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UN Enters Alleged Syria Massacre Site

Reporter calls scene 'ghastly' but says no bodies have been spotted

(Newser) - Things just keep getting worse in Syria: Activists say the government is shelling Homs again, possibly in preparation for a large troop surge. But UN monitors have finally made it to the site of the alleged massacre in Qubair, after being waylaid and shot at yesterday, reports Sky News . "... More »

Secret Hand in Syria Crackdown: Iran

And it may soon help protesters in Bahrain, Yemen

(Newser) - Iran has a hand in the revolutions currently sweeping the rest of the Arab world. In Syria, Iran is secretly assisting President Bashar al-Assad to quell the pro-democracy demonstrations, US officials say. But in Bahrain and Yemen, Iran is looking to aid Shiite protesters, thus destabilizing the countries—both US... More »

200 Malaysians Face Charges for Deviating From Islam

Leading scholar slams country's 'Talibanization'

(Newser) - Buddhism, Christianity, and Hinduism are accepted in Muslim-majority Malaysia, but the government has stepped up efforts to quash non-Sunni strains of Islam. More than 200 Shia Muslims have been arrested in a swoop on outlawed Islamic sects, and they are likely to be charged with "following the teachings of... More »

What to Do With a Koran Written in Saddam's Blood?

'Blood Koran' kept in high-security vault

(Newser) - Nearly eight years after Saddam Hussein’s fall from power, Iraqi officials are still grappling with relics of his rule. Debate is raging over the fate of a Koran written in 27 liters of Saddam’s own blood, drawn by a nurse and lettered by a calligrapher over a two-year... More »

In Secret Talks, Iran Forged Deal for Pro-Tehran Iraq

It brokered the coalition between Nouri Al-Maliki, Muqtada al-Sadr

(Newser) - Iran was behind the recently struck deal between Nouri al-Maliki and Muqtada al-Sadr, and the result could be an Iraqi government friendly to Tehran and distanced from the West, the Guardian reports. According to the paper's sources, Syria, Hezbollah, and top Shia religious leaders were involved with a secret campaign... More »

Iraqi PM Loses Election; Supporters Threaten Violence

UN condones votes, al-Maliki calls result 'not final'

(Newser) - Iraq's fragile democracy is in danger after vote counts released today showed Nouri al-Maliki narrowly lost the election. The current PM's party lost to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya, 91 to 89. Though the margin was slim, electoral observers and diplomats say the result was fair and largely free of fraud. Nonetheless,... More »

Death of 'Neda' May Echo for Weeks in Iran

Lengthy Shia cycle of mourning martyrs often includes protests

(Newser) - It's not clear who killed the Iranian protester known as Neda, but footage of her gruesome shooting in the streets of Tehran may transform the demonstrations gripping Iran, Time reports. Shia Muslims mourn their dead three, seven, and 40 days after death, and Iranians often use those commemorations for protests.... More »

Suicide Bomber Kills 30 at Pakistan Funeral

Curfew imposed, army summoned as death toll mounts

(Newser) - At least 30 people died and 50 more were injured after a suicide bomber blew himself up during a funeral in Pakistan's volatile northwest, reports the New York Times. The bomber targeted the funeral of a Shia Muslim who was shot only yesterday, and eyewitnesses described seeing limbs scattered across... More »

Suicide Bomber Kills 35 in Iraq

Women, children targeted en route Shia to holy city

(Newser) - A female suicide bomber killed at least 35 Iraqi pilgrims on the way to a religious festival today, reports CNN. Another 45 were wounded. The victims, mainly women and children, were in the town of Mussayib, about 40 miles south of Baghdad. Hundreds of thousands of Shia pilgrims are currently... More »

Al-Sadr Urges 'Revenge' Attacks Against US for Gaza

Cleric tells militia to hit American targets in Iraq

(Newser) - The anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has urged radical Shi’ite militants to strike American targets in Iraq as retaliation for US support of Israeli’s attack on Gaza, the Times of London reports. Al-Sadr also called on nations with Israeli consulates to close those missions in solidarity with Palestine. A... More »

