- - Wednesday, July 11, 2012

KHARTOUM — Osama bin Laden’s cook, who spent a decade as a prisoner in the U.S. detention facility for militants at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, returned Wednesday to his native Sudan after completing a shortened sentence for aiding al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Ibrahim al-Qosi was getting reacquainted with his wife and two daughters and other family members and will spend some time in a government-sponsored reintegration program in the capital, Khartoum, before returning to his hometown, his attorney, Paul Reichler, said.

Mr. Al-Qosi, who recently turned 52, had not seen his family since he was captured and sent to the U.S. base in Cuba in early 2002. His release brings the prison population down to 168. Mr. al-Qosi admitted serving food and providing other services at a militant camp. He was among the first prisoners taken to Guantanamo Bay.

The Pentagon and state-run media in Sudan confirmed Mr. al-Qosi’s release.

MALI

Islamists raze tombs at ancient mosque

BAMAKO — The Islamists controlling northern Mali destroyed two tombs Tuesday at the ancient Djingareyber mosque in fabled Timbuktu and vowed to destroy all World Heritage sites in the region.

Armed with hoes and pickaxes, members of the Islamist Ansar Dine hammered away at the two earthen tombs until they were destroyed, witnesses told Agence France-Presse.

“Currently, the Islamists are busy destroying two tombs of Timbuktu’s great Djingareyber mosque. They are shooting in the air to chase away the crowd, to scare them,” one witness said as the rampage began.

“The two mausolea are adjacent to the western wall of the great mosque, and the Islamists have hoes, chisels. They are hitting the mausolea, which are made out of packed earth,” said a source close to the mosque’s imam.

Another witness reported that the Islamists had cried “Allahu akbar” (God is great) as they hammered away at the mosque, one of the most important in Timbuktu.

KENYA

Police: Iranians shipped 220 pounds of explosives

NAIROBI — Two Iranians accused of planning attacks on Western targets in Kenya shipped more than 220 pounds of a powerful explosive into this East African country, and most of it has not been recovered, a police officer told a court Tuesday.

Iranian nationals Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammad and Sayed Mansour Mousavi were charged with preparing to commit acts intended to cause grievous harm after they were arrested last month and led officials to a 33-pound stash of the explosive RDX.

Police Sgt. Erick Opagal, an investigator with Kenya’s Anti-Terrorism Police Unit, asked the court to deny the two suspects bail because more than 187 pounds of the explosive that authorities say was shipped into Kenya has not been found.

Officials in Kenya said the two suspects may have been planning attacks on Israeli, American, British or Saudi Arabian interests in Kenya.

NIGERIA

Islamists claim attacks on Christians

MAIDUGURI — An Islamist sect claimed responsibility Tuesday for weekend attacks that killed at least 58 people, including two lawmakers in central Nigeria, adding a new dimension to a security crisis in a region with years of religious violence.

Christians “will not know peace again” if they do not accept Islam, said a statement from the Boko Haram sect obtained by the Associated Press.

“[Boko Haram] wants to inform the world of its delight over the success of the attacks we launched on Barkin Ladi and Riyom in Plateau state on Christians and security operatives, including members of the National Assembly,” the statement said.

Hundreds of assailants armed with guns and machetes stormed a dozen Christian villages on Saturday, the army said. Some attackers wore police uniforms and bulletproof vests, said Capt. Mustapha Saliu, a spokesman for a special unit of police and soldiers deployed to halt long-running violence in the area.

The next day, as dignitaries attended a mass burial for the victims, assailants attacked again, killing a federal senator and a state lawmaker.

SOUTH AFRICA

Tennis star probed on rape accusations

JOHANNESBURG — Investigators on two continents are investigating accusations that a Hall of Fame tennis player was a serial pedophile, three decades after the reported rapes.

But an advocate for child abuse victims in South Africa, one of the places where tennis star Bob Hewitt is accused of preying on girls he coached, said the sporting world has yet to face the challenge of protecting children.

Also this week, South African police said they had completed an initial investigation into a rape case that a South African woman filed against Mr. Hewitt in December.

Police said they were awaiting guidance from prosecutors on how to proceed with a case involving allegations dating to the 1980s.

Mr. Hewitt has not commented on the accusations or investigations.

From wire dispatches and staff reports