BEIRUT

Syrian opposition unites against dictatorial president

Syrian dissidents Sunday formally established a broad-based national council designed to overthrow President Bashar Assad’s regime, which they accused of pushing the country to the brink of civil war. Syrians took to the streets in celebration, singing and dancing.

In a restive northern area, meanwhile, gunmen killed the 21-year-old son of Syria’s top Sunni Muslim cleric in an ambush, the state-run news agency reported. The cleric, Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddine Hassoun, is considered a close supporter of Assad’s regime and has echoed its claims that the unrest in Syria is the result of a foreign conspiracy.

The announcement of the Syrian National Council at a news conference in Istanbul appeared to be the most serious step yet to unify a deeply fragmented opposition. It follows five days of intense battles between the Syrian military and army defectors in the country’s central region that raised the specter of all-out armed conflict.

Prominent Syrian opposition figure Bourhan Ghalioun, who read out the founding statement of the SNC at the news conference, accused the regime of fomenting sectarian strife in Syria to maintain its grip on power.

WASHINGTON

Official: Top bomb maker not among drone victims

Al-Qaida’s top bomb maker in Yemen did not die in a drone strike on a convoy, a top Yemeni official said Sunday, a report that dashed the hopes of U.S. officials who thought the attack might have killed a trio of top al-Qaida personnel.

The U.S. drone strike Friday killed U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and an American propagandist, Samir Khan, who published an English-language Web magazine that spouted al-Qaida’s anti-Western ideology.

U.S. intelligence officials had said it appeared that bomb maker Ibrahim al-Asiri was among the dead. However, on Sunday the Yemeni official released a list of two others whose bodies had been identified and noted that al-Asiri was not one of them. The Yemeni official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

The Saudi-born Al-Asiri, 29, was tied to the so-called underwear bomb that was used in an attempt to bring down a Detroit-bound jetliner on Christmas Day in 2009. A Nigerian man has been charged in that attack. Al-Asiri was also believed to have been behind an intercepted pair of explosives-laden printers that were mailed from Yemen to the U.S. in 2010.

MANILA, Philippines

Back-to-back typhoons leave at least 59 dead

Rescuers scrambled Sunday to deliver food and water to hundreds of villagers stuck on rooftops for days because of flooding in the northern Philippines, where back-to-back typhoons have left at least 59 people dead.

Typhoon Nalgae slammed ashore in northeastern Isabela province Saturday, then barreled across the main island of Luzon’s mountainous north and agricultural plains, which were still sodden from fierce rain and winds unleashed by a howler just days earlier.

Nalgae left at least three people dead Saturday. Typhoon Nesat killed 56 others and left 28 missing in the same region before blowing out Friday.

Nalgae was whirling over the South China Sea and heading toward southern China late Sunday afternoon, 230 miles from the Philippines’ northeast coast, with sustained winds of 75 mph and gusts of 93 mph, according to the Philippine government weather agency.

— From news service reports