At least 38 people died and more than 100 others were hurt in violence between Shiite and Sunni Muslims in Pakistan and Afghanistan Thursday. At the center of the trouble was the commemoration of Ashoura, the main event of the Shiite calendar. The worst incident came in Hangu, Pakistan, when someone exploded a bomb amid a procession of Shiites as they left a mosque. The incident touched off rioting that left shops and police vehicles in ruins. Rioting also erupted in Herat, Afghan-istan, after Sunnis accused minority Shiites of destroying a sacred flag. At its peak, the fighting involved hundreds of people.
All Danish nationals were urged to leave Lebanon for their safety as a religious celebration in Beirut Thursday turned into another emotional protest against caricatures of the prophet Muhammad. Hundreds of thousands of Shiite Muslims were urged by Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah to "defend our prophet with our blood, not our voices" until European parliaments pass laws forbidding "insults" to the prophet. He also demanded that President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who have urged that the protests stop and accused Iran and Syria of deliberately stoking Muslim anger, "shut up."
In a bold daylight attack Thursday, masked gunmen in the Gaza Strip kidnaped Egypt's military attaché to the Palestinian Authority (PA) less than half a mile from his heavily guarded mission. There was no immediate claim of responsibility or demand for his release. Hamas, which is set to assume control of the PA, condemned the act and said it "harmed" relations with one of the Palestinians' strongest allies. Meanwhile, Israeli diplomats expressed surprise at the announcement by Russian President Vladimir Putin that he'll invite Hamas leaders to Moscow. Russia joined other major governments Jan. 30 in calling on Hamas to recognize Israel's right to exist. The militant organization has refused to do so.
Within days, some white farmers whose land was seized by the government of Zimbabwe will be invited to return and help revive the nation's economic fortunes, The Telegraph (London) reported. It said those who accept will be offered leases from the state for the property they once owned. But hard-line President Robert Mugabe, under whom the seizures began six years ago, will not announce the U-turn himself, the report said. Instead, the task will be delegated to the land and agriculture ministries. How much farmland remains in productive use since the seizures is a matter of dispute, with the government admitting to about 50 percent and economists putting it closer to 90 percent. Before the seizures, agricultural exports accounted for almost half of Zimbabwe's foreign exchange earnings.
Organizers vowed an ever larger rally against Thailand's leader in Bangkok this weekend than the one that attracted tens of thousands of people last Saturday. But Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra told supporters Thursday he would "fight until I die in the ring" to keep from being forced from office. A broad cross-section of Thais is behind the campaign, the organizers claimed, and a petition demanding that he be impeached for corruption is circulating on at least one college campus. The protest Saturday was Thailand's largest in 14 years.
Commercial fishing in one of the world's most famous harbors - Sydney, Australia - was banned Thursday after tests showed the level of dioxin in the water is almost 100 times higher than the maximum recommended by the World Health Organization. Dioxin is poison-ous and a known carcinogen. The government of New South Wales State announced it will spend $150 million on a cleanup program that a fishermen's association spokesman estimated would take at least a decade. It also said it would pay $4.3 million to compensate commercial fishermen for their losses and to buy back licenses issued to recreational anglers.