NEW YORK

Cleric lauds Sept. 11 attacks in interview played at trial

An Egyptian cleric defended the Sept. 11 attacks in a broadcast interview, saying it left Muslims and non-Muslims around the world happy, according to a tape played for the jury at his terrorism trial Monday.

Mustafa Kamel Mustafa could be heard casually speaking of the attacks in the undated interview with a Canadian broadcaster, even equating what al-Qaida did to the hero in American movies.

“Everybody was happy when the planes hit the World Trade Center,” Mustafa said. “Anybody who tell you he was not happy, they are hypocrites.”

He said the World Trade Center was a legitimate target because of its role in globalization.

SANAA, Yemen

Yemeni forces, U.S. drones press assault on militants

Yemeni forces, reportedly backed by U.S. drone strikes, hit al-Qaida militants for a second straight day Monday in what Yemen officials said was an assault on a major base of the terror group hidden in the remote southern mountains. The government said 55 militants were killed so far.

The assault appeared to be a significant escalation in the U.S. and Yemeni campaign against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. The United States has been hitting al-Qaida positions with drone strikes the past two years, trying to cripple the group after it was driven out of southern cities it took over in 2011.

DAMASCUS, Syria

Syria announces June date for presidential election

Syria set a date Monday for a presidential election widely expected to cement President Bashar Assad’s increasingly confident position at the helm of the war-torn nation.

The opposition immediately dismissed the announcement of the June 3 vote as a “farce.” It came just hours after two mortar shells exploded outside parliament, killing five people, and underscored the challenges of holding an election in a country wracked by constant violence.

More than 9 million people have been displaced by the Syrian conflict, which is in its fourth year.

– From news service reports