed it’s “still able to operate — despite this growing pressure — and to embarrass the Egyptian government after Sisi’s visit to Washington” and before Pope Francis’ visit this month, said Michael Horowitz, director of intelligence at the political risk consultancy Prime Source.

In a televised address, the Egyptian leader said the state of emergency would go into effect after necessary constitutional measures were taken — largely a formality after he’d earlier ordered the military to deploy nationwide to help secure vital institutions and infrastructure.

The new anti-terrorism body will be staffed at the highest level and granted the authority to take whatever action is needed to “adjust the whole situation, whether it’s related to the media, the judiciary, legal and religious discourse,” he said.

Multi-Pronged Attacks

The twin bombings bore the hallmarks of the Islamic State — multi-pronged attacks aimed at inflicting as much damage as possible while minimizing the group’s losses. Suicide bombers were believed to be involved in both assaults, state media reported.

The violence was “a mixed bag” for El-Sisi, said Samuel Tadros, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington.

“On the one hand it reinforces his narrative that Egypt is in war against terrorism, rallying the nation around the flag and so forth,” Tadros said. “At the same time the attacks send a message of incompetence of the security apparatus” in containing the militancy, he said.

If the jihadist group proves able to operate more extensively outside of Sinai, “that would be a very dangerous development,” he added.

The violence against civilians also dealt the president a fresh blow at a time when impatience is mounting with the pace and impact of economic reforms.

Currency Controls

November’s decision to abandon currency controls helped to secure a $12 billion International Monetary Fund loan and attract foreign investors. Yet it has also caused the pound to lose half its value against the dollar, sending prices soaring. Annual core inflation climbed to over 33 percent in February.

The militant threat exploded after the 2013 military-backed popular uprising against Islamist President Mohamed Mursi and the deadly crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood group that followed. The expansion of the attacks outside the confines of Sinai and, according to Egyptian media, a new focus on targeting Christians have only proven the jihadists’ resilience.

A deadly bombing at the Cairo cathedral in December, claimed by Islamic State’s local affiliate, killed at least 25 worshippers. In 2015, the affiliate also claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian jet near the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, an attack that left 224 dead and dealt the vital tourism industry a blow from which it’s yet to recover.

The latest bombing “won’t be the last terrorist attack, because the state fights terrorism but doesn’t fight terrorism-inspiring ideas, which is the main cause of the problem,” billionaire businessman Naguib Sawiris, one of Egypt’s richest men, wrote on his Twitter account.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Government

COVID-19 Vaccine: African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) to Purchase 270 Million Doses for Nigeria, Other African Nations

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African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) Approves $2 Billion for the Purchase of 270 million Doses for African Nations

African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) said it has approved $2 billion for the purchase of 270 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for African nations, including Nigeria.

Prof. Benedict Oramah, the President of the Bank, disclosed this at a virtual Africa Soft Power Series held on Tuesday.

He, however, stated that the lender is looking to raise more funds for the COVID-19 vaccines’ acquisition.

He said: “The African Union knows that unless you put the virus away, your economy can’t come back. If Africa didn’t do anything, it would become a COVID-19 continent when other parts of the world have already moved on.
“Recall that it took seven years during the heat of HIV for them to come to Africa after 12 million people had died.

“With the assistance of the AU, we were able to get 270 million vaccines and financing need of about $2 billion. Afreximbank then went ahead to secure the $2 billion. But that money for the 270 million doses could only add 15 per cent to the 20 per cent that Covax was bringing.

He added that this is not the time to wait for handouts or free vaccines as other countries will naturally sort themselves out before African nations.

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China Calls for Better China-U.S. Relations

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China Calls for China-U.S. Relations

Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said on Monday the United States and China could work together on issues like climate change and the coronavirus pandemic if they repaired their damaged bilateral relationship.

Wang, a Chinese state councillor and foreign minister, said Beijing stood ready to reopen constructive dialogue with Washington after relations between the two countries sank to their lowest in decades under former president Donald Trump.

Wang called on Washington to remove tariffs on Chinese goods and abandon what he said was an irrational suppression of the Chinese tech sector, steps he said would create the “necessary conditions” for cooperation.

Before Wang spoke at a forum sponsored by the foreign ministry, officials played footage of the “ping-pong diplomacy” of 1972 when an exchange of table tennis players cleared the way for then U.S. President Richard Nixon to visit China.

Wang, a Chinese state councillor and foreign minister, said Beijing stood ready to reopen constructive dialogue with Washington after relations between the two countries sank to their lowest in decades under former president Donald Trump.

Wang called on Washington to remove tariffs on Chinese goods and abandon what he said was an irrational suppression of the Chinese tech sector, steps he said would create the “necessary conditions” for cooperation.

Before Wang spoke at a forum sponsored by the foreign ministry, officials played footage of the “ping-pong diplomacy” of 1972 when an exchange of table tennis players cleared the way for then U.S. President Richard Nixon to visit China.

Wang urged Washington to respect China’s core interests, stop “smearing” the ruling Communist Party, stop interfering in Beijing’s internal affairs and stop “conniving” with separatist forces for Taiwan’s independence.

“Over the past few years, the United States basically cut off bilateral dialogue at all levels,” Wang said in prepared remarks translated into English.

“We stand ready to have candid communication with the U.S. side, and engage in dialogues aimed at solving problems.”

Wang pointed to a recent call between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden as a positive step.

Washington and Beijing have clashed on multiple fronts including trade, accusations of human rights crimes against the Uighur Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region and Beijing’s territorial claims in the resources-rich South China Sea.

The Biden administration has, however, signalled it will maintain pressure on Beijing. Biden has voiced concern about Beijing’s “coercive and unfair” trade practices and endorsed of a Trump administration determination that China has committed genocide in Xinjiang.

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U.S. Supreme Court Allows Release of Trump Tax Returns

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President Trump Signs Executive Order In Oval Office Of The White House

U.S. Supreme Court Allows Release of Trump Tax Returns

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday paved the way for a New York City prosecutor to obtain former President Donald Trump’s tax returns and other financial records as part of a criminal investigation, a blow to his quest to conceal details of his finances.

The justices without comment rebuffed Trump’s request to put on hold an Oct. 7 lower court ruling directing the former Republican president’s longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, to comply with a subpoena to turn over the materials to a grand jury convened by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat.

“The work continues,” Vance said in a statement issued after the court’s action.

Vance had previously said in a letter to Trump’s lawyers that his office would be free to immediately enforce the subpoena if the justices rejected Trump’s request.

A lawyer for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority included three Trump appointees, had already ruled once in the dispute, last July rejecting Trump’s broad argument that he was immune from criminal probes as a sitting president.

Unlike all other recent U.S. presidents, Trump refused during his four years in office to make his tax returns public. The data could provide details on his wealth and the activities of his family real-estate company, the Trump Organization.

Trump, who left office on Jan. 20 after being defeated in his Nov. 3 re-election bid by Democrat Joe Biden, continues to face an array of legal issues concerning his personal and business conduct.

Vance issued a subpoena to Mazars in August 2019 seeking Trump’s corporate and personal tax returns from 2011 to 2018. Trump’s lawyers sued to block the subpoena, arguing that as a sitting president, Trump had absolute immunity from state criminal investigations.

The Supreme Court in its July ruling rejected those arguments but said Trump could raise other objections to the subpoena. Trump’s lawyers then argued before lower courts that the subpoena was overly broad and amounted to political harassment, but U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in August and the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in October rejected those claims.

Vance’s investigation, which began more than two years ago, had focused on hush money payments that the president’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen made before the 2016 election to two women – adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal – who said they had sexual encounters with Trump.

In recent court filings, Vance has suggested that the probe is now broader and could focus on potential bank, tax and insurance fraud, as well as falsification of business records.

In separate litigation, the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives was seeking to subpoena similar records. The Supreme Court in July sent that matter back to lower courts for further review.

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