Africa

Blast at Lagos Bank Kills at Least 40

LAGOS, Nigeria -- A powerful explosion tore apart a bank and dozens of apartments above it yesterday in Nigeria's crowded commercial capital, killing at least 40 people, relief workers said.

Police were investigating a range of motives, including a suspicion that the blast was part of a bank robbery plot.

Looting and fights broke out as hundreds of people grabbed fistfuls of cash from the leveled bank. Two nearby buildings were leaning precariously.

Many more victims were believed to be caught in the rubble, and the death toll could rise, said Emmanuel Ijewere, president of the Nigerian Red Cross.

Associated Press

Ivory Coast May Revisit Peace Pact

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast -- A key aide to Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo said that renegotiating a French-brokered peace accord to try to end the country's war was inevitable, but France urged the president to stick by the deal.

Days of sometimes violent protests and anti-French riots followed the signing of the agreement reached Jan. 24, and tension mounted as opposition supporters stormed onto the streets of the main city, Abidjan.

The accord is based on a power-sharing agreement giving senior ministerial posts to rebels who started the conflict, which has killed hundreds of people and fanned division between the mainly Muslim north and largely Christian south.

Associated Press

ASIA

Explosion Rocks Police Headquarters

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- An explosion rocked the Indonesian police headquarters compound at 7:15 a.m. today, damaging two cars and a social hall, police said. No injuries were reported.

One official said someone found a black bag with cables, containing what appeared to be an explosive, around the time of morning roll call. The device, described a low-explosive material, blew up before the bomb squad could arrive, according to this official.

Security officials have been on alert for increased militant activity since bombs were set off outside Bali nightclubs on Oct. 12, killing almost 200 people.

Ellen Nakashima

FOR THE RECORD

Vaclav Havel, the dissident playwright and anti-communist leader who helped lift the Iron Curtain across Eastern Europe, stepped down after 12 years as president of the Czech Republic. . . . Opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez turned out in large numbers to cast a symbolic vote against him, signing a petition for early elections after opposition leaders said they were scaling back a two-month strike. . . . Spain's ambassador to Morocco returned to Rabat, the latest step toward the restoration of full diplomatic ties after a military standoff last year over an uninhabited Mediterranean island. . . . A hotel fire killed 33 people in Harbin, in the frigid northeastern corner of China. . . . An official with the Russian-backed administration in Chechnya said a top police official was killed by a land mine in Grozny, the capital.