Man Stabs 28 Children at Chinese Kindergarten

Two knife attacks on school classrooms in as many days have sent Chinese parents into fright, prompting demands for greater security and a bout of national soul searching over the atrocities.

Yesterday a former insurance salesman ripped and stabbed his way through a kindergarten in southeast China, wounding 31 people.

Officials said that Xu Yuyuan, 47, broke into a classroom at the Zhongxin kindergarten in Taixing city, Jiangsu province, about 9.40am and attacked the children with a knife. Residents living next door, armed with fire extinguishers and brooms, finally restrained the man until the police could reach the scene, one report said.

The man stabbed twenty-eight children and one teacher, a security guard and a school volunteer who tried to defend the terrified four-year-olds. A staff member at the Taixing No 1 People’s Hospital said that some children were being treated there. “The doctors are trying to save them,” he said.

Five students were in critical condition in hospital, said Zhu Guiming, an official with the propaganda department in Taixing city.

The well-regarded Caijing magazine said that 4 children had died in the attack, but officials told state media that no deaths had been reported and the condition of those who were most badly hurt was stabilizing.

Police arrested Mr Xu, who was described as unemployed. He worked for a local insurance company in 2001 but then took part in illegal pyramid selling schemes.

Less than 24 hours earlier a former teacher with a history of mental illness stabbed 16 pupils and a teacher in a primary school. The man, 33, rushed into classrooms at the Leizhou primary school in the southern Guangdong province, brandishing a knife about a foot long. None of the injuries were reported to be serious.

The attacker then went to a top-floor balcony where he threatened to throw himself off. He was eventually arrested and taken away in handcuffs.

Several schools in China have experienced similar attacks in recent years. In a country where many parents have only a single child under the strict family planning policy, shock and anxiety have spread in internet chat rooms. Some have called for adults to be allowed to enter school premises only if they have a photograph of their child; others are saying that their children should be armed with sticks as a minimum defense. Commenting on the attack at the primary school in Leizhou the Beijing News said: “More concrete measures should be taken to make school the safest place.”
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China's Hu Jintao first Chinese visitor to Russian pavilion at Expo 2010

Chinese President Hu Jintao became the first Chinese visitor to attend the Russian pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo 2010.

The Chinese leader on Thursday visited the Russian pavilion and checked out its exhibition. Then he made some notes in the honored guest book.

"Those who visit the pavilion, will see the wisdom and intelligence of the Russian people," Hu said adding that he was sure "the pavilion will have great success."

The Chinese president said Russia and China have strong and developing ties among their people. He said the concept of children that Russia chose for its exhibition theme is very important as children are the future.

Russia is constructing its Expo pavilion for the first time in 30 years, rather than renting one from the host country. The sun-shaped pavilion will comprise 12 white-and-gold towers symbolizing the 12 months, and occupy an area of 6,000 sq. m. It will showcase Russia's recent scientific and economic development, as well as offer a diverse cultural program.

The 2010 World Expo fair is to run from May 1 to October 31 under the motto "Better City - Better Life." Some 70 million visitors are expected to attend the event. The spokeswoman said leaders of all countries are invited to attend.
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Thai Protesters Send Convoy to Suburban Market

Thai troops have fired into the air near a group of anti-government protesters in an effort to block them from taking their protest to a suburban Bangkok market.

Several thousand Red Shirt protesters left their fortified encampment in Bangkok's downtown commercial district in motorcycles and pickup trucks on Wednesday to move their seven-week campaign outside the city.

The government has guaranteed to keep the Red Shirts from spreading the protest outside their encampment.

The convoy is traveling on a road where a group of Red Shirts briefly set up a barricade earlier this week to block additional Thai security forces from heading into the city.

The anti-government forces have virtually brought Bangkok to a standstill in their drive to force Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to announce new elections.

The Red Shirts placed tires along Bangkok's elevated railway system on Tuesday, shutting down the system for several hours. The activists said they were worried that Thai troops might use the station to attack them from above.

The protests have turned bloody, with at least 26 people killed and nearly 1,000 wounded during clashes with Thai security forces.

The Red Shirts are supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in 2006 on accusations of corruption. They say Mr. Abhisit was installed in office illegally.

The Thai government has accused Red Shirt leaders of plotting to overthrow Thailand's revered monarchy, a charge the movement denies.

