Iraq writhed in one of its worst days of violence since the fall of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, and government and religious leaders were working overtime to try to prevent civil war. As Shiites and Sunnis squared off against each other, all leaves for military personnel and police were canceled, and a curfew in Baghdad and one other province was extended until at least the weekend. Although the latest trouble was triggered by the bombing of a major Shiite shrine Wednesday, the main Sunni political bloc said it was pulling out of talks on forming a new government until it received an apology for attacks on hundreds of Sunni mosques. Meanwhile, 47 people were found shot to death in a religiously mixed province north of Baghdad, and the satellite TV news channel Al Arabiya said one of its correspondents and two of her crewmen were murdered in the aftermath of the Shiite shrine bombing.
Calm returned Thursday to Onitsha, the city at the center of sectarian violence in southern Nigeria, but not before an estimated 60 more Muslims and Christians were killed and mosques were burned. Nationwide, at least 138 people have died in five days of fighting that began over the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. Analysts said the trouble is aggravated by uncertainty over the political future of the almost evenly divided country. An election is due next year, and President Olusegun Obasanjo, a Christian, is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term. But many Nigerians are said to believe that he supports efforts to amend the charter so he can remain in power.
Forty-nine people were reported dead, 29 others were hurt, and rescue crews were searching for dozens more after the snow- covered roof collapsed onto a large food market in Moscow early Thursday. Trapped survivors were said to be trying to guide search teams by cellphone, although hopes that they would be found quickly were tempered by tons of debris and snow and temperatures in the 20-degree F. range. President Vladimir Putin called for an investigation to pinpoint the cause of the accident, since the building was only about 30 years old. Earlier this winter, roof collapses resulted in heavy losses of life at a swimming pool elsewhere in Russia, a skating rink in Germany, and an exhibition hall in Poland.
A cash-storage facility that was robbed of up to $74 million Wednesday night already has reimbursed the Bank of England for its share of the loss, meaning there will be no cost to taxpayers, officials said. Although the precise amount of the theft was still being determined, it appeared almost certain to be the largest in British history. Thieves posing as police forced the manager of the depot in Tonbridge, 38 miles southeast of London, to open it after kidnapping his wife and child and threatening them with harm. The depot is operated by Securitas Cash Management Ltd. to store money for Britain's automated teller machine system.
A three-day period for processing challenges was keeping former President and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Oscar Arias from being declared the winner of Costa Rica's Feb. 5 election, although the final tally of ballots showed him with an 18,167-vote lead over economist Otton Solis. The outcome was the closest in the nation's recent history. Solis, who is contesting the result, was not expected to do so well. But analysts said he was helped by his opposition to an unpopular free-trade deal with the US, which Arias supports.
A magnitude-7.5 earthquake, the strongest in southern Africa in 100 years, was blamed for at least two deaths, early reports said Thursday. Both fatalities were in Mozambique, although tremors were felt hundreds of miles away in Johannesburg, South Africa, and in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare. Seismologists said the quake may have caused relatively little property damage because it was centered in a rural area.