Iraq Women Banned at Shrine to Thwart Female Bombers

Security forces can't search women

(Newser) - In a bid to ward off female bombers, officials have banned women from a Shia shrine during one of the holiest times of the year, reports the BBC. Because Iraq security forces lack female members, women cannot be searched for bombs. Women are now banned at the Imam Mousa al-Kazim... More »

Holiday Blasts Kill 19 Iraqis Near Shia Sites

6 others shot on bus in effort to reignite sectarian violence

(Newser) - Suicide bombers targeted Shia worshipers as they left morning prayers today at two Baghdad mosques, killing 19 people and injuring 50, police say. In a separate attack, gunmen fatally shot six people as they traveled in a minibus 60 miles north of Baghdad. Attacks on Shia civilians are widely associated... More »

Forces Key to Iraq Security Lose Steam as US Hands Off

Shiite government isn't incorporating Sunni Sons of Iraq, or, worse, hunting them down

(Newser) - As Iraq's Shia-led government assumes greater control of security, US soldiers fear the sudden disintegration of the 54,000-strong Sunni force that had been key to improving conditions there, the Washington Post reports. The government has pledged to hire 20% of the so-called Sons of Iraq, but that still leaves... More »

Pakistan Hospital Bomb Kills 23

Shia mourners killed in volatile northwest province

(Newser) - Twenty-three people died today and another 20 were wounded in a suspected suicide bomb attack in a Pakistani hospital. The blast took place in the North West Frontier Province, the highly volatile region bordering Afghanistan. The explosion took place as Shia Muslims were mourning the death of a leader, who... More »

Iraqi Suicide Blasts Kill 50

Bombers strike in Baghdad and Kirkuk

(Newser) - Suicide attacks in Iraq today killed at least 50 people and injured about 250, making it one of deadliest days in the country in months, Reuters reports. In Baghdad, three female suicide bombers blew themselves up during a religious pilgrimage, killing 28 and injuring 92. In the northern city of... More »

Iraq Barred From Beijing Games

Olympic bosses not happy with government dissolution of country's committee

(Newser) - Iraq has been banned from next month’s Beijing Olympics because of what the International Olympic Committee calls government interference in the Olympic process, MSNBC reports. The Iraqi leadership dissolved the country’s Olympic committee, which is supposed to be an independent body of elected officials, and replaced it with... More »

United Arab Emirates Cancels Iraq's $7B Debt

Baghdad wins boost from key Arab states

(Newser) - Iraq's diplomatic isolation among its Arab neighbors is easing, reports the BBC. The United Arab Emirates canceled Iraq's entire debt of close to $7 billion and appointed a new ambassador, while Jordan's King Abdullah will become  the first Arab head of state to visit Iraq since 2003, boosting the Baghdad... More »

Sadr Threatens to End Truce

Mahdi Army leader, 'worried' for Iraqis' safety, cancels anti-US protest

(Newser) - Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr today threatened to end the cease-fire he imposed last year on his Mahdi militia, CNN reports, and called off a massive protest set for tomorrow, the fifth anniversary of the end of Saddam Hussein’s rule. Hundreds had converged on Baghdad—despite orders to keep young... More »

Al-Sadr Orders His Militia Off Streets of Basra

He offers weakened Maliki a truce deal as violence continues

(Newser) - Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr ordered his fighters to leave the streets of Basra and other cities, reports the BBC, in an effort to end clashes with security forces. “Anyone carrying a weapon and targeting government institutions will not be one of us,” Sadr said, but minutes after... More »

Iraq Moves Toward Amnesty

Pending law would allow release thousands of detainees

(Newser) - The Iraqi cabinet has framed an amnesty law that would release tens of thousands of suspected insurgents being held without charges. The amnesty, the result of months of negotiation, now goes to the parliament, which will begin debating it Sunday, the BBC reports. The number of prisoners held, estimated at... More »

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