But Mr. Abhisit said earlier this week his government will try to implement the law with "minimum losses," as he put it. He also promised to try to find a political resolution to the crisis, and he pleaded for "patience and cooperation."
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Iran discusses nuclear issue with IAEA

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki met IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano here to talk about issues related to Tehran's nuclear programmes, including exchange of fuel for further enrichment.

"The meeting was held in a business-like atmosphere," the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a statement which did not provide any further detail.

The two sides "discussed the issue of the provision of fuel for the Tehran research reactor and exchanged views on the possible modalities for its realisation", said IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor.

Mr. Mottaki is in Vienna to gain Austria's support to counter any new UN sanction against Iran, Xinhua reported.

Meanwhile, Austria's Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said Iran must cooperate with the West if it desires to avoid sanctions.

"I hope it will not have to come to this sanctions and that Iran is ready to cooperate with the international community," Mr. Spindelegger said at a joint news conference with Mr. Mottaki.

Iran agreed in principle to send low-enriched uranium abroad for further re-processing, in October. But later it told that the fuel swap should take place inside its territory and simultaneously.

According to the West, Iran's nuclear program is aimed at making atomic bombs while Tehran says it is for peaceful purposes only.
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Bombs kill 69 in Iraq's deadliest day this year

The bloodiest day of the year in Iraq left at least 69 people dead in a series of bombings in mainly Shiite areas Friday — concerted attacks seen as demonstrating the resilience of the Sunni-led insurgency after the slaying of two al-Qaida leaders last weekend.

No one has taken responsibility for the blasts, but officials were quick to blame Sunni-led insurgent groups for attacking at a particularly fragile time as Iraq awaits formation of a new government and prepares for U.S. troops to go home by the end of next year.

Friday's apparently coordinated attacks came in a two-hour span shortly after the Shiites' call to prayer across the capital. The major blasts were in former Shiite militia strongholds, underscoring the insurgents' professed aim of provoking a new round of sectarian bloodshed. Among the targets of the car and roadside bombs were three Shiite mosques.

In the vast eastern Baghdad slum of Sadr City, hundreds of worshippers knelt on prayer mats in the streets surrounding the offices of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr when the deadliest blasts went off.

Four strategically located car bombs timed to maximize the carnage killed at least 36 people and wounded nearly 200, according to hospital and police officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Aqil Ibrahim, 35, was fixing his taxi when he heard the first explosion.

"I went to see what was going on and to help the wounded worshippers. I saw pieces of human flesh on the ground," he said, holding his bandaged hand.

Flames shot out of nearby parked cars and motorcycles. Blood mixed with water streamed down muddy streets as firefighters worked to put out the blazes, and passers-by frantically tried to help. Shouting men loaded the wounded onto trucks to rush them to the hospital.

One man ran carrying a young girl in a bloodstained pink dress. Others could be seen picking up human remains and burying them in a nearby field before sunset in accordance with Islamic law.

Onlookers in Sadr City threw stones at arriving Iraqi security forces, frustrated that the troops cannot secure the city. The troops fired their guns in the air to scatter the crowd.

Two of the bombs exploded in the mainly Shiite neighborhood of Zafaraniyah, killing one person and wounding 12.

Two others targeted mosques linked with prominent Shiite political leaders. A car bomb at the Hadi al-Chalabi mosque in the Hurriyah neighborhood killed eight people and wounded 19. The mosque is named after the father of Ahmed Chalabi, who was behind much of the faulty intelligence that resulted in the U.S.-led invasion and has since led efforts to bar many Sunni political figures from office.

A bomb targeting the Muhsin al-Hakim mosque killed 14 people and wounded 36. That mosque is named after the grandfather of Ammar al-Hakim, a leading Shiite political figure whose party has ties to Iran.

In the past, such bombings would be followed by revenge attacks by militias against Sunnis, but the retaliatory violence ebbed after al-Sadr's forces were routed by U.S.-Iraqi offensives in 2008.

Three people died in scattered violence elsewhere in the capital.

Bombs also ripped through the houses of Iraqi policemen in the former insurgent stronghold of Anbar province, killing at least seven people, including a soldier trying to defuse one of the devices, authorities said.

April has been the deadliest month in Iraq so far this year, with more than 263 civilians killed in war-related violence, according to an Associated Press count. Still, violence is dramatically lower than past years.
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Oil rig blast prompts environmental concerns

President Obama said today that containing spilt oil from a collapsed rig was the Government’s “number one priority” as the US braced itself for a major environmental disaster.

