World briefs – March 11

Egypt’s top cleric, Sheik Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, known for promoting the government agenda against female genital mutilation and the face veil, died of a heart attack Wednesday during a visit to Saudi Arabia. He was 81.

Egypt’s top cleric dies at 81

CAIRO, Egypt — Egypt’s top cleric, Sheik Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, known for promoting the government agenda against female genital mutilation and the face veil, died of a heart attack Wednesday during a visit to Saudi Arabia. He was 81.

Tantawi was the grand sheik of Cairo’s Al-Azhar, the pre-eminent theological institute of Sunni Islam, the faith’s mainstream sect.

Tantawi left a mixed legacy across the Muslim world, where he was touted as a moderate scholar and supporter of women’s rights but also criticized as an appointed civil servant who merely followed the line of Egypt’s government.

The sheik, who was chosen in March 1996 by President Hosni Mubarak, was a revered figure among many of the world’s 1.4 billion Muslims. His rulings carried great influence, particularly in Egypt, although they did not carry the force of law.

Egypt’s state-owned Middle East News Agency said Tantawi died in Saudi Arabia, where he attended a religious ceremony. Saudi officials said he will be buried in the Baqee cemetery in the Saudi holy city of Medina near the shrine of Prophet Muhammad.


Fighting kills 17, wounds 65 in Somalia

MOGADISHU, Somalia — A medical official says intense fighting in the Somali capital between Islamist insurgents and government forces has killed at least 17 people.

The head of the Mogadishu ambulance service Ali Muse says that Wednesday’s fighting also wounded 65 people. Most of the dead and wounded were civilians.

Resident Ahmed Ali said the fighting began when al-Shabab insurgents attacked government positions in the north of the city. He said the insurgents briefly overran the government positions but were then pushed back.

There has been an uptick in fighting since the beginning of the year when the government announced plans for an offensive to wrest control of the capital from the Islamists.

Wednesday’s fighting was the heaviest in weeks.


Mexican magnate world’s richest

MEXICO CITY — The son of an immigrant shopkeeper has become the first person from a developing country, and the first from Latin America, to be named the world’s richest person.

Mexican telecom magnate Carlos Slim has passed U.S. billionaires Warren Buffet and Bill Gates to earn the top spot on Forbes’ world’s richest list.

Forbes’ Keren Blankfeld says never before has someone from the developing world earned the spot.

Slim’s son-in-law, however, says he is not breaking out the champagne.

Arturo Elias Ayub said Wednesday that “this is a number brought out by a magazine that doesn’t concern us, or worry us.” But he calls the designation a sign of “confidence in Mexico.”

Slim is known for wearing inexpensive suits and rarely using computers.


Gunman’s record missed by check

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State University says a background check on a janitor who shot two supervisors didn’t reveal a criminal record, even though he had spent five years in prison.

The university released a background check Wednesday compiled last fall on Nathaniel Brown, He fatally shot a supervisor Tuesday morning at a maintenance shop, injured another and killed himself.

Prison records say Brown had a criminal history that included about five years in prison on a charge of receiving stolen property. He was released in 1984.

Ohio State said it hired an outside vendor to conduct the background check. The report by OPENonline LLC said it found no criminal records on Brown.


Law shields Berlusconi from trials

ROME — The Italian parliament has passed a controversial measure shielding Premier Silvio Berlusconi from ongoing trials.

The measure allows the premier and Cabinet ministers to postpone for six months hearings in any ongoing trial in which they are implicated.

Berlusconi is a defendant in two trials in Milan — one on corruption charges, one of tax fraud charges. He denies wrongdoing.

The legislation received final approval Wednesday in the Senate.

Berlusconi’s conservatives enjoy a solid majority in parliament.

Critics say the measure is just a way to shield Berlusconi from the Milan trials. Backers insist the measure is necessary because Italians voted for Berlusconi to govern the country, not to be distracted by judicial proceedings.

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