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SOMALIA

Shebab terrorists join al Qaeda in blow to 'crusaders'

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES | Somalia's extremist Shebab fighters have joined ranks with al-Qaeda, terror network chief Ayman al-Zawahri announced in a video message posted on jihadist forums on Thursday.

"I will break the good news to our Islamic nation, which will annoy the crusaders, and it is that the Shebab movement in Somalia has joined al-Qaeda," Zawahri said in the video released by al-Qaeda's media arm As-Sahab.

Shebab's leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, told Zawahri, "We will move along with you as faithful soldiers."

Shebab insurgents, fighting to overthrow a fragile Western-backed government in the war-torn Horn of Africa country, control large parts of central and southern Somalia.

UNITED KINGDOM

Judge sentences nine Muslims on terrorist charges

LONDON | A British judge on Thursday sent nine men to prison for terms of more than 16 years for plotting to bomb the London Stock Exchange and to set up a terrorist training camp.

The British Muslims all pleaded guilty last week as their trial was due to begin at London's Woolwich Crown Court.

Mohammed Chowdhury, 21, Shah Rahman, 28, Gurukanth Desai, 30, and Abdul Miah, 25, admitted planning to plant a homemade bomb in the stock exchange's toilets. Two others admitted lesser charges.

Judge Alan Wilkie said the defendants should be regarded as dangerous. He sentenced the six men to between five years and 16 years, 10 months.

Three other defendants admitted planning to set up a terrorist training camp in Pakistan and were given "indeterminate," or open-ended, sentences.

Mr. Wilkie said Mohammed Shahjahan, 27, Usman Khan, 20, and Nazam Hussain, 26 "regarded themselves as more serious jihadis than the others."

SOUTH AFRICA

Zuma sets ambitious building projects

JOHANNESBURG | President Jacob Zuma announced ambitious $40 billion infrastructure projects Thursday, laying out his plans for creating jobs and hope in nation harder hit than most in Africa by global recession.

"The massive investment in infrastructure must leave more than just power stations, rail lines, dams and roads," he said in a nationally televised state of the nation address to parliament in Cape Town. "It must industrialize the country, generate skills and boost much needed job creation."

His plan spanned the country, from a dam in the southeastern homeland of former President Nelson Mandela to a rail and road network and new water systems to boost prospects for mining in Limpopo, a province in the far northwest.

SAUDI ARABIA

Journalist faces death for criticizing Prophet Mohammed

RIYADH | A young Saudi journalist is facing calls for his execution after tweeting remarks about the Prophet Mohammed.

On the occasion of the Muslim prophet's birthday last week, 23-year-old Hamza Kashgari tweeted: "I have loved things about you and I have hated things about you and there is a lot I don't understand about you."

"I will not pray for you," he added.

The controversial tweet sparked a frenzy of responses - some 30,000, according to an online service that tracks tweets in the Arab world.

FRANCE

Perfume heir on trial for racist insults

PARIS | An heir to the Guerlain perfume empire went on trial Thursday in Paris on charges he made racist insults on national television.

Jean-Paul Guerlain faces up to six months in prison and a maximum fine of $29,900 if convicted.

Prosecutor Alexandre Aubert denounced what he called the use of a "degrading stereotype." The verdict was set for March 29.

Mr. Guerlain is accused of using a French word for black people in a derogatory way, as he described how hard he worked to create one of the company's most famed perfumes in a 2010 interview on France 2 television.

The elegant 75-year-old Guerlain told the court it was an "imbecilic" remark.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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