Crude oil was pouring into the Gulf of Mexico this morning from the site where Deepwater Horizon, a floating platform leased by BP, had burnt for two days after an explosion before finally collapsing yesterday.

Officials said the current spill, which threatened to wash ashore on the Gulf states of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, had the potential to be the worst seen in the US since the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill, which poured nearly 11 million gallons (42 million litres) of crude into Prince William Sound in Alaska.

In a statement the White House said that President Obama would make sure that the federal government was offering all assistance needed in the rescue effort “as well as in mitigating and responding to the environmental impact”.

Eleven of the 126 people on board the rig at the time of the blast were still missing as the US Coast Guard mounted a desperate search by sea and air. Four others remain in acritical condition.

Officials said that before the explosion there were 700,000 gallons of diesel fuel on board the rig, which had been drilling 8,000 barrels of oil a day.

“This is considered a major oil spill,” Mike O’Berry, a senior chief petty officer with the US Coast Guard, said.

The Coast Guard said a one mile by five mile slick had settled on the surface about 45 miles offshore as a massive clean-up operation, including specialist ships sent by BP, worked to prevent the oil from reaching the American coast.

Transocean, the Swiss company that owned the rig, tried to cut off the uncontrolled flow of oil using an underwater robot but a spokesperson said last night that it had not been possible “to stem the flow of hydrocarbons prior to the rig sinking”.

The robot, equipped with cameras and remote-controlled arms, was being used to try to activate a device on the seafloor, 5,000ft (1,500m) below the surface, that is designed automatically to close pipes on the seabed.

BP, Transocean and the US Coast Guard were planning to use booms, skimmers and chemicals to control the spreading oil slick.

Adrian Rose, the vice-president of Transocean, said that the rig likely suffered a blowout while drilling through rock at BP’s Macondo prospect, although investigations into the exact cause of the accident are ongoing.
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European Air Traffic Close to Normal

An arrivals screen shows on time from Europe to Chicago at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, 21 Apr 2010(VOA News)
Europe's air traffic control agency says almost all European airspace is open to flights again.

Eurocontrol says it expects Europe to have at least 28,000 flights Thursday, after a huge cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland turned almost the entire continent into a no-fly zone for six days.

Eurocontrol says flight restrictions remain only in northern Scotland and parts of southern Norway, Sweden and Finland.

Thousands of passengers were stuck in airports and hotels Wednesday. Eurocontrol said the volcanic ash caused about 95,000 flight cancellations since last Thursday.

The International Air Transport Association called the cancellations "devastating," saying they cost the airline industry almost $2 billion ($1.7 billion) dollars.

The group's chief, Giovanni Bisignani, urged governments to look at ways to compensate airlines for their losses.

Two major European travel agencies - Thomas Cook and TUI - criticized the British government for shutting down its airspace.

But Britain's Civil Aviation Authority said the main barrier to resuming flights had been determining how much ash aircraft could tolerate. Scientists said flying thorough volcanic ash could cause jet engines to shut down in mid-flight.

The volcano that caused the flight cancellations still was erupting Wednesday, but producing much less ash.

The U.S. State Department said it has helped U.S. citizens and others, including a group of Nazi concentration camp survivors who needed a new hotel and an elderly patient in Frankfurt needing specialized medical treatment. Among European efforts to help stranded passengers, Britain sent a warship to Spain to pick up civilians and troops on their way home from Afghanistan.
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Europe resumes some air travel despite volcano

A plume of ash rises from the volcano in southern Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull glacier.

Europe began allowing limited air traffic to resume, giving hope to millions of travelers stranded around the world when ash from a volcano in Iceland choked the jet age to a stop. Some flights from Asia to southern Europe resumed early on Tuesday.

But further delays were to be expected because the eruption from the Icelandic volcano that caused days of aviation chaos was said to be strengthening and sending more ash toward Britain. London’s main airports were kept closed on Tuesday by British air traffic controllers.

In Asia, a Japan Airlines flight from Moscow landed on Tuesday morning at Tokyo’s Narita Airport, the first European flight to arrive since Friday night, said airport spokesman Toru Motoyoshi. Two Alitalia flights departed for Italy, on Monday.

Singapore Airlines resumed flights to Barcelona and Rome, early on Tuesday. But the airline said flights remained cancelled to Zurich, London, Copenhagen and Frankfurt. Singapore’s Changi International Airport said 16 flights on five carriers were cancelled on Tuesday.

