- - Thursday, February 16, 2012

YEMEN

Senior al Qaeda leader killed in Yemen

SANAA | A senior al Qaeda leader in Yemen was killed in a family feud Thursday, and an ensuing gunbattle between his followers and opponents left 16 other militants dead, a security official and tribal elders said.

Tariq al-Dahab was slain at his home in the southern village of al-Masameh by his half-brother, Hizam, and other relatives, according to the official and the elders.

Hizam al-Dahab and his supporters then fled, taking refuge in another house. Tariq al-Dahab’s followers pursued them and a gun fight broke out that left 16 dead, including Hizam.

It was not immediately clear what had triggered the feud.

During the past year of Yemen’s turmoil, al Qaeda-linked terrorists have seized control of several cities and towns in the south, including large swaths of Abyan province, and the provincial capital of Zinjibar. Government operations have failed to oust them.

Tariq al-Dahab became prominent in the Yemeni branch of al Qaeda after his sister married Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born radical militant cleric who was killed by a U.S. drone strike last year.

UNITED KINGDOM

Cameron tells Scotland he will fight for union

EDINBURGH | British Prime Minister David Cameron vowed in a speech in the Scottish capital Thursday to fight to keep the United Kingdom intact, as Scotland’s leaders push for a referendum in 2014 on independence.

In an impassioned address made against the backdrop of Edinburgh Castle, Mr. Cameron said he believes with his “head, heart and soul” that the 300-year-old union should continue.

He also offered to consider allowing Scotland to have more autonomy within Great Britain, if voters reject independence.

“I believe in the United Kingdom. I am a Unionist head, heart and soul. I believe that England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are stronger together than they would ever be apart,” he said.

“I’m ready to fight for the life of this country.”

Later, Mr. Cameron held his first talks about the referendum with Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond of the pro-independence Scottish National Party. Mr. Cameron later said they had made little progress.

ISRAEL

Italy wins contract for military training jets

JERUSALEM | Israel has reached a $1 billion preliminary deal to buy 30 Italian military training jets, Israeli defense officials said Thursday, providing a long-awaited upgrade to what is widely viewed as the most advanced air force in the Middle East.

The agreement, which still needs formal government approval, marked the end of a long competition between Italy and South Korea over the lucrative sale.

Israel announced it would buy the M-346, made by the Italian company Alenia Aermacchi and designed for low-cost flights. The aircraft will replace American Skyhawks, which the Israeli Air Force has trained with for 40 years.

Italy will reciprocate the Israeli purchase by buying $1 billion in Israeli defense equipment, Israel’s Defense Ministry said.

IRAQ

Judicial panel concludes vice president ran death squads

BAGHDAD | An Iraqi judicial panel said Thursday the Sunni vice president and his staff ran death squads that killed security officials and Shiite pilgrims. The findings, touted as the first independent assessment of the accusations, were likely to further hike sectarian tensions over the politically divisive case.

Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi has denied the charges, and the accusations have angered many Sunnis who see them as part of a campaign by the Shiite prime minister to push them out of politics.

After wrapping up a two-month investigation, the nine-judge committee found at least 150 cases where either Mr. al-Hashemi, his bodyguards or other employees were linked to attacks ranging from roadside bombs to assassinations of security agents and Shiite pilgrims.

IRAQ

Exiles agree to leave Camp Ashraf

PARIS | Former Iranian rebels agreed Thursday to begin evacuating its longtime base at Camp Ashraf in central Iraq and transfer to a U.N.-approved site near Baghdad.

Maryam Rajavi, leader of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance in Iran, the first 400 of 3,400 exiles will be transferred to Camp Liberty, a former U.S. military base.

Before agreeing to the move, Mrs. Rajavi said she had received assurances from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that the United States will guarantee their safety.

The resistance, which includes the ex-rebels of People’s Mujahedeen of Iran, had feared that pro-Iranian forces in Iraq would kill them or deport them if they left Camp Ashraf.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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