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World Scene

- - Sunday, April 3, 2011

CHINA

Well-known artist blocked from boarding plane

BEIJING | China blocked one of its most famous contemporary artists from taking a flight to Hong Kong on Sunday and police later raided his Beijing studio, the man's assistant said.

The artist, Ai Weiwei, is an outspoken government critic and has been barred from going abroad before.

China has launched a massive crackdown on lawyers, writers and activists, arresting and detaining dozens since February, when online calls for protests similar to those in the Middle East and North Africa began to circulate. Mr. Ai has been keeping an informal tally of those detentions on Twitter, where he has more than 70,000 followers.

PAKISTAN

Suicide bombers kill 42 at shrine

MULTAN | A pair of suicide bombers struck a shrine in Pakistan on Sunday, killing 42 people gathered there and pressing a campaign of attacks against places of worship that extremists consider un-Islamic, officials said.

The practice of praying, singing and meditating at the shrines of holy men is widespread and much loved across Pakistan, but extremists consider it a dangerous deviation from the austere Islam they espouse.

Several thousand people were attending celebrations to mark the anniversary of the Sakhi Sarwar shrine in the Dera Ghazi Khan district of Punjab province when the bombers struck crowds outside the complex.

A stampede followed the bombings, but it was unclear whether that caused any casualties. An official said 42 people were killed and 100 wounded.

NIGERIA

Anger, confusion prevail over election delay

LAGOS | Only days before the first of Nigeria's three April elections, the man in charge of the polls assured the oil-rich nation it was "well-prepared and well-positioned" to avoid the missteps of the young democracy's past.

Now, Independent National Electoral Commission Chairman Attahiru Jega faces increasing criticism after delaying countrywide elections for the legislature by two days after polling sites experienced problems Saturday.

Whether voting proceeds smoothly Monday could determine the admired academic's future, as well as that of the nation.

KAZAKHSTAN

Vote expected to re-elect president

ASTANA | A heavy turnout in Sunday's election in Kazakhstan looked set to overwhelmingly reaffirm President Nursultan Nazarbayev's domination of this oil-rich Central Asian nation.

Preliminary results were to be announced early Monday, and some estimate that Mr. Nazarbayev might get more than 90 percent of the vote. Early voters and 18-year-olds casting their ballot for the first time were rewarded with household goods, such as food blenders and electric kettles.

Mr. Nazarbayev, a 70-year-old former Communist Party boss, has ruled Kazakhstan virtually unchallenged since the 1980s, when it was still part of the Soviet Union.

Opposition politicians refused to take part in the election, called for a boycott and described the vote as a sham.

GERMANY

Foreign minister to quit party leadership post

BERLIN | Germany's foreign minister said Sunday he will not seek another term as leader of the junior party in Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition amid calls for his replacement after embarrassing losses in recent state elections.

Guido Westerwelle told reporters that he would not run again to lead the pro-business Free Democratic Party at the party's congress next month, after the party's poor results in last weekend's elections in two southwestern states.

Mr. Westerwelle said he would concentrate his energy on his post as foreign minister.

SOMALIA

Somalia creates new state: Azania

NAIROBI, Kenya | Somali politicians on Sunday announced the creation of a new state in the battle-scarred nation, a move condemned by Somalia's fragile government, which said it could further fracture the already chaotic Horn of Africa country.

The creation of Azania was celebrated Sunday in a colorful ceremony in Kenya's capital. Its creation brings the total number of new states to more than 10.

Kenya supports the new administration as it creates a buffer zone near its border with Somalia.

Azanian President Mohamed Abdi Gandhi said his first duty is to retake his territory from al Qaeda-linked militant group al-Shabab.

From wire dispatches and staff reports