Blast that killed 5 blamed on terrorism
ROSTOV-ON-DON | An explosion tore through the center of a southern Russian city on Wednesday, killing five people and wounding at least 20 as locals gathered for a Chechen dance concert, officials said.
The blast bore the hallmarks of terrorist attacks that plague Russia’s North Caucasus region, though the city of Stavropol rarely suffers the separatist-related violence that pervades Chechnya and other bordering provinces.
Russia’s Investigative Committee said in a website statement that the blast occurred near an outdoor cafe that served as a cultural center. A renowned Chechen dance company was scheduled to perform there 15 minutes after the blast struck. A terrorism probe has been opened, the statement said.
It said five people were killed and 20 hospitalized with injuries. A regional Emergencies Ministry spokesman who asked not to be named in line with official policy said 39 were wounded. The spokesman said three of the victims were women sitting on a bench near the tree.
Britain reveals nuke-warhead levels
LONDON | Britain’s new government revealed Wednesday the planned size of its nuclear weapons stockpile, saying it will not exceed 225 warheads — a move cautiously welcomed by anti-nuclear campaigners.
In an announcement coinciding with the end of a U.N. nuclear nonproliferation treaty conference in New York, Britain said it will retain up to 160 operationally available warheads.
The statement makes public for the first time the maximum number of warheads Britain will stockpile.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said the announcement posed no threat to British security, with the U.S. and France having made similar announcements.
Baby lives after stroller hit by train
MELBOURNE | A 15-month-old boy escaped with just a few cuts and bruises on Wednesday after a train struck his stroller, which rolled onto the tracks when his grandmother looked away for just a moment.
The dramatic escape came just seven months after another baby in the southern city of Melbourne survived a train striking his stroller, which also had rolled onto the tracks.
Security camera footage of the latest incident shows the stroller rolling over the edge of the platform just as the train pulls into the station. The stroller is pushed a short distance down the tracks before the train comes to a halt in front of horrified people.
44 reported dead in police-gang clashes
KINGSTON | Security forces claimed a tenuous hold over the slum stronghold of a gang leader sought by the U.S., but only after battles that killed at least 44 civilians, the country’s official ombudsman said Wednesday.
Officers and soldiers were still fighting holdout defenders of Christopher Coke, known as “Dudus,” in pockets of the Tivoli Gardens area. He was still at large after nearly three days of street battles.
Bishop Herro Blair, Jamaica’s most prominent evangelical pastor, told the Associated Press that independent evaluations have put the number of civilian dead at 44 in West Kingston alone. Police have said that at least four soldiers and police officers also have died in fighting in West Kingston and elsewhere around the capital.
Police earlier reported at least 26 civilian deaths and the country’s embattled prime minister, Bruce Golding, promised an independent investigation into all civilian deaths during the operation.
Bishop Blair and Jamaica’s public defender were escorted by security forces into Tivoli Gardens, where supporters of Mr. Coke began massing last week after Mr. Golding dropped his nine-month refusal to extradite him to the U.S.
Mr. Coke has ties to Mr. Golding’s Labor Party, which gets a large number of votes from the Tivoli Gardens area Mr. Golding represents in parliament.
Elton John show raises outcry
RABAT | A concert by Elton John is testing the limits of Morocco’s drive for modernity, probing this Muslim nation’s complex and ambiguous attitudes toward homosexuality like rarely before.
Islamists in the North African kingdom are outraged by the gay pop star’s visit, while the royal palace, government and his many fans back his appearance Wednesday night.
It’s part of a tussle between traditionalists and modernizers in a nation that criminalizes homosexuality but has long been famous for a swinging party scene. Morocco has attracted gay celebrities such as designer Yves Saint Laurent and writer Paul Bowles, and recently saw the launch of its first gay magazine.
Across the Islamic world, strictly hidden but sometimes tacitly tolerated traditions of homosexuality are surfacing fitfully - and Mr. John’s concert is the latest litmus test.
Parents challenge exile of teenage son
KUALA LUMPUR | A Malaysian teenager banished by the government for supposedly possessing a stolen motorcycle sought a court order Wednesday for him to be returned to his parents.
Authorities arrested Jagendran Panir Selvam and two of his 16-year-old friends in central Selangor state in December under a law that lets crime suspects to be detained without trial or exiled to other districts. Jagendran was then 17, but recently turned 18.
Their arrest under Malaysia’s emergency ordinance sparked criticism by human rights activists, who urged the government to charge them in a court for minors or to release them unconditionally.
Jagendran lives at a relative’s house in a separate state just south of Selangor and no longer attends school. His parents, about 30 miles away, want him to be able to move back home.
• From wire dispatches and staff reports