- - Sunday, August 19, 2012

BAGHDAD — A bomb struck the convoy of a senior Sunni cleric in western Baghdad on Sunday morning, killing four and critically wounding the anti-extremist Muslim leader, police said.

The attack highlights the threats faced by relatively moderate Sunni clerics whom the Shiite-led government needs to rebuild the country and establish security, and follows a series of assaults in what is becoming an increasingly bloody month.

The blast in the capital’s Yarmouk neighborhood left Sheik Mahdi al-Sumaidaie badly hurt, a Sunni religious official said. The cleric had just finished leading prayers at a nearby mosque to mark the beginning of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which follows the holy month of Ramadan.

Sheik al-Sumaidaie has sided with the government against Sunni extremists. Earlier this year, he called for a unified religious authority to bridge the gap between Iraq’s Sunnis and Shiites.

Insurgents often target Sunni clerics seen as working closely with the Shiite-led government.


Politician’s wife in murder case gets suspended death sentence

HEFEI — The wife of a fallen Chinese politician has been given a suspended death sentence after confessing to killing a British businessman in a case that has rocked the country’s political leadership.

A suspended sentence is usually commuted to life in prison after several years.

He Zhengsheng, a lawyer for the victim Neil Heywood, said Monday that Gu Kailai was given the suspended death sentence and a family aide was sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment for killing the former Bo family associate.

But even with the verdict, questions remain over the fate of Mrs. Gu’s husband, Bo Xilai, who was dismissed in March as party secretary of Chongqing.


Mine company to strikers: 
Work Monday or be fired

MARIKANA — Miners must return to work Monday or face being fired from the platinum mine where rivalry between unions exploded into violence that led to the deaths of 44 people in a week, Lonmin PLC said Sunday. Thirty-four were gunned down by police last week in one of the worst displays of state violence since apartheid ended in 1994.

President Jacob Zuma declared a week of national mourning starting Monday to commemorate the lives of all South Africans who have died violently, especially the 44 at Marikana mine.

“The nation is in shock and pain,” Mr. Zuma said. “We must this week reflect on the sanctity of human life. … We must unite against violence from whatever quarter.”

Hundreds of rock-drill operators have been leading an illegal strike among the mine’s 28,000-strong labor force.

Threats of violence kept away many more.

Lonmin initially ordered miners to return to work by Friday, then, after the shootings, changed the deadline to Monday, spokeswoman Sue Vey said.

Strikers said they were not sure what to do about the ultimatum. The company has not responded to their demands for the monthly minimum wage to be increased from $688 to $1,560.


Swimmer finishes Day 2
 of bid to reach Florida

HAVANA — Veteran U.S. athlete Diana Nyad pushed Sunday into the second day of a 103-mile swim from Cuba to Florida, fighting fatigue and jellyfish stings in a bid to be the first to make the crossing without a shark cage.

After 24 hours in the water, the 62-year-old swimmer was about a third of the way across the Florida Straits and the 50-member crew accompanying her said she was “very comfortable and confident.”

Ms. Nyad was swimming steadily at 50 strokes per minute despite painful jellyfish stings on her lips, forehead, hands and neck, the team said in updates to fans via social media.

“Today is more like swimming. I don’t know what you would call last night … probably surviving,” Ms. Nyad said, according to a blog run by her support crew.

The athlete and author took to the water in Havana on Saturday and aims to make land at the Florida Keys on Tuesday after about 60 hours in the water.


Helicopter crash 
kills 32 on official trip

KHARTOUM — A Sudanese helicopter carrying a government delegation crashed in a mountainous southern region on Sunday, killing all 32 people on board including a Cabinet minister, a former presidential adviser, two generals and a TV crew.

The delegation was traveling aboard a chartered helicopter to the volatile South Kordofan state to attend prayers on the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

The helicopter went down “due to harsh weather conditions” near Talodi, a small town about 406 miles southwest of the capital, Khartoum, state-run news agency SUNA said.

A Sudanese official said the aircraft slammed into a mountain just before it was to land in Talodi, as seasonal heavy rains in the region left the pilots with “zero visibility.”

Sudan has a poor aviation safety record, with a large number of jet accidents on landing.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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