The judge in Saddam Hussein's genocide trial dismissed the lead prosecutor's request Wednesday that he resign from the case on account of his leniency toward the former Iraqi leader. Saddam was uncharacteristically quiet during Wednesday's proceedings, when he clutched a Koran, but he's often acted defiantly and even threatened to "crush the heads" of his accusers. Chief judge Abdullah al-Amiri deflected criticism that the court has become a "political forum" for Saddam and six co-accused, and recalled how a successor to the prophet Muhammad allowed the accused to voice their opinions.
Turkish police raided houses on Wednesday in a major security crackdown after a bomb blast killed 11 people, including five children, in Diyarbakir, a Kurdish-majority city. It was the country's deadliest single bombing since an Al Qaeda attack in 2003 killed 58 people. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blast late Tuesday at a city bus stop. Police said they believed the device may have been intended for police headquarters but was accidentally triggered.
Police in Baghdad turned up more evidence of the presence of sectarian death squads Wednesday with the discovery of 60 bodies, most bound and tortured. Car bombs, including one outside a police office, also killed 22 people and injured 76 others, despite a month-old security crackdown, reinforced by US and Iraqi troops.
Union officials said Nigerian oil workers began a three-day strike Wednesday to protest worsening security in the country's petroleum-rich southern area. The walkout occurred after Chevron confirmed the death of one subcontractor killed Tuesday by gunmen and injuries to two others. Nigeria is Africa's biggest producer of crude and the fifth-largest supplier of oil to the US.
Syrian authorities said they were unable to interrogate the lone surviving militant alleged to have attacked the US Embassy in Damascus before he died from injuries Wednesday. The unidentified man had been in critical condition since being shot in a failed attempt to storm the embassy. There was no immediate claim or responsibility for the foiled effort, but suspicions center on an Al Qaeda offshoot called Jund al-Sham, which means Soldiers of Syria in Arabic.
Global efforts to deal with land mines met with mixed results last year, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines said in its annual report, released Wednesday in Geneva. More land than ever before was cleared of anti-personnel mines in 2005, according to the report, but the 7,300 deaths from mine explosions was 11 percent more than in 2004. Intensified fighting in Colombia, Cambodia, and other countries was cited as a leading cause of the increase.
The Sri Lankan government denied Wednesday an earlier report that it had agreed to unconditional talks with Tamil Tiger rebels, but said it was committed to holding peace talks with the rebels if they renounced "terrorism and violence" in a "verifiable cessation of hostilities." Analysts said the flip-flop may reflect differences between hard-line and more moderate elements in the governing coalition.
In a dawn raid in Dartford, England, Wednesday, British police seized hundreds of guns smuggled from the US to London criminals, including shotguns and automatic weapons. A similar operation was under way in New Jersey, where guns used in a series of gangland shootings in London last year originated.
In response to chronic food shortages, North Korea is encouraging its people to breed rabbits, the state-run news agency reported Wednesday. The impoverished communist country lost an estimated 2 million people to famine in the 1990s. This year, July floods have caused the loss of some 100,000 tons of food.