IRAQ

Six killed as security forces reclaim bridges

Iraqi security forces killed at least six anti-government protesters and wounded more than 100 others on Saturday, pushing them back from three flash point bridges in central Baghdad, medical and security officials said.

Five of the protesters were killed by live ammunition, while the sixth died after being shot in the head with a tear-gas canister. The Iraqi officials spoke on the condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

The current cycle of anti-government protests and the heavy-handed security crackdown has left more than 250 people dead. Mass protests erupted in Baghdad and across southern Iraq last month, with demonstrators calling for the overhaul of the political system established after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

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The deaths occurred Saturday as the protests intensified in the afternoon, when demonstrators tried to reach the three bridges spanning the Tigris River to the heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of government. Protesters have tried to force their way across on an almost daily basis.

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The protesters were pushed from the Sinak bridge to nearby Khilani square, where 35 people were wounded, medical officials said. Security forces also regained control of the nearby Ahrar and Shuhada bridges.

The demonstrators complain of widespread corruption, lack of job opportunities and poor basic services, including regular power cuts, despite Iraq’s vast oil reserves. They have rejected government proposals for limited economic reforms, and instead called on the country’s political leadership to resign, including Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi.

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— Associated Press

BANGLADESH

Coast hunkers down as cyclone roars ashore

A strong cyclone made landfall early Sunday in Bangladesh, where hundreds of thousands of people have moved to shelters across the nation’s coastal region.

Up to 1.8 million were expected to be evacuated by Saturday evening ahead of Cyclone Bulbul, said Enamur Rahman, Bangladesh’s junior disaster management minister. More than 5,000 shelters had been prepared by Saturday morning.

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The cyclone was packing winds of up to 75 miles per hour and gusts of up to 80 mph, but it was forecast to weaken after crossing the coast. It slammed ashore near Sagar Island, and its path included the southwestern Khulna region.

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The weather office said coastal districts were likely to be inundated by storm surges of five to seven feet above normal tide because of the impact of the cyclone.

The storm is also expected to impact parts of northeastern India, where precautions were also being taken.

— Associated Press

French abuse victims to receive compensation: French bishops approved plans to financially compensate people abused sexually within the Roman Catholic Church. Any person recognized by their bishop as a victim will be eligible to receive money, they said, and the church will appeal for donations to foot the bill. Bishops also voted to allocate $5.5 million to an independent commission examining church sex abuse in France and to support prevention efforts.

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Cambodian activist reaches Malaysia: Cambodian opposition veteran Sam Rainsy flew into Malaysia after promising to return home from self-imposed exile to rally opponents of authoritarian ruler Hun Sen. Rainsy, 70, did not say if he would try to reach Cambodia from Malaysia after an earlier attempt to get there via neighboring Thailand was blocked.

Turkish-led forces, Syrian troops clash: Intense clashes broke out Saturday between Syrian government troops and Turkish-led forces in northeast Syria, the country's state media and an opposition war monitor reported. Several people were injured, including a cameraman for state-run Syrian TV, according to both the Syrian Arab News Agency and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Observatory and Kurdish news agency Hawar said a Syrian major general and a colonel were also wounded.

Bolivia's Morales faces growing pressure: Police guards outside the presidential palace in Bolivia left their posts, increasing pressure on President Evo Morales as he tries to stabilize the country after a disputed election. Growing dissension in police ranks poses a new threat to Morales, who claimed victory after the Oct. 20 vote but has since faced protests in which three people have been killed.

— From news services

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