Thursday, May 21, 2009


Car bomb kills 41 in Baghdad

BAGHDAD | A car bomb exploded Wednesday near several restaurants in a Shi’ite neighborhood of northwest Baghdad, killing 41 people and injuring more than 70, police and hospital officials said.

No group claimed responsibility for the blast in the Shula neighborhood, but the style and location of the attack suggested that it was carried out by Sunni extremists, such as al Qaeda in Iraq, in an apparent bid to rekindle sectarian warfare as the United States draws down forces in the capital.

It was the first major car bombing in the capital since May 6, when 15 people were killed at a produce market in southern Baghdad, and the deadliest in the city since April 29, when twin car blasts killed 51 people in another Shi’ite neighborhood in Sadr City.


Military plane crashes, killing 98

MAGETAN | An Indonesian military plane carrying troops and their families caught fire and nose-dived into a residential neighborhood Wednesday, killing 98 people. More than a dozen people were injured, many with severe burns.

Survivors said they heard at least two loud explosions and felt the C-130 Hercules wobbling as it careened to the ground. The transporter slammed into a row of houses and then skidded into a rice paddy; its fuselage was shattered.

Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most populous nation, has been hit by a string of airline crashes, commercial and military, putting it under international pressure to improve maintenance and safety regulations. But the air force fleet, long underfunded and handicapped by a recently lifted U.S. ban on weapons sales, has been especially hit hard.


Bomb killed 30 civilians, U.S. says

KABUL | Video evidence recorded by fighter jets and the account of the ground commander suggest that no more than 30 civilians were killed in a two-day battle in western Afghanistan this month, the U.S. military said Wednesday in a stark contrast with Afghan claims that 140 civilians died.

The footage shows insurgents streaming into homes that were later bombed, said Col. Greg Julian, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan. He said ground troops observed about 300 villagers fleeing in advance of the fighting, indicating that not many could have been inside the bombed compounds.

The figures, which the Americans called preliminary, conflict with the numbers villagers provided to an Afghan government commission days after the May 4-5 battle in the villages of Gerani and Ganjabad in Farah province.

The Afghan government has paid compensation to victims’ families; the United States contends that the money could have acted as an incentive for families to inflate the numbers of victims. A list of 140 names provided by villagers included at least 60 women and more than 90 people younger than 18.


Biden offers ‘new’ relations

BELGRADE | Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. offered Serbia “a strong, new relationship” with the United States on Wednesday, along with help in its European Union membership bid, despite deep differences over independence for Kosovo.

Mr. Biden said after his talks with Serbia’s pro-Western President Boris Tadic that the United States wants to see the Balkan country take its place in Europe “as a strong, successful democratic state” and play a constructive role in the still volatile region.

Mr. Biden arrived from Bosnia, the first stop in a three-day tour of the Balkans. He is the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit since Serbia President Carter in 1980, when Serbia was part of Yugoslavia.

Police banned anti-American protests planned by nationalists during the visit. In February 2008, angry protesters set fire to the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade to protest U.S. support for Kosovo’s statehood. However, a few hundred Radical Party supporters staged a small protest in a Belgrade suburb.


Diplomats allowed at Suu Kyi trial

YANGON | Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi thanked diplomats for their support Wednesday after Myanmar’s military government agreed to allow them and several journalists to attend her trial. They said she seemed “spirited” and in good health, and one described her courtroom appearance as “awe-inspiring.”

The Nobel Peace laureate, who has been in detention without trial for more than 13 of the past 19 years, is accused of violating the terms of her house arrest after an American man stayed at her home without official permission. The offense is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment.

When the trial opened Monday, outsiders were barred except for one U.S. diplomat who was allowed in because the man who sneaked into Mrs. Suu Kyi’s lakeside compound in the city of Yangon is an American. Wednesday’s decision to allow 29 foreign diplomats and 10 journalists into the hearings came as a surprise.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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