President heading to U.S. for medical treatment
SANAA — President Ali Abdullah Saleh said he will leave for the United States for medical treatment as he asked his people for forgiveness in a farewell speech delivered as he left Sanaa on Sunday.
“I will go to the United States for treatment and will then return as head of the General People’s Congress party,” Mr. Saleh said in a televised speech.
“I ask for forgiveness from all my people, men and women, for any shortcomings during my 33-year-long rule.”
His departure came a day after parliament adopted a law giving Mr. Saleh “complete” immunity from prosecution in return for stepping down under a transition deal brokered by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.
U.S. drone strike kills leading al Qaeda terrorist
MOGADISHU — A U.S. drone strike killed an al Qaeda official of Lebanese origin fighting alongside insurgents in Somalia, officials said.
Three missiles fired from an unmanned aerial vehicle killed Bilal al-Berjawi, who was riding in a car on the outskirts of Mogadishu, according to a statement from the insurgent al-Kataib media foundation late Saturday.
The al-Shabab terrorist group said that Berjawi was a Lebanese and British citizen who grew up in West London and fought in Afghanistan before going to Somalia in 2006. The British government said Sunday that he is not a citizen.
“The martyr received what he wished for, and what he went out for … brother Bilal al-Berjawi was exposed to bombing in an outskirt of Mogadishu from a drone that is believed to be American,” al-Shabab said in a statement said. “He was martyred immediately.”
The strike was confirmed by a U.S. official in Washington.
Netanyahu condemns cleric telling Muslims to kill Jews
JERUSALEM — The Palestinians’ top Muslim cleric faced sharp Israeli criticism Sunday for a speech in which he quoted a religious text that includes passages about killing Jews.
Mufti Mohammed Hussein’s comments came at a political gathering of supporters of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Jan. 7 that recently was posted on the Internet.
“The hour of resurrection will not come until you fight the Jews,” Mr. Hussein told the gathering, citing statements attributed to the Prophet Muhammad. “The Jews will hide behind stones and trees. But the trees and the stones will call: ‘Oh Muslim, oh servant of God, there is a Jew hiding behind me so come and kill him.’ “
The comments drew angry reactions from Israelis on Sunday.
“We’re talking about a heinous offense that all nations of the world must condemn,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
Arab League urges Assad to step down
CAIRO — Arab League foreign ministers Sunday urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to transfer power to the vice president and called for the formation of a national unity government within two months.
Mr. Assad should “delegate powers to the vice president to liaise with a government of national unity,” according to a statement read by Qatari premier Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani at a news conference after the Cairo meeting.
Earlier Sunday, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said his country is pulling its observers from the widely criticized Arab League observer mission to Syria.
Saudi Arabia “is withdrawing from the mission because the Syrian government has not respected any of the clauses” in the Arab plan aimed at ending the crisis there, he said according to the text of a statement he made at a ministerial meeting of the 22-member body in Cairo.
Prosecutors demand death for al Qaeda leader
ALGIERS — Prosecutors Sunday requested the death sentence for a top leader in Al-Qaeda’s North African branch, and another person in a trial on the deaths of two Algerian soldiers.
Mokhtar Belmokhtar and nine co-defendants are accused of perpetrating several terrorist acts, including a May 2010 attack on soldiers in the southern Djelfa region that left two dead.
Mr. Belmokhtar, a native of central Algeria, is a founding member of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, which later became known as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
He heads one of AQIM’s two main battalions, controlling the group’s southern area.
• From wire dispatches and staff reports