- - Monday, September 24, 2012

LONDON — Radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri has lost a court appeal to block extradition to the U.S. to face terrorism charges that include trying to set up an al Qaeda training camp in rural Oregon.

The cleric, considered one of Britain’s most notorious extremists, will be extradited to the U.S. as soon as possible, Britain’s Home Office said Monday.

In April, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the cleric’s rights would not be violated if extradited to stand trial in the U.S. He lodged an appeal to that ruling, but the court said Monday his appeal was rejected.

The cleric, who is blind in one eye and wears a hook for a hand, is known for his fiery anti-Western and anti-Semitic outbursts. He claims he has lost his Egyptian nationality, but Britain considers him an Egyptian citizen. He is serving a seven-year prison term in Britain for inciting hatred.


New SARS-like virus detected in Middle East

LONDON — Global health officials are monitoring a new respiratory virus related to SARS that is believed to have killed at least one person in Saudi Arabia and left a Qatari citizen in critical condition in London.

The germ is a coronavirus, from a family of viruses that cause the common cold as well as SARS, the severe acute respiratory syndrome that killed some 800 people, mostly in Asia, in a 2003 epidemic.

In the latest case, British officials alerted the World Health Organization (WHO) on Saturday of the new virus in a man who transferred from Qatar to be treated in London. He recently had traveled to Saudi Arabia and is now being treated in an intensive care unit after suffering kidney failure.

WHO said virus samples from the patient are almost identical to those of a 60-year-old Saudi national who died earlier this year.

The agency isn’t recommending travel restrictions, and said the source of infection remains unknown.

Health officials don’t know yet whether the virus could spread as rapidly as SARS did or if it might kill as many people. SARS, which first jumped to humans from civet cats in China, hit more than 30 countries worldwide after spreading from Hong Kong.


Court sentences terrorists to hang

CAIRO — An Egyptian court on Monday sentenced 14 members of an extremist group to death by hanging for attacks against police in the Sinai Peninsula, ruling that they are members of an organization that considers even other Islamists to be infidels.

Six of the men were present to be sentenced by the court in the Suez Canal governorate of Ismailia that borders Sinai, while another eight are still fugitives and were convicted in absentia.

The death sentences highlight the conflict between the government of President Mohammed Morsi, who hails from the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, and extremist networks like el-Tawhid wi el-Jihad, blamed for the deadly attack last year in northern Sinai’s el-Arish city.

The June 2011 attack against el-Arish’s main police station and a nearby bank killed a civilian and a number of police and military officers.


Catholic reformers slam’pay-to-pray’ decree

BERLIN — A Catholic reform group in Germany has criticized the country’s bishops for announcing that believers who refuse to pay religious taxes won’t be able to receive the Eucharist, become godparents or receive a church burial.

The bishops’ decree last week is part of an attempt to stem the steady flow of people who opt out of paying up to 9 percent of their income tax to their affiliated church.

The practice ensures Germany’s Catholic and Protestant churches receive more than $4 billion each annually.

The group “We Are The Church” said Monday that the bishops’ decree is “the wrong signal at the wrong time.” It called on the bishops to try to understand why people are leaving the Roman Catholic Church instead of threatening them with sanctions.


Defense chief proposes West Bank pullout

JERUSALEM — Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak called for a unilateral pullout from much of the West Bank in published comments Monday, saying Israel must take “practical steps” if peace efforts with the Palestinians remain stalled.

His comments appeared to put him at odds with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has resisted making any major concessions to the Palestinians in the absence of peace talks. Negotiations have been deadlocked for nearly four years.

Mr. Netanyahu’s office declined comment.

Mr. Barak’s proposal is unlikely to be implemented, at least in the near term. Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition is dominated by hard-liners who would be reluctant to embrace the plan.

But Mr. Netanyahu is widely expected to call early elections in the coming weeks, and Mr. Barak may be trying to attract centrist voters to his party ahead of an upcoming campaign.

Speaking to the Israel Hayom newspaper, Mr. Barak called for uprooting dozens of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, but said Israel would keep major settlement “blocs.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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