With Iraqi flags flying and Shiites and Sunnis embracing each other Tuesday, a bridge between their Baghdad neighborhoods was reopened for the first time in more than three years. The Bridge of the Imams spans the Tigris River but was closed in August 2005 after an estimated 1,000 Shiite pilgrims died in a stampede as rumors spread that a suicide bomber was in their midst. The closure made arduous detours through central Baghdad necessary.
Military units blocked the highway through the Khyber Pass in northwestern Pakistan and helicopter gunships were en route to the area Tuesday as efforts began to recover a convoy of trucks and Humvees hijacked by Taliban militants. Thirteen vehicles were ferrying supplies for US forces in neighboring Afghanistan when the hijacking occurred Monday. Officials in the area told the BBC that the drivers were taken captive and that the containers in which the supplies were packed were found abandoned and empty.
Meeting behind closed doors, a military court in Burma (Myanmar) sentenced 14 political dissidents to 65 years each in prison Tuesday in a heavy new blow to the nation's democracy movement. All were accused of involvement in last year's protests led by Buddhist monks against increased fuel prices. Reports said lawyers for some of the defendants also were ordered to prison for contempt of court. Burma has been under military rule since 1962, although an election has been scheduled for 2010 under the junta's "road map to democracy."
Prosecutors in Thailand were considering their next move Tuesday in efforts to win the extradition of exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin, who has been sentenced in absentia to prison for corruption, was last seen "on vacation" in China after Britain revoked his visa last week. But he denied published reports that he's building a luxury retirement home near Beijing. The Philippines government also said it would not "allow him to come [here] to seek political asylum."
Despite increasing efforts to thwart piracy off Somalia, a tanker laden with chemicals was seized at gunpoint late Monday. The ship was en route to an unspecified destination in Asia, reports said. Its 23 Filipino crewmen were said to be unharmed. The hijacking was the 33rd off Somalia this year. At least 50 other attempts have been unsuccessful, among them several on Tuesday, the reports said.
Another delay in voting for a new president in Ivory Coast was announced by political leaders Monday. The postponement of the election scheduled for Nov. 30 was attributed to problems in registering voters and integrating former rebel fighters into the national Army. The Electoral Commission was given until Dec. 31 to come up with a new timetable for the vote, which is the centerpiece of the 2007 peace accord between President Laurent Gbagbo and former rebel chief Guillaume Soro.
In a new sign that relations between Cuba and Russia are returning to their Cold War-era warmth, the Kremlin announced Tuesday that the former's leader, Raul Castro, will visit Moscow next year. No date was specified. Relations between the two countries soured a decade ago after the former Soviet Union had been Cuba's main benefactor for decades. New Russian President Dmitry Medvedev also has been invited to visit Cuba, reports said.
Vodafone, the world's largest telecommunications company, said Tuesday it must cut costs by $1.56 billion a year amid falling revenues, increasing competition, and the rising prices of raw materials. Not expected to change, however, is the company's expansion into markets that are not yet saturated, such as India, Turkey, Ghana, Qatar, and South Africa.