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Suicide Bomber Kills 23 at Shiite Procession in Pakistan


THE NEW YORK TIMES

A suicide bomber killed 23 people taking part in a Shiite religious procession in Pakistan Thursday, according to Interior Department officials.

News service accounts said that as many as four more people died in rioting that followed the explosion. There was no firm count of the number of wounded, which was described as being in the dozens.

The attack took place in the town of Hunga, about 125 miles from the capital, Islamabad, in the country’s northwest.

In recent years, tensions between Sunnis and Shiites in Pakistan have increased, and there have been a number of attacks on processions marking Ashura, which marks the death of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Hussein Imam, who is regarded by Shiites as a saint. Sunnis make up about 80 percent of the country’s population.

In Afghanistan, at least five people were said to have been killed in clashes between Sunnis and Shiites near the city of Herat, news services reported. And in Iraq, security forces were on high alert as more than a million Shiites marched in processions through cities in the country’s south.

Russian Prosecutor Urges Death Penalty for Beslan Terrorist

By Steven Lee Myers
THE NEW YORK TIMES MOSCOW

A senior prosecutor asked a court in southern Russia on Thursday to sentence to death the only attacker known to have survived the siege of Middle School No. 1 in Beslan in September 2004, rekindling a contentious debate over capital punishment in the country.

Summing up the state’s case against the attacker after an emotionally wrought trial, the deputy prosecutor general, Nikolai I. Shepel, said the gravity of the terrorist siege, which ended with the deaths of 331 hostages, warranted a penalty of death, despite a government moratorium on executions that has been in place since 1996.

His appeal came only two days after President Vladimir V. Putin reiterated his personal opposition to the death penalty but said that he would move cautiously in seeking its final abolishment in Parliament — years after Russia committed to doing so.

“The court’s decision should have a sobering effect on those who want to go down the path of terrorism, so that they know their only future is an unmarked grave,” Shepel said in his closing remarks, shown on television.

U.S. Sees Increase in Border Attacks by Mexican Gangs

By Rachel L. Swarns
THE NEW YORK TIMES WASHINGTON

Mexican criminal syndicates are stepping up their attacks on American agents patrolling the border as homeland security officials here intensify efforts to stem the flow of immigrants and drugs into the United States, American officials said Thursday.

In recent months, scores of border patrol agents have been fired upon or pelted with large rocks as well as with cloth-covered rocks that have been doused with flammable liquid and set ablaze. Since October, agents have been attacked in more than 190 cases, officials said.

Most of the attacks have occurred along the border near San Diego, but shootings have also been reported along the border in Texas near the cities of Laredo and McAllen. In the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, there were 778 attacks on agents, up from 374 in the previous fiscal year, homeland security officials said. One rock struck an agent in the eye; a gunshot hit an agent in the leg. The officials could not say precisely how many officers had been injured.