Bombers, gunmen kill 23 in attacks

A suicide bombing at a Shiite mosque and other attacks killed 23 people in Iraq on Saturday, as officials announced preliminary results for local elections in two provinces that showed the bloc of the country’s parliament speaker in the lead.

The deadliest attack occurred after sunset when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a Shiite mosque in Sabaa al-Bour, 20 miles north of Baghdad, killing 14 people, police said.

Earlier, a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into a police patrol in al-Athba village, near the restive northern city of Mosul, police said. Three bystanders and a policeman were killed.

Gun attacks occurred in the cities of Tuz Khormato and Samarra, both north of Baghdad.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility.

Meanwhile, election officials said a partial count of ballots for provincial-level elections held Thursday in Sunni-dominated Anbar and Nineveh provinces showed Sunni parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi’s United bloc leading in both.

Final election results are expected in the coming days.

— Associated Press

Opposition bloc woos Mubarak backers

Egypt’s largest opposition bloc on Saturday reached out to former members of the deposed president’s party, ahead of mass protests June 30 demanding the ouster of his successor.

The opposition’s move came a day after an estimated 100,000 supporters of President Mohamed Morsi, an Islamist and the country’s first elected leader, packed a main square in Cairo to support him and challenge the largely liberal opposition that demands he step down.

Morsi won a four-year term as president with about 52 percent of the vote in a runoff last June against Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister under Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in 2011. Shafiq is contesting the election results. “I can’t isolate millions of Egyptian people because they were part of the National Democratic Party,” said Mohamed ElBaradei, a senior leader of the opposition National Salvation Front, referring to Mubarak’s now-dissolved party.

He said the invitation to Mubarak supporters did not extend to those who had been convicted of crimes under the former government.

— Associated Press

Rights group evicted; chief alleges beating

Law enforcement agents forcibly evicted the head of one of Russia’s leading human rights groups and about a half dozen others from his Moscow office early Saturday, in the latest attack on a Russian nongovernmental organization.

Lev Ponomaryov, 72, who heads the group For Human Rights, said he was beaten when security forces stormed the building about 2 a.m. and dragged him out. Dozens of riot police had raided the office Friday and ordered employees to leave, but they had refused.

Russia’s human rights ombudsman, Vladimir Lukin, said the NGO was evicted illegally from the city-owned property. The U.S. democracy watchdog Freedom House condemned the “violent assault” and called on the international community to “register its strong opposition to such thuggish tactics.”

For Human Rights is one of hundreds of Russian nongovernmental organizations that have come under pressure in recent months as part of President Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on dissenters following unprecedented street protests last year.

— Associated Press

Kennedys, Irish mark 50th anniversary of JFK visit: The Irish government and the Kennedy clan celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 1963 visit of President John F. Kennedy with a day-long street party that was capped by the lighting of Ireland’s own “eternal flame.” The celebrations focused on the County Wexford town of New Ross, from which Patrick Kennedy departed in 1848 at the height of Ireland’s potato famine to resettle in Boston. Participants included Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny; Kennedy’s only surviving sibling, Jean Kennedy Smith; his only surviving child, Caroline Kennedy; and Caroline Kennedy’s son, Jack Schlossberg.

NATO service member, Afghan policemen killed: Taliban militants attacked local security checkpoints in Kunduz, the capital of the northern Afghan province of the same name, killing two policemen in a fight that also left 18 insurgents dead, Afghan officials said. NATO said a coalition service member also died in a militant attack in the south Saturday but did not elaborate. Pope passes up Vatican concert: Pope Francis didn’t show up as expected for a Beethoven concert in the Vatican because of “commitments that could not be postponed,” organizers said. Unlike his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who was known for his love of music, Francis has shown scant interest in music, liturgical or otherwise.

— From news services