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Briefly

- - Tuesday, March 29, 2011

IRAQ

Gunmen kill hostages execution-style in siege

BAGHDAD | Gunmen wearing explosives-laden belts under military uniforms took hostages at a local government headquarters in Saddam Hussein's hometown, killing 15 of them execution-style before blowing themselves up in a fiery end to an hourslong siege, Iraqi officials said.

In all, 45 people were killed.

The attackers set fire to the bodies of three slain councilmen at the Salahuddin provincial council headquarters in Tikrit, said the province's media adviser, Mohammed al-Asi.

Among the lawmakers was an official who was known for his tough stance against al Qaeda in Iraq, which some officials blamed for the attack. Another was an elderly politician who headed the council's committee on religion.

"He was just an old man - he did nothing," Mr. al-Asi said in an interview, trying to keep from weeping. "Why did they shoot him and set fire to his poor body?"

Salahuddin Gov. Ahmed Abdullah called the attack "a tragic incident carried out by ruthless terrorists."

ISRAEL

Israel considering annexing West Bank settlements

JERUSALEM | Israel is considering annexing major West Bank settlement blocs if the Palestinians unilaterally seek world recognition of a state, an Israeli official said Tuesday - a move that would deal a grave blow to any prospects for peacemaking with the Palestinians.

Israel has refrained from taking such a diplomatically explosive step for four decades. The fact that it is considering doing so reflects how seriously it is concerned by the Palestinian campaign to win international recognition of a state in the absence of peacemaking.

The Palestinians launched that campaign after peacemaking foundered over Israeli construction in West Bank settlements.

On Tuesday, the Interior Ministry said it would decide next month whether to give final approval to build 1,500 apartments in two Jewish enclaves in East Jerusalem. Israel captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan in 1967.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem, home to shrines sacred to Judaism, Islam and Christianity, immediately after seizing it. But it studiously avoided annexing the West Bank, where 300,000 settlers now live among 2.5 million Palestinians.

YEMEN

Yemenis blame Saleh as security deteriorates

SANAA | Yemeni protesters demanding an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's rule said Tuesday that they would insist he leave power soon, blaming him for violence that has raised U.S. fears of chaos that could benefit militants.

Explosions on Monday at an arms factory killed more than 100 people in a southern town where Islamists seemed to have driven out government forces, a reminder of the instability that Mr. Saleh's Western allies fear in the poorest Arab state.

Al Arabiya TV said the death toll could rise to about 150.

The main coalition of opposition groups said Mr. Saleh was to blame for the presence of militants, including al Qaeda, in Abyan province, where the blast took place.

BAHRAIN

Bahrain accepts resignation of opposition MPs

MANAMA | Bahrain's parliament has accepted the resignations of 11 lawmakers from the Shiite opposition.

State-run Bahrain News Agency (BNA) said the 40-member house on Tuesday approved the resignations of 11 Al Wefaq legislators.

They and seven other Al Wefaq lawmakers submitted resignations last month over the deadly crackdown on anti-government protesters in the tiny island Gulf nation. BNA said the parliament postponed deliberations on the six other resignations.

Bahrain's parliament, the only elected body, holds limited authority. All of the country's decisions - including appointment of government ministers - rest with the Sunni monarch.

Bahrain has declared emergency rule and invited Saudi-led troops to help quell a month of Shiite-led protests demanding greater freedoms.

From wire dispatches and staff reports