Despite his aides' denials, Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite Muslim cleric, has fled Baghdad and is in Iran, US military spokesmen said. Maj. Gen. William Caldwell told reporters Wednesday: "We are tracking [him] very closely [and] all indications are, in fact, that he left last month." If true, that could have major implications for Iraq's future. Sadr's so-called Mahdi Army is seen as the No. 1 threat to Iraqi security, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki relies heavily on him for political support. Iran's official news agency also denied that Sadr is in the Islamic republic.
At least 11 of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards were killed aboard a bus carrying them to work Wednesday in a bold daylight attack blamed on "bandits and agents of insecurity." The Islamic Republic News Agency said it occurred at Zahedan, an area of low-level unrest in southeastern Iran near the borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan. A Sunni Muslim group calling itself God's Soldiers claimed responsibility. The provincial governor's office said five arrests had been made in the case.
As many as 300,000 Lebanese jammed central Beirut in memory of murdered former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and to show support for their anti- Syrian government. Hariri died two years ago Wednesday in a massive car-bomb attack blamed on Syria's leadership. The gathering took place amid heavy security due to the tensions between anti- and pro-Syrians. On Tuesday, three people died and 18 others were hurt when bombs tore apart two buses in a Christian area northeast of Beirut.
Martial law was eased slightly Wednesday in Guinea's capital to allow residents eight hours in which to shop. But gunfire could be heard in some neighborhoods as soldiers tried to keep people off the streets. In an address to the nation Tuesday night, Army chief Kerfala Camara said soldiers have the right to search all dwellings and vehicles for firearms and to use force if they encounter resistance. The nation's League of Human Rights said it knew of at least 57 deaths since protests against President Lansana Conte resumed last weekend.
Only minutes after elections officials declared him the winner of last weekend's voting, acting President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov of Turkmenistan accepted his oath of office Wednesday. He pledged to continue "the legacy" of hard-line predecessor Saparmurat Niyazov, who died Dec. 21, but also promised to reverse some of Niyazov's more unpopular domestic policies.
Violence that had been confined to the slums of Rio de Janeiro spread to a middle-class neighborhood Wednesday and took the lives of an elite dance-school director and his wife on the eve of the city's famous Carnival celebration. Unidentified gunmen shot them as they were leaving a parade rehearsal. They were among the six latest victims of the surge in violence that began in December. The others came in shootouts between police and drug gangs. Carnival opens Friday night.
Under pressure from new leftist President Rafael Correa and hundreds of his supporters who were massed outside, Ecuador's Congress voted 57-1 Tuesday to OK the national referendum he seeks on rewriting the Constitution. Most opposition legislators walked out in protest before the vote. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal said it doesn't have enough money to organize the referendum but still scheduled it for April 15. Correa has pledged to "crush the political mafias," Ecuador's traditional conservative parties.
"A very difficult meeting" was expected in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, where leaders of the world's third-largest religious body opened a week-long convention. Analysts said the 77-million-member Anglican Communion – already deeply divided over the issue of homosexuality – could split even further. The BBC reported that liberals, who support the appointment of a homosexual bishop in the American Episcopal Church, and conservatives aren't even staying in the same hotel.