The week at a glance...International


Tripoli, Libya

Ex-Alabama prof named leader: A former electrical engineering professor at the University of Alabama has been chosen as Libya’s new interim prime minister. Murmurs of surprise filled the room after the National Transitional Council found that Abdurrahim El-Keib, an expat with little political experience, had won 26 of the 51 votes cast by its members. El-Keib, who left Libya in 1976 because of his opposition to the rule of Muammar al-Qaddafi, has degrees from the University of Southern California and North Carolina State University. Some speculate that he was picked because of his Tripoli origins, as a way to show that the new Libyan authorities are not biased toward Benghazi, the birthplace of the anti-Qaddafi movement.

Mogadishu, Somalia

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American bomber? One of two suicide bombers who killed eight other people at an African Union base in Mogadishu last week was an American, the Islamist group al-Shabab claimed. The group, which controls much of Somalia, identified bomber Abdisalan Taqabalahullaah as one of at least 21 Somali-Americans who grew up in the Minneapolis area but left in the past few years to join al-Shabab. The FBI is seeking DNA evidence to determine whether that name is an alias for Abdisalan Hussein Ali, who left the U.S. in 2008; if his identity is confirmed, he will be the third Somali-American to conduct a suicide bombing in Somalia. Minnesota is home to the largest Somali community in the U.S. “It’s really, really painful to actually see one of the kids who has a bright future ahead of them do this,” said Nimco Ahmed, a Somali community activist in Minnesota. “It’s a loss for our whole society.”


Dueling bounties: Israel’s exchange of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners last month for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit has sparked contesting calls for vigilantism. One of those released was Mustafa Muslimani, one of several men convicted in the 2000 murders of Binyamin and Talia Kahane, the son and daughter-in-law of nationalist leader Rabbi Meir Kahane. Friends of the Kahane family said they would pay $100,000 to anyone who killed Muslimani. In response, a Saudi cleric offered the same sum to any Palestinian who kidnapped another Israeli soldier; a Saudi prince later upped that reward to $1 million.


Accusing Syria: Lebanese police have accused Syria of kidnapping Syrian dissidents on Lebanese territory. In closed testimony to parliament last month, leaked this week to Lebanese media, Lebanese security chief Ashraf Rifi said he had detailed evidence that Syrian agents had kidnapped at least four Syrians, including leading dissident Shibli al-Aisamy, 89. The government, however, which is dominated by pro-Syrian parties including the Shiite militant movement Hezbollah, has not commented on Rifi’s testimony or taken any action. Meanwhile, Syrian troops have begun placing land mines along the border with Lebanon to prevent weapons from being smuggled to the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Tikrit, Iraq

Purge of ex-Baathists: Iraqi authorities have detained more than 600 people who they say once belonged to Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party and were plotting to overthrow the current government. Authorities said they received a tip from the new Libyan government that late dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi had been supporting Iraqi Baathist coup plotters. In Tikrit, Saddam’s hometown, dozens were arrested and much of the university faculty was fired. But Sunnis say the coup allegation is a pretext for the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawa party to persecute the Sunni minority. “The current practices are the same as the practices of Saddam,” said former Baathist Haji Abu Ahmed. “There seems to be no difference between the two systems. Saddam was chasing Dawa, and now Dawa is chasing Baathists.”

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

U.S. base to close: In one of his first acts as Kyrgyzstan’s new president, Almazbek Atambayev said he would close a key U.S. military base when its lease runs out in 2014. Atambayev, who was elected this week, said the base could make his country a target. “We know that the United States is often engaged in military conflicts,” he said. “There was Iraq and Afghanistan, and now there are tensions with Iran. I would not want any of these countries to launch a retaliatory strike on the military base one day.” The Kyrgyz base is the main transit center for supplies to U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Under pressure from Russia, Kyrgyz authorities sought to close it two years ago, but backed down after the U.S. agreed to pay an extra $40 million a year in rent.

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