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Suicide bomber in Pakistan kills more than 40 people

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — At least 48 people were killed and dozens more were wounded Sunday evening after a suicide bomber set off his explosives at a border post in eastern Pakistan, police officials said.

The deadly explosion occurred at Wagah, a Pakistani town on the border with India and on the outskirts of Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab province, where a flag-lowering ceremony takes place daily at sunset.

The spectacle attracts thousands on both sides of the border as people cheer and applaud smartly dressed contingents of the Pakistani Rangers and the Indian Border Security Forces.

The bomber, believed to be in his early 20s, detonated a suicide vest as spectators, including women and children, were leaving after the ceremony, Mushtaq Sukhaira, the inspector general of the Punjab police, told local news media.

A splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

“This is a continuation of our jihad for the implementation of an Islamic system in Pakistan,” said Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for the group, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar. He said the group would continue to attack “the pillars of the infidel system” now governing Pakistan.

Sukhaira said intelligence reports had noted that terrorists could target the Wagah border post. “But it is very difficult to thwart a suicide attack,” he said.

Spectators viewing the ceremony have to pass through two security checkpoints before entering the site, where they sit on stairs on either sides of the main border gate.

Pakistani officials said the suicide bomber detonated his explosives in front of a line of shops 500 to 600 yards from the main site, at a time when security was lax after the flag-lowering ceremony had concluded.

—Salman Masood, The New York Times

Leaders in Ukrainian breakaway regions keep power in rebel elections

DONETSK, Ukraine — Rebel election committees announced on Monday that the leaders of two breakaway regions in Ukraine had won enough votes to stay in power, as expected, and Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying it “respected” the voting.

The central election committee in Donetsk said that the separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko, the prime minister of the breakaway region called the Donetsk People’s Republic, had won the balloting there with about 78 percent of the vote. He will now have the title of head of the region. In the other breakaway region, Luhansk, election officials said Igor Plotnitsky had been elected as leader with about 63 percent of the vote.

The European Union and the United States had implored Russia to refrain from recognizing the vote, and the announcement in Moscow again widened a breach with Western governments over strategies for resolving the crisis in Ukraine.

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement carried by the government news agency Tass that said “the elections in Donetsk and Luhansk regions were held in an organized way in general and with high voter turnout.” The statement said the voting showed that “the elected representatives have received a mandate to solve political tasks and restore normal life in the regions.”

The outcome of the vote was never in much doubt. Rather than offering a range of plausible opposition candidates, the voting for members of Parliament and heads of state in Donetsk and Luhansk was significant in highlighting Ukraine’s loss of control over those territories, and Russia’s strengthening influence.

In a statement on Sunday, Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, called the election a “farce” and again appealed to Russia to reject the results.

—Andrew E. Kramer, The New York Times

Gate at Dachau concentration camp with Nazi slogan is stolen

BERLIN — A heavy metal gate bearing the Nazis’ infamous concentration camp slogan, “Arbeit Macht Frei,” (Work Sets You Free), was stolen under cover of darkness on the weekend from the memorial site at the old Nazi camp of Dachau, just north of Munich, in what looked like a carefully planned crime, the authorities in Bavaria said on Monday.

A similar theft of an “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign occurred at Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland in 2009. The slogan was recovered after a few days, and in December 2010 a Swedish neo-Nazi and two Polish accomplices were jailed for their part in the theft.

The theft of the gate at Dachau was discovered early Sunday by the private security service that keeps a 24-hour watch on the site, in addition to frequent patrols by the police. Records suggested the theft occurred between midnight and 5:30 a.m., officials said.

Dachau was the first camp opened by the Nazis to incarcerate their political opponents, starting shortly after Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933. Gabriele Hammermann, who has worked there since 1997 and headed it since 2009, expressed revulsion at the violation of the site, where the Nazis imprisoned about 200,000 people over 12 years. An estimated 41,500 met their deaths at the camp, which was liberated by U.S. troops days before World War II ended in Europe in May 1945.

“It was a terrible shock,” Hammermann said. “This is the most important symbol of the concentration camp.”

Hammermann and police investigators said that at least two adults must have been involved, noting that the thieves not only had to cut the heavy, 6.5-foot-long object loose but also had to heave it over an outer gate. By police estimates, the piece weighed as much as 225 pounds.

Hammermann said that, in protecting sites like Dachau, a careful balance had to be struck between providing enough security and not turning these symbols of a totalitarian state into sites bristling with instruments of modern surveillance.

—Alison Smale, The New York Times