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World Briefs

- - Tuesday, October 4, 2011

PAKISTAN

Gunmen order people off bus, execute 13 Shiite Muslims

QUETTA — Suspected Sunni extremists fatally shot 13 Shiite Muslims execution-style after ordering them off a bus and lining them up Tuesday in southwestern Pakistan, ramping up a campaign of sectarian violence that has exposed Islamabad's inability to protect minorities.

Sunni militants with links to al Qaeda and the Taliban have carried out scores of bombings and shootings across the country against minority Shiites in recent years. But this summer has been especially bloody in Baluchistan province, with at least four major attacks since May.

The gunmen who attacked Tuesday were riding on motorbikes and stopped a bus carrying mostly Shiite Muslims who were headed to work at a vegetable market on the outskirts of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, police official Hamid Shakeel said.

The attackers forced the people off the bus, made them stand in a line and then opened fire, Mr. Shakeel said.

The dead included 13 Shiites and one Sunni, he said. Six people were wounded - four Shiites and two Sunnis.

JAPAN

International team to help with nuclear plant cleanup

TOKYO — A team from the International Atomic Energy Agency will in Japan this week to help with the massive cleanup of areas contaminated by a radiation-leaking nuclear power plant, officials said Tuesday.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said the 12-member team will help plan and conduct the decontamination during its nine-day visit starting Friday.

It also will visit the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, meet with Japanese nuclear officials and compile a report, he said.

A massive March 11 earthquake and tsunami damaged cooling systems at the plant, causing three reactor cores to melt and releasing large amounts of radiation. Tens of thousands of people fled their homes.

AFGHANISTAN

Red Cross: Security situation hindering medical efforts

KABUL — The International Committee of the Red Cross said Tuesday that deteriorating security in Afghanistan has impeded access to medical care, driving it to critically low levels in some areas of the country after a decade of war.

"Despite improvements in the quality of life for certain sectors of the population over the past decade, the security situation in many areas of the country remains alarming," said Jacques de Maio, the Red Cross' head of operations for South Asia.

"Access to medical care is at a critically low point in conflict-affected areas, with local clinics closed in some places because of fighting, attacks on premises, or intimidation of staff," he said.

A recent U.N. report said that the average number of clashes and other attacks each month was running nearly 40 percent higher than the same time last year.

In the midyear report, the U.N. said 1,462 Afghan civilians lost their lives in crossfire between Taliban insurgents and Afghan, U.S. and NATO forces. During the first half of last year, 1,271 Afghan civilians were killed, mostly by roadside bombs.

BAHAMAS

Prime minister promises to find criminals, toughen laws

NASSAU — The Bahamian prime minister announced Monday that his government will root out criminals, toughen laws, improve the islands' courts, round up unlicensed guns and fund programs aimed at intervening in the lives of at-risk youth.

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham made the comments in a nationally televised address in the vast archipelago, which has seen a record number of killings this year.

Police say 104 people have been killed so far in 2011. That tops the previous full-year record of 94 set last year.

Mr. Ingraham said the Bahamas is plagued with an "intolerable level of crime, especially violent crime."

While much of the Bahamas, including tourist resorts, is peaceful, tensions run deep in some sections of Grand Bahama and populous New Providence Island, which is home to more than 200,000 people and some of the most famous resorts in the Caribbean nation off Florida's east coast.

Assistant Police Commissioner Hulan Hanna recently told reporters that he is alarmed by the escalating murder rate, but law enforcers are committed to fighting crime on the islands of roughly 340,000 people.

INDIA

First strategic pact sealed with Afghanistan

NEW DELHI — Afghanistan on Tuesday signed a strategic partnership with India - its first such agreement with any country - recognizing a regional ally largely sidelined during a decade of U.S.-led international efforts to root out terrorists on Afghan soil.

While the pact had been expected, its timing sparked speculation of a shift in regional alignments after Afghan President Hamid Karzai chastised neighboring Pakistan for failing to act against Taliban-led insurgents based within its borders.

After meeting Tuesday, Mr. Karzai and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke about the need for regional peace and prosperity, saying their countries envision a shared future free of extremism and violence.