Bin Laden’s family heading for new life in Saudi Arabia

Pakistan was scheduled to deport the 14 members of Osama bin Laden’s family who had lived with him in a garrison town near Islamabad until U.S. forces killed him in a raid in May 2011.

After nearly a year in the custody of Pakistan’s security services, the family – including the ex-al Qaida chief’s three widows, two adult daughters and nine children – were scheduled to leave today on a chartered plane for Saudi Arabia.

There, they will live incognito – and in relative luxury – with bin Laden’s extended family, said the family’s Pakistani lawyer, Aamir Khalil.


Dozens killed as fighting rages despite cease-fire

Six days into the Syrian cease-fire and the term does not seem to fit, according to anti-government activists.

Shelling continued in the battered city of Homs and a government offensive in the northwest province of Idlib intensified, activists said, with almost 50 people killed, most of them in Idlib.

One media activist, Khalid Mahmoud Qbiesho in Idlib, was reported killed when a tank rolled over his head, according to the Local Coordination Committees, an anti-government group. Others were killed execution-style after intense shelling, activists said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon termed Tuesday’s violence as “sporadic,” but suggested a planned U.N. observer mission of 250 people may not be big enough “considering the current situation and considering the vastness of the country.”

Meanwhile, in Paris, a meeting of almost 60 “Friends of Syria” countries was held to reinforce sanctions against the Syrian government after more than a year of violence that the U.N. estimates has taken more than 9,000 lives.

KABUL, Afghanistan

Karzai insists U.S. commit to an annual dollar figure

Afghanistan’s president raised another condition Tuesday for a long-awaited strategic partnership with the United States: The accord must spell out the yearly U.S. commitment to pay billions of dollars for the cash-strapped Afghan security forces.

The demand threatens to further delay the key bilateral pact and suggests that Afghan President Hamid Karzai is worried that the U.S. commitment is wavering as the drawdown of foreign forces nears.

The U.S. already pays the vast majority of the budget to train, equip and run the Afghan security forces and expects to do so for years to come to compensate for Afghanistan’s moribund economy. But the yearly Congressional budget process, as well as the American public’s weariness with the Afghan conflict, would make it difficult for Washington to commit to a dollar figure years in advance.

The strategic partnership agreement is crucial to the U.S. exit strategy in Afghanistan. American officials hope it will both map the course for U.S. forces after the majority of combat troops leave in 2014 and give the Afghan people confidence they are not about to be abandoned by their key international ally.


Report: Cuba cracked down as pope called for freedom

Cuban police carried out 1,158 political detentions in March – mostly to keep dissidents away from Pope Benedict XVI – the most since the mass roundups during the Bay of Pigs invasion five decades ago, a human rights group reported Tuesday.

The report by the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation in Havana came a day after police once again detained Andres Carrion Alvarez, who shouted “Down with Communism” before the pope’s Mass in Santiago de Cuba last month.

The tally added fuel to complaints that the pope and the Cuban Catholic Church turned a blind eye to the communist government’s human rights abuses in their efforts to gain more space for church activities.

The 40-page report, which included names and dates for each detention, was the hardest evidence yet that the government cracked down on dissent roughly at the same time Benedict was calling for freedom during his March 26-29 visit.