Terror chief firms up tie with Mali jihadists

The one-eyed terrorist leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar, widely viewed as the most dangerous man in the Sahara, is officially joining forces with a Mali-based jihadist group, according to a statement posted Thursday.

The announcement of the alliance known as “the Mourabitounes” formalizes an emerging union between Belmokhtar’s followers and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, known by the acronym MUJAO. The Nouakchott Information Agency, a Mauritanian Web site, carried their statement.

The two groups said they had decided “to confront the Zionist campaign against Islam and Muslims” by uniting jihadists from the Nile to the Atlantic, spanning all of North Africa, and vowed to support their embattled “Muslim brothers in Egypt.”

Belmokhtar, an Algerian, is best known for masterminding the January attack on a natural gas plant in southeastern Algeria in retaliation for the French-led military intervention in Mali.

He broke away from ­al-Qaeda’s North Africa branch, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, to form his own group after falling out with the network’s leaders.

MUJAO was created in 2011 after members split from AQIM to expand into West Africa. In their statement, however, the militants said they draw inspiration from al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

— Associated Press

2 Iranians convicted in 2012 bomb plot

A Thai court on Thursday sentenced an Iranian man to life in prison and another to 15 years for their roles in a botched bomb plot that was exposed last year when an accidental explosion blew apart the Bangkok villa where they were staying.

Israeli and Thai officials have said the plot was aimed at Israeli diplomats in Bangkok, although Iran denied the allegations and neither defendant was charged with terrorism or attempting to kill Israelis.

The court convicted and sentenced Saeid Moradi, 29, to life in prison for attempting to murder a police officer, possessing illegal explosives and causing explosions that damaged property and injured several civilians.

It sentenced 43-year-old
Mohammad Kharzei to 15 years in prison for possessing explosives.

Moradi lost parts of both legs as he tried to flee the villa on a crowded Bangkok street.

— Associated Press

Mugabe sworn in for another term: Military jets swooped, balloons floated aloft and spectators ate free fast food at Thursday’s inauguration of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who delivered a searing rebuke of Western countries for their criticism of the disputed election that has extended his grip on power into a fourth decade. In
a defiant speech, Mugabe, who was sworn in for another five-year term at the age of 89,

dismissed charges of voting fraud, vowed to press ahead with black ownership of white- and foreign-owned companies and lashed out against gays.

Bodies exhumed in Mexico could be those of group missing from bar: Authorities have exhumed numerous bodies from
a clandestine mass grave 25 miles east of downtown Mexico City amid suspicion that the victims may be a group of young people who disappeared nearly three months ago from a bar in the capital. Twelve men and women, ages 16 to 34, disappeared en masse in broad daylight May 26 just a block from the city’s main thoroughfare
and a short distance from the U.S. Embassy.

U.N. says Catholic pilgrims seek asylum in Brazil: About 40 Catholic pilgrims who traveled to Brazil for Pope Francis’s recent visit never left, hoping to win permanent asylum, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Brasilia said. The group includes people from Pakistan, Congo and Sierra Leone; about a dozen say they are persecuted as Christians, while the rest say they face political persecution or are fleeing conflicts.

— From news services