September 22, 2013

World/Nation Dispatches

BAGHDAD

Suicide bombers kill at least 96 at funerals in Shiite areas

Two suicide bombers, one in an explosives-laden car and the other on foot, struck a cluster of funeral tents packed with mourning families in a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad, the deadliest in a string of attacks around Iraq that killed at least 96 people on Saturday.

The assaults, the latest in a months-long surge of violence, are a chilling reminder of insurgents' determination to re-ignite sectarian conflict more than a decade after the U.S.-led invasion.

Thousands of Iraqