Security forces stormed a Sunni protest camp in northern Iraq on Tuesday, sparking deadly clashes in several towns and sharply intensifying rage at the Shiite-led government. The unrest and a spate of other attacks, mostly targeting Sunni mosques, killed at least 56 people.
The violence could mark an ominous turning point in the four-month Sunni protest movement, which is challenging Iraq’s stability a decade after the toppling of Saddam Hussein.
There was no immediate assertion of responsibility for the attacks on three Sunni mosques, and it was unclear whether they were connected to the storming of the protest camp. Sunni extremists such as al-Qaeda have in the past targeted moderate Sunnis. But if Shiite militias were behind the attacks, it would raise fears of a return to the open sectarian fighting of 2006 and 2007.
Sunni leaders and foreign diplomats denounced the raid on the camp in the former insurgent stronghold of Hawija, about 150 miles north of Baghdad, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki swiftly announced the formation of a special ministerial committee to investigate the incident, underscoring worries that anger could spiral out of control.
“If this bloodshed spreads to other provinces, God forbid, there will be a huge fire that we cannot put out,” parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni, said at a televised news conference.
— Associated Press
Eight years after winning Europe’s top human rights prize, members of a Cuban opposition group finally picked it up Tuesday after securing permission to travel abroad.
Cuba’s Ladies in White won the European Union’s Sakharov Prize in 2005 for their fight for democracy and human rights, but they were not granted permission to leave the country at that time.
“No people can be oppressed forever,” European Parliament President Martin Schulz said at the award ceremony in Brussels.
The Ladies in White formed in 2003 to demand freedom for their loved ones, 75 government opponents who had been jailed in a crackdown on dissidents. Wives and mothers of those jailed began marching each Sunday in Havana, dressed in white and holding aloft white flowers.
Cuba responded by ignoring the protests or sending pro-government crowds to shout the women down. The women have sometimes been arrested, but have usually been released to their homes within hours.
— Associated Press
2 suspects in Canadian terror plot appear in court: Two men accused of plotting a terrorist attack on a Canadian passenger train made a brief court appearance in Toronto, but neither entered a plea. Investigators say Raed Jaser, 35, and his suspected accomplice, Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, received “directions and guidance” from members of al-Qaeda in Iran. Shiite-led Iran’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that groups such as al-Qaeda, which is predominantly Sunni Arab, have “no compatibility with Iran in both political and ideological fields.”
France green-lights same-sex marriage: French lawmakers legalized gay marriage after a wrenching national debate and massive protests in the streets of Paris. The measure passed easily in the Socialist-majority National Assembly minutes after the body’s president expelled a disruptive protester in pink, the color adopted by French opponents of gay marriage. Justice Minister Christiane Taubira said that the first weddings could take place as soon as June.
Terrorism suspects are held in Spain: Spanish police have arrested two suspected members of
al-Qaeda’s North African branch, although neither was known to possess any explosives or to be planning any attack. Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz said there were “sufficient grounds” to warrant the arrests, adding that one of the two men had praised the Boston Marathon bombing. Madrid is scheduled
to stage its own marathon on Sunday.
— From news services