- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 20, 2010

YEMEN

Shi’ite rebel leader alive but wounded

SAN’A | The leader of Yemeni Shi’ite rebels, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, is alive but seriously wounded and has entrusted a relative with leading the northern rebellion in his stead, a Yemeni official said Tuesday.

There was no immediate confirmation of the report from the rebels, who said on their Web site that fighting was continuing in a strategic area of Yemen bordering Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter.

“According to the information available to us, al-Houthi sustained wounds to his leg and hand, and his leg was amputated after that,” a local government official from the northern province of Saada, the rebel stronghold, told Reuters news agency.

The official said al-Houthi was wounded about a month ago, but gave no details as to where. A government Web site reported last month that al-Houthi may have died after being severely wounded by government forces. That was never confirmed by the rebels.

Shi’ite rebels from the Zaidi sect have been fighting government troops in mountainous north Yemen since 2004, complaining of marginalization.

Yemen is also fighting al Qaeda in several provinces while trying to contain separatist sentiment in the south. The instability has prompted fears that al Qaeda may exploit the chaos to strengthen its foothold in the poorest Arab country.

IRAN

Kurdish rebels blamed for prosecutor killing

TEHRAN | An Iranian official said Tuesday that a Kurdish rebel group may have been involved in the killing of a prosecutor gunned down outside his home in a northwestern town near the Turkish border.

Two gunmen opened fire late Monday on Vali Hajgholizadeh, who officials described as a local prosecutor with an excellent record of fighting opponents of the Islamic Republic. The attack was in the town of Khoy, about 20 miles from the border of predominantly Kurdish southeastern Turkey.

The town is in an area that has seen occasional clashes between security forces and Kurdish separatist groups. The official English-language Press TV said the prosecutor had received death threats from Kurdish separatists over the past few days and that four suspects have been arrested in the killing.

IRAN

Western warships threatened

TEHRAN | Iran’s Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi said Tuesday that Western warships stationed in the Persian Gulf are “best targets” for the Islamic Republic if its nuclear sites are attacked, Fars news agency reported.

Iranian officials have repeatedly threatened to deliver a “crushing response” and hit U.S. targets, including its bases in the Gulf and neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan, if Iran’s nuclear sites are attacked.

“Why are there so many warships there? The Westerners know that these warships are the best target for operation by Iran if they do anything against [us],” Mr. Vahidi told a conference entitled “Persian Gulf” in Tehran.

He also criticized the building of U.S. bases in the region and Washington’s “unofficial presence in Yemen.”

LEBANON

2009 was best for tourism

BEIRUT | Nearly 2 million tourists visited Lebanon in 2009, a record that exceeds even the glamorous years before the civil war when Beirut was known as the Paris of the Middle East.

In figures released to the Associated Press on Tuesday, the Ministry of Tourism said 1,851,081 tourists visited Lebanon in 2009, a 39 percent increase from the year before. The previous record was 1.4 million tourists in 1974 — just before the disastrous 1975-90 civil war broke out.

Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud estimated the country’s annual income from tourism at up to $7 billion, or about 20 percent of gross domestic product.

IRAQ

50,000 ex-fighters get government jobs

BAGHDAD | Nearly 50,000 Sunni fighters who sided with American forces against al Qaeda and other militants in Iraq are now in government jobs, a top official said Tuesday in an attempt to soothe fears they would be neglected by the country’s Shi’ite leaders.

Many of the former fighters, part of a group known as the Sons of Iraq, were themselves former insurgents who switched sides to try to subdue violence. The U.S. has been urging Iraq’s Shi’ite-led government to find jobs for the fighters to promote national unity and maintain security as American troops begin to leave the country.

Mohammed Salman al-Saadi, chairman of Iraq’s Implementation and Follow-up Committee for National Reconciliation, said Iraq hopes to put the rest of the estimated 96,000 Sons of Iraq in government jobs by summer.

EGYPT

Ancient temple of cat goddess found

CAIRO | Archaeologists have unearthed a 2,000-year-old temple that may have been dedicated to the ancient Egyptian cat goddess, Bastet, the Supreme Council of Antiquities said Tuesday.

The ruins of the Ptolemaic-era temple were discovered by Egyptian archaeologists in the heart of the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, founded by Alexander the Great in the 4th century B.C.

The city was the seat of the Greek-speaking Ptolemaic Dynasty, which ruled over Egypt for 300 years until the suicide of Queen Cleopatra. The statement said the temple was thought to belong to Queen Berenice, wife of King Ptolemy III who ruled Egypt in the 3rd century B.C.

Mohammed Abdel-Maqsood, the Egyptian archaeologist who led the excavation team, said the discovery may be the first trace of the long-sought location of Alexandria’s royal quarter.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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