At South Korea’s Incheon International Airport, one flight departed for Istanbul but all other flights to Europe were cancelled on Tuesday.
European Union transport ministers reached a deal during a crisis videoconference to divide northern European skies into three areas: a caution zone “with some contamination” where planes can fly subject to engine checks for damage; a “no-fly” zone immediately over the ash cloud and an open-skies zone.

Starting on Tuesday morning, “we should see progressively more planes start to fly,” said EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas.

The German airline Lufthansa said that it would bring 50 planeloads of passengers home.

But the optimism was tempered early on Tuesday by a statement from the British National Air Traffic Service, which said “the volcanic eruption in Iceland has strengthened and a new ash cloud is spreading south and east towards the U.K.”

The service said Scottish airports should be open from 7 a.m. (0600 GMT) on Tuesday, and other airspace over England may be reopened in the afternoon, but the open zone for flights would not extend as far south as London, where the country’s main airports are located.

Europe’s aviation industry, facing losses of more than $1 billion criticized official handling of the disruption that grounded thousands of flights to and from the continent.
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Pakistan Suicide Bomb Attack Kills 7

Pakistan police says a suicide car-bomber attack on a police station killed seven people, including a child, and wounded 26 in northwest Pakistan Sunday.

Authorities say at least 6 police were among the wounded. Police says about 200 kilograms of explosives were used in the attack in the Kohat region. It was the second attack in the region in 2 days.

Two suicide bombers blew up their explosives at a camp for refugees Saturday, killing at least 41 people and wounding more than 60 others.

Police says the bombers struck minutes apart at the ” Kacha Pukka” camp for displaced people as residents lined up to register for aid.

The Associated Press says the bombers were men disguised in burqas (the full body covering worn by conservative Muslim women).

A retired Pakistani military official told VOA he believes the Taliban is accountable for the attack. Northwest Pakistan has suffered a major internal displacement of people as a consequence of Taliban violence and a series of military operations targeting Islamist militants near the Afghan border.
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Volcano ash cloud grounds flights for second day

An aerial photo shows smoke rising from the volcano under a glacier in the Eyjafjallajokull region of Iceland on Wednesday.
England's airspace will remain closed for most of Friday as ash from a volcanic eruption in Iceland continues to drift across the country.

The grounding of all non-emergency flights from airports - which began on Thursday morning - will remain in place until at least 1900 BST. This could be extended again following a review of conditions at 0830 BST.

National Air Traffic Services (Nats) imposed the restriction because of the danger the ash poses to aircraft. Tiny particles of rock, glass and sand in the cloud could damage engines.

'No certainty'

Initially, Nats said all flights would be grounded until 1800 BST on Thursday. That was later extended to 0700 BST on Friday and then further lengthened to 1900 BST.

In a statement Nats said: "In general, the situation cannot be said to be improving with any certainty as the forecast affected area appears to be closing in from east to west. "We continue to work closely with airports, airlines, and the rest of Europe to understand and mitigate the implications of the volcanic eruption. "We will review further Met Office information and at 0830 BST we will advise the arrangements that will be in place until 0100 BST on Saturday."

Nats said it could not recall a time when controlled airspace had been completely shut down in the UK.

Manchester, Liverpool, Stansted, Newcastle, Southampton, Birmingham, East Midlands, Leeds Bradford, Bristol, Gatwick, Heathrow and Blackpool were badly affected on Thursday. Thousands of passengers across England were left stranded and airports cleared of all but essential staff.

Travellers were warned further delays could be expected when restrictions are eventually lifted and they have been advised to check with their airlines for up to date information.
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Death toll hits 617 in China quake

Rescuers fought altitude sickness, chilly weather, strong winds and frequent aftershocks Thursday to dig through rubble and reach survivors of a strong earthquake that has left 617 dead, 9,110 injured and 313 missing in northwest China.

The 7.1-magnitude quake, which struck the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu in southern Qinghai Province early on Wednesday, also toppled 15,000 residential buildings and forced 100,000 residents to be relocated, according to the rescue headquarters. Many people are still buried under the debris of collapsed houses in the Gyegu Town near the epicenter, the seat of the Yushu prefecture government and home to 100,000 people. It sits at about 4,000 meters above sea level.

More than 85 percent of houses in Gyegu, mostly made of mud and wood, had collapsed.

"Freezing weather, high altitude and thin air have all made rescue efforts difficult," said Hou Shike, deputy head of the China International Search and Rescue Team.

Some of the team's rescuers were already feeling dizzy due to low oxygen level in the air soon after arriving at the Yushu Airport Wednesday night, Hou said.

Roads linking the airport and Gyegu were blocked by landslides triggered by the quake, which hampered rescue missions, he said.

"We have begun searching and rescue operation in Gyegu overnight, and will set up a field hospital today," he said.

At the Yushu Vocational School, more than 20 bodies have been recovered, but at least 20 others are still buried in the debris.

"Perhaps because of altitude sickness, sniffer dogs did not even work sometimes," said Chang Zhiqiang, a school official who joined the rescue.

Most of the survivors have to stay in the open area Wednesday night amid freezing weather or sought temporary shelters in buildings that remained unaffected by the tremor. Rescuers have set up more than 40 tents for survivors in Gyegu, but the effort seems far from enough.

Professional rescuers, soldiers, police officers and medical workers have been dispatched to Yushu from across the country, along with tents, cotton-padded clothes, quilts, food, water, medicine, bulldozers, excavators, cranes, generators and other relief supplies.

Donations from governmental agencies, privately-run companies or individuals are also being rushed to the quake-hit region.
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Hundreds killed as earthquake rocks China

In this image from a mobile phone, rescuers work at a destroyed building after an earthquake hit China

A powerful earthquake in northwest China killed at least 67 people and left many others buried under debris early Wednesday, the state said.

The quake, which struck at 7:49 a.m. in Qinghai Province, was reported as having a magnitude of 7.1 by China’s earthquake administration. The United States Geological Survey recorded it as 6.9.

According to Xinhua, the earthquake struck 240 miles southeast of Golmud, a town of about 130,000 on the Tibetan plateau. Golmud is perhaps best known as the site of the world’s largest salt lake.

The China Earthquake Networks Center said epicenter had been in Yushu County, an area sparsely populated with farmers and herders, mostly ethnic Tibetans.

China National Radio said that 90 percent of the homes in the area had collapsed but that schools and government buildings had largely remained standing.

Karsum Nyima, an employee of a local television station in Yushu, told the national broadcaster, CCTV, that the early morning quake had sent people running into the streets.

“All of a sudden, the houses collapsed,” he said. “It was a terrible earthquake. In the park, a Buddhist pagoda fell off. Everyone is in the street in front of their houses. They are trying to find family members.”

In the same broadcast, Wu Yong, an officer with the Chinese army, said that the road to the airport was impassable and that soldiers were digging out people from collapsed homes by hand. “The most important thing now is that this place is far from everything, with few accessible rescue troops available,” said. “I feel like the number of dead and injured will keep going up.”

State news media reported that 3,000 troops would be sent to the area to assist in rescue efforts.

Last August, Golmud was hit by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake that destroyed dozens of homes but caused no deaths. Qinghai is an ethnic melting pot of Tibetans, Mongols and Han Chinese. It is adjacent to Sichuan Province, where 87,000 people died in a powerful earthquake in 2008.
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U.S. warns citizens about travel to Thailand

The United States government on Monday warned Americans traveling in Thailand to be vigilant and stay away from some popular tourist areas after 21 people were killed and 800 injured in weekend protests.

The U.S. State Department said political demonstrations in Bangkok were expected to continue through the Songkran Thai New Year holidays from April 13-16.

It warned Americans to avoid areas where demonstrations were taking place, including Khao San road, a popular tourist street for budget travelers in the old town.

"U.S. citizens are reminded that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence with little or no warning," it said. "U.S. citizens are urged to avoid the areas that may be targeted for demonstrations and to exercise caution in their movements around Bangkok.

Tourism, which accounts for 6 percent of the Thai economy, is suffering after scenes of heavy fighting in Khao San Road.

The State Department said travel to Thailand remains "generally safe" but the possibility of explosive attacks could not be ruled out. "U.S. citizens are reminded to exercise caution and vigilance at all times." it said.
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Pirates hijack $170m oil shipment

Piracy has made Somali waters among the world's most dangerous

A South Korean navy destroyer has caught up with a supertanker hijacked by pirates that is cruising toward the Somali coast with a cargo of crude oil worth as much as $170 million, an official said on Tuesday.

The South Korean-operated, Singapore-owned Samho Dream, which can carry more than 2 million barrels of crude, was seized on Sunday en route from Iraq to the United States, in the latest sign the sea gangs are targeting bigger quarry.

The destroyer, equipped with weapons that can hit targets as far as 32 km (20 miles) away and a Lynx combat helicopter on board, was shadowing the tanker as it headed for East Africa, a South Korean official said.

He declined to comment further on what was being planned by the naval unit, which was deployed last year to protect commercial vessels in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

The tanker's crew of five South Koreans and 19 Filipinos was taken hostage when it was seized in the Indian Ocean, about 1,560 km (970 miles) east of the Somali coast.

The operator Samho Shipping denied reports that it has been in contact with the pirates or started negotiations for the release of the crew and the ship. Attempts to reach the crew have so far been unsuccessful, a Samho official said.

Texas-based refiner Valero Energy Corp said it was the owner of the crude oil cargo, which was bound for the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Increasingly brazen pirate activity has driven up insurance costs, forced some ships to go around South Africa instead of through the Suez Canal, and secured millions of dollars in ransoms.

A Nairobi-based maritime group said the tanker had been seized by Somali pirates, and a pirate source named Mohamed said the ship was now heading for Haradheere, the port and pirates' base at which many ships are held during ransom negotiations.

While attacks in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean have become an increasing risk for all vessels in recent years, it is rare for pirates to successfully seize the kind of massive supertankers that carry most Gulf crude to refiners.

The 319,000 deadweight tonnage Samho Dream, which was built in 2002, is carrying crude oil that could be worth as much as $170 million at current oil prices. It holds the equivalent of more than one day's worth of Iraqi exports.
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At least 41 killed as triple car bomb hits Baghdad

Troops examine the remnants after a bomb attack outside the Iranian EmbassyThree car bombs exploded in Baghdad yesterday in a co-ordinated attack that killed at least 41 people and ended a period of relative calm.

The suicide bombings appeared to have been aimed at foreign embassies. Two were close to the Egyptian and Iranian embassies, while the third struck an intersection near the German, Spanish and Syrian missions.

“I heard the sound of the explosion and ran out into the street to see a big cloud of dust and smoke,” said Ali Sanz Ali, 26, a labourer working close to the Iranian Embassy, near the city centre.

Cement walls outside the heavily guarded building had been flattened. “On the other side of the street, many cars had been destroyed and burnt. You could see the dead,” he said.

The dead included an Iraqi guard at the German embassy and the head of security at the Egyptian mission, where guards shot at the bomber in a failed attempt to stop his truck. More than 200 people were wounded in the bombings.

At the same time there were a number of other attempted attacks, according to the Iraqi authorities. Police intercepted a car laden with explosives which may have been targeting an organisation protecting embassies. There were also improvised explosive devices targeting police patrols.

American and Iraqi authorities have emphasised that the security situation has been improving, but similar “spectacular” attacks continue.

Yesterday’s bombings were similar to co-ordinated attacks on Baghdad in August, October and December, when ministries and administrative buildings were struck, causing hundreds of deaths. In January three hotels were the targets, including the Hamra — where The Times bureau was hit, killing a Times employee. In another incident at the weekend, men disguised in official uniforms entered Sufia village south of Baghdad and shot dead 25 people — all of whom were connected to the Sahwa or “awakening” movement. Sahwa has, since 2006, worked with American and Iraqi forces to defeat extremists.
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Israeli Warplanes Bomb Gaza Targets

A Palestinian woman walks past the site of an overnight Israeli army air strike in Gaza City, 02 Apr 2010

Palestinian witnesses and officials say Israeli warplanes carried out at least six raids on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip early Friday

They say at least three air strikes targeted an area near the central town of Khan Younis, the site of last week's deadly clash between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen.

Another strike destroyed a workshop in the refugee camp of Nusseirat and the last one completely destroyed a dairy factory. Hospital sources said at least two children were injured by flying debris.

The Israeli military says the raids were a response to a rocket attack from Gaza on Israel.

Thousands of Israelis gathered in the West Bank city of Hebron Thursday to celebrate Israel's inclusion of the Cave of Patriarchs and Rachel's Tomb near Bethlehem as a national heritage sites.

The move angered Palestinians and sparked clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces. Palestinians claim the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem as part of a future state and reject Israel's settlement activity and military occupation of the area.

The Cave of Patriarchs is believed to be the burial site of Abraham - a sacred figure to both Muslims and Jews.

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