World Briefs: Al Qaeda says it killed American for proselytizing

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YEMEN

SANAA — Al Qaeda’s Yemen branch said Thursday that it killed an American teacher because he was trying to spread Christianity in the mainly Muslim Arab nation.

Joel Shrum, 39, a native of Mount Joy, Pa., was gunned down Sunday in the central city of Taiz, where he had been living with his wife and two sons. He was studying Arabic and teaching English at a language institute.

The claim of responsibility, which was posted on a militant website, comes as the terror network increasingly has sought to exploit the political turmoil in the Arab world’s most impoverished nation.

“It was God’s gift for the mujahedeen to kill the American Joel Shrum who was actively proselytizing under the cover of teaching in Taiz,” said the statement by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the terror network’s Yemen branch is formally known.

The slain teacher had worked at the International Training and Development Center, which was established in the 1970s and is one of the oldest foreign language institutes in Yemen.

VATICAN CITY

Vatican: Pope’s Cuba trip should help democracy effort

The Vatican’s No. 2 has dismissed suggestions that Cuba's Communist government could exploit Pope Benedict XVI’s upcoming trip as a propaganda tool, saying the visit should help promote democracy on the island.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state, said that he expects an outpouring of support for the pope because he is the head of the Catholic Church, and that the visit will only make things better for the Cuban church.

“I don’t believe the visit will be exploited by the government,” Cardinal Bertone told the Turin daily La Stampa in an interview published Thursday. “In fact, I think the government and Cuban people will do their utmost to welcome the pope and show him the esteem and trust that the leader of the Catholic Church deserves.”

Benedict, 84, leaves Friday for a six-day trip that will take him first to Mexico, then to Cuba on Monday.

It is Benedict’s first trip to Spanish-speaking Latin America, and Pope John Paul II’s shadow will be looming large, given his five visits to Mexico, which claimed the Polish pope as its own, and his historic 1998 trip to Cuba.

SYRIA

Clashes rage across Syria despite U.N. statement

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