• Gaddafi’s intelligence chief arrested in Mauritania
• Senussi should be handed to ICC, say campaigners
• Demonstrations in Syria to mark anniversary of uprising
10.08am: Thousands of Christians have gathered Cairo’s main cathedral in the Abbasiya district to pay their respects to Pope Shenouda III.
Al-Jazeera’s Adam Makary tweets this picture of the scene.
— Adam Makary (@adamakary) March 18, 2012
Reuters provides this background:
Friction has worsened since President Hosni Mubarak, who suppressed Islamists, was ousted last year. Since then Shenouda, who died on Saturday aged 88, often called for harmony and regularly met Muslim and other leaders.
Christians, who comprise about a tenth of Egypt’s 80 million people, have long complained of discrimination and in the past year stepped up protests, which included calls for new rules that would make it as easy to build a church as a mosque.
9.36am: (all times GMT) Welcome to a Sunday edition of Middle East Live.
More protests are planned today in Syria and there are competing demands on Mauritania following the arrest there of Gaddafi’s former intelligence cheif Abdullah al-Senussi.
Here’s a roundup in more detail:
• Libya has formally requested the extradition of Muammar Gaddafi’s former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi, following his arrest in Mauritania, the BBC reports. He is also sought by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of crimes against humanity. And France also wants to question him about a 1989 bomb attack on a plane.
Richard Dicker, its international justice director said:
At this point, we doubt that Libya can provide a fair trial for Senussi. For justice, and for Libyans to understand the tragedies of their past, Mauritania should hand him to the ICC.
• Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam, who is also wanted by the ICC, will be held in a lavishly equipped prison when he was transferred from Zintan to Tripoli, Chris Stephen reports. “If Obama came here, or Sarkozy or Cameron, they would be very happy with the accommodation, it is luxury,” said one guard. “It’s not a prison, it’s a holiday resort.”
• Syrian opposition groups are calling for protests in the capital Damascus and elsewhere to commemorate the first anniversary of Syrian uprising, AP reports. Many activists consider today, rather than last Thursday, the start of the uprising against Assad. A year ago today thousands took to the streets in cities across Syria, and security forces killed marchers in the southern city of Dera’a.
• Two car bombs struck intelligence and security buildings in the Syrian capital Damascus, killing at least 27 people and wounding about 140, according to state media. The explosions occurred as reports emerged in the Middle East – credited to diplomatic sources – that Saudi Arabia was preparing to deliver arms to Syrian rebels.
Speaking at a demonstration in London outside the embassy he said Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was a murderer who should “stand in The Hague”.
• Followers of Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have freed a US former soldier after holding him captive in Baghdad for nine months. The American, identified as Randy Michaels, was shown on television in a US military uniform with no insignia, flanked by two members of parliament from Sadr’s movement, including the first deputy speaker.
• Barack Obama has led tributes to Pope Shenouda III, head of the Coptic orthodox church in Egypt, who died yesterday. In a statement the president said: “We will remember Pope Shenouda III as a man of deep faith, a leader of a great faith, and an advocate for unity and reconciliation. His commitment to Egypt’s national unity is also a testament to what can be accomplished when people of all religions and creeds work together.”
from Matthew Weaver