World briefs – August 16

A relentless barrage of bombings killed 63 people Monday in the most sweeping and co-ordinated attack Iraq has seen in over a year, striking 17 cities from northern Sunni areas to the southern Shiite heartland.

Wave of bomb blasts rip through Iraq

BAGHDAD — A relentless barrage of bombings killed 63 people Monday in the most sweeping and co-ordinated attack Iraq has seen in over a year, striking 17 cities from northern Sunni areas to the southern Shiite heartland.

The surprising scope and sophistication of the bloodbath suggested that al-Qaida remains resilient despite recent signs of weakness. Such attacks, infrequent as they are deadly, will likely continue long after American forces withdraw from the country.

“This is our destiny,” said Eidan Mahdi, one of more than 250 Iraqis wounded Monday. Mahdi was lying in a hospital bed in the southern city of Kut. One of his eyes was closed shut with dried blood, and burns covered his hands and head.

While some Iraqis expressed resignation, others voiced fury at security officials and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

“Where is the government with all these explosions across the country? Where is al-Maliki? Why doesn’t he come to see?” said Ali Jumaa Ziad, a Kut shop owner. Ziad was brushing pieces of human flesh from the floor and off equipment in his shop.

The bombs went off on a hot and sunny morning as people were headed to work. Explosive devices were planted in the vests of suicide attackers, in parked cars, along the sides of roads and even on light poles.

Palestinian refugees flee Syria

BEIRUT — More than 5,000 Palestinian refugees have fled a camp in the besieged Syrian city of Latakia after President Bashar Assad’s forces shelled the city during a broad military assault to root out dissent, the U.N. said Monday.

UNRWA, the U.N. agency that aids Palestinian refugees, said the Palestinians fled after Latakia came under fire from gunboats cruising off the coast and ground troops attacking the city over the weekend. It was not immediately clear where the refugees were seeking shelter.

“We are calling for access to the camp to find out what is going on,” said UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness. “There were 10,000 refugees in the camp and we need to find out what is happening to them.”

Assad has dramatically escalated the crackdown on a 5-month-old uprising since the start of the holy month of Ramadan, when many Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. Despite blistering international outrage, the regime is trying to establish firm control in rebellious areas by unleashing tanks, snipers and — in a new tactic — gunships.

On Monday, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called on Syria to immediately end the bloodshed and threatened unspecified “steps”.

Judge orders halt to trial broadcast of Mubarak trial

CAIRO, Egypt — The judge trying ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on charges of complicity in the killing of protesters who toppled his regime ordered a halt to the live broadcast of his trial Monday after a chaotic session in which lawyers scuffled to get on television.

Showing the hearings live on state television had been a nod by Judge Ahmed Rifaat to activists who complained that the military rulers now in charge of the country were dragging their feet bringing Mubarak and stalwarts of his regime to justice.

“The aim is to remove the humiliation. Now, God knows how long it (the trial) will take,” said ist and prominent rights activist Alaa el-Aswany.

The decision was met with suspicion by Ramadan Ahmed, father of a 16-year-old protester killed during the 18-day uprising that toppled the regime.

“This is not correct. How can I be reassured and feel the justice,” said Ahmed, who was refused access to the courtroom. “I want to see justice realized before my eyes.”

UN investigating massive theft of food in Somalia

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Thousands of sacks of food aid meant for Somalia’s famine victims have been stolen and are being sold at markets, depriving the Somalis who have flooded into the country’s capital of urgently needed sustenance, an Associated Press investigation has found.

The U.N.’s World Food Program for the first time acknowledged it has been investigating food theft in Somalia for two months. The WFP said that the “scale and intensity” of the famine crisis does not allow for a suspension of assistance, saying that doing so would lead to “many unnecessary deaths.”

The U.N. says more 3.2 million Somalis — nearly half the population — need food aid after a severe drought that has been complicated by Somalia’s long-running war. More than 450,000 Somalis live in famine zones controlled by al-Qaida-linked militants, where aid is difficult to deliver. The U.S. says 29,000 Somali children under the age of 5 already have died.

International officials have long expected some of the food aid pouring into Somalia to go missing. But the sheer scale of the theft taking place calls into question aid groups’ ability to reach the starving.

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