Violence spills over to Lebanon, Turkey

Militants assassinated a well-known supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Lebanon early Wednesday, Lebanese security officials said, the latest sign of Syria’s civil war spreading to its smaller neighbor.

Mohammad Darra Jamo, a commentator for Syrian state media who often appeared on Arab TV channels, was attacked by gunmen hiding in his house in the southern town of Sarafand, the officials said.

The Syrian state news agency SANA blamed an “armed terrorist group” for the killing. Lebanese officials said supporters of the Syrian opposition were the top suspects.

Lebanon, whose own 15-year civil war ended in 1990, is struggling to stay on the sidelines of Syria’s conflict. Car bombs and clashes between groups backing opposite sides in Syria’s war have become increasingly common.

Separately on Wednesday, a man and a 15-year-old boy were killed by stray bullets shot from the Syrian town of Ras al-Ayn, the scene of day-long fighting, into the southeastern Turkish town of Ceylanpinar, officials said. Turkish troops returned fire in the most serious spillover of violence in the border area for weeks.

— Reuters

Al-Qaeda confirms drone killed No. 2

The Yemen-based branch of al-Qaeda confirmed Wednesday that its No. 2 figure, a former prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was killed in a U.S. drone strike.

The announcement, posted on militant Web sites, gave no date for the death of Saudi-born Saeed al-Shihri. The confirmation was significant, however, because Shihri had twice before been reported dead but then the terrorist group denied those reports.

His killing is considered a major blow to the al-Qaeda branch, known as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Yemeni security officials said Shihri died of injuries sustained in a drone strike targeting him last November.

— Associated Press

Taliban kills brother of national official

Ahmad Wali Tahiri, a government prosecutor and brother of Afghanistan’s national security adviser, was killed Wednesday in an attack claimed by the Taliban.

Tahiri, a prosecutor in the relatively peaceful western province of Herat, was fatally shot outside a public bath by two gunmen who then fled, provincial officials said.

Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousuf said in an e-mail that the group was behind the attack, which he described as part of the militants’ spring offensive. Yousuf linked the killing to Tahiri’s years of work as a lawyer, not to criticism by Tahiri’s brother, Rangeen Dadfar Spanta, of the insurgents and Pakistan, where most of the Taliban leadership is believed to be based.

— Sayed Salahuddin

Russian protest leader wins one battle, faces another: Russian protest leader Alexei Navalny won a rare victory Wednesday by being accepted as a candidate in a Moscow mayoral election that he sees as a step toward challenging Vladimir Putin for the presidency. But his ability to contest September’s election and the presidential vote in 2018 depend on a judge’s verdict Thursday in the most prominent trial of an opposition figure in Russia since Soviet times. Navalny could receive up to six years in jail on what he says are trumped-up charges of stealing $493,000 from a timber firm.

Pakistan Taliban fighter asks Malala to come home: A Taliban commander has written to 16-year-old Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, saying he regretted her shooting last year by militants and urging her to come home, the Taliban confirmed. In a fiery, English-language letter dated July 12, commander Adnan Rasheed told Malala the attack “was shocking for me” and added, “My all emotions were brotherly for you because we belong to same Yousafzai tribe.” He advised her to return to Pakistan, join a
female Islamic school and “use your pen for Islam.”

Netanyahu phones E.U. leaders after ban: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone with the president of the European Commission, JoséManuel Barroso, and the leaders of France, Greece, Malta and Austria, outlining his objections to a European funding ban on Israeli institutions operating in occupied territories, officials said. They said Netanyahu told the leaders, “There are more urgent and pressing issues in the Middle East that should be dealt with first,” including the war in Syria.

Mandela much better, daughter says: Former South African president Nelson Mandela has made “dramatic progress” and may go home “anytime soon,” one of his daughters told Britain’s Sky TV on the eve of his 95th birthday. “I visited him yesterday and he was watching television with headphones,” Zindzi Mandela said. “He gave us a huge smile and raised his hand. . . . He responds with his eyes and his hands.”

— From news services