Top al-Qaida planner reported killed in missile strike

Pakistan

Top al-Qaida planner killed in missile strike

An apparent U.S. missile strike along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan is believed to have killed a top al-Qaida operations planner this week, U.S. counterterrorism officials said. Saleh al-Somali was one of two Arab men thought to have been killed when a pair of missiles tore into their car Tuesday near the town of Miran Shah in North Waziristan province, according to U.S. sources and Pakistani officials in the region. Local authorities said the missiles were fired by an unmanned aircraft of the type operated by the CIA inside Pakistan's lawless tribal belt. If his death is confirmed, Somali would be the second senior al-Qaida or Taliban leader killed since September, when a similar strike killed Najmuddin Jalolov, the leader of a militant faction in the tribal belt, and three other top operatives.

Tehran, Iran

Clerics rally to support leader

Tens of thousands of hard-line clerics rallied in cities across Iran on Saturday to denounce student protesters who burned photos of the country's supreme leader on Monday. The rallies were a second day of protest by government supporters outraged by the destruction of photos of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who hard-liners believe is answerable only to God and above reproach. The act by students was a reflection of how a protest movement that began by rejecting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's June 12 re-election as fraudulent has evolved to confront the country's ruling theocracy.

Iran has conditions for nuclear swap

Iran's foreign minister said Saturday that his country was willing to exchange most of its uranium for processed nuclear fuel from abroad — as the United Nations has proposed — but only according to a timetable that Western powers appear to have already rejected. The statement by Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki came just days before a scheduled meeting of the United States and its allies to discuss possible new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program — and may be aimed at trying to divide them, analysts said.

Elsewhere

Switzerland: Around 700 Swiss Muslims peacefully protested in the capital, Bern, against their country's minaret ban on Saturday, with speakers denouncing what they called a hate campaign against Islam. Protest organizer Nicolas Blancho said those who voted for the ban had been scared by right-wing propaganda.

Philippines: President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo lifted martial law Saturday in a southern province where 57 people were massacred in the country's worst political violence, but the area will remain under a state of emergency while authorities conduct an investigation.

Turkey: Angry Kurds battled Turkish police with rocks and firebombs Saturday to protest a decision by the country's top court to shut down a pro-Kurdish political party on charges of ties to militants. The party was banned after the main Kurdish rebel group claimed responsibility for killing seven Turkish soldiers in central Turkey.

Italy: A pod of nine sperm whales beached on Italy's southern coast and at least five died in what experts said Saturday was a rare and puzzling mass beaching for such a large species. Two swam back to deeper waters, and officials were considering euthanizing the remaining two.

Times wires

Top al-Qaida planner reported killed in missile strike 12/12/09 [Last modified: Saturday, December 12, 2009 9:27pm]

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