February 5
IRAQ
Baghdad explosions leave at least 34 dead

Multiple blasts rocked Baghdad on Wednesday, killing at least 34 people, in a brazen reminder of the ability of insurgents to penetrate the heart of the capital.

The attacks come as al-Qaeda-inspired militants are battling for control of Sunni areas to the west in the first test of the Shiite-led government’s ability to maintain security more than two years after U.S. combat troops left.

The deadliest attack took place across from the Foreign Ministry, shattering windows in nearby apartment buildings. Two car bombs went off in different lots, killing at least 12 people, including three police officers, and wounding 22, police said.

Shortly afterward, a suicide bomber set off his explosives in a nearby falafel restaurant frequented by officials or visitors waiting for security escorts into the Green Zone, which houses government offices and embassies. Five people were killed and 12 wounded, a police officer said.

A parked car bomb exploded in busy Khilani Square in central Baghdad, killing five and wounding 11, another officer said.

And shortly before sunset, a triple car bombing struck an outdoor market in the mainly Shiite suburb of Jisr Diyala in southeastern Baghdad, killing nine and wounding 24. Minutes later, a rocket landed near the Green Zone, killing one passerby and wounding seven, police said.

No one asserted responsibility, but in the past such attacks were typically carried out by an al-Qaeda affiliate in Iraq.

Later, a bomb went off in a cafe in the mainly Sunni neighborhood of Dora, killing two people and wounding six, officials said.

— Associated Press

BRITAIN
London Tube strike causes traffic chaos

A two-day strike by London Underground workers over job cuts and ticket-office closures caused chaos in the capital as stations remained shut and roads were jammed with extra traffic.

The Tube, which usually carries more than 3.3 million people on weekdays, began running later than usual, with two lines and more than 40 stations closed, Transport for London said on its Web site. Frequencies on routes that remained open dropped to as low as one train every 20 minutes, and buses filled quickly, leaving some passengers stranded.

Unions called the strike over Mayor Boris Johnson’s plans to scrap ticket booths, with the loss of more than 750 jobs, spurred by the introduction of rechargeable travel cards.

— Bloomberg News

UKRAINE
E.U. offers to help on reforms, justice

During a visit to Kiev aimed at seeking a way out of the country’s political crisis, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton offered Wednesday to help Ukraine achieve constitutional reform and bring perpetrators of violence to justice.

The E.U. is “more than willing to help and support” some form of “transparent and independent process” to that end, the bloc’s top diplomat said in a news conference after meetings with President Viktor Yanukovych and members of the opposition.

Ashton’s talks with Yanu­kovych included perspectives for constitutional reform, according to the president’s office.

Earlier, Ukrainian opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko urged the E.U. to mediate in the country’s deep political crisis.

Klitschko and other opposition leaders want a return to the 2004 constitution, which gives more powers to the parliament and the prime minister.

— McClatchy-Tribune

4 killed, 7 wounded in attack on Yemen army patrol: Security officials say gunmen attacked an army patrol near a gas export terminal in southern Yemen on Wednesday, killing four soldiers. Seven other soldiers were wounded in the attack near the vital Balhaf terminal in Shabwa province, the officials said. The area has witnessed previous assaults by al-Qaeda-linked militants, who took over swaths of the south in 2011 before being ousted by the army. Separately, a special forces commander was killed in a drive-by shooting in the city of Aden.

Macedonia adopts castration bill for pedophiles: Macedonia’s parliament has adopted a bill imposing chemical castration on repeat offenders convicted of sexually abusing children — but the country’s leading child protection group said Wednesday that the law is still too lenient. Lawmakers voted Monday to make penalties harsher for convicted pedophiles, increasing the maximum sentence from 15 years to life imprisonment and imposing chemical castration on second-time offenders. The legislation also offers reduced prison sentences to first-time offenders agreeing to undergo the procedure voluntarily.

— From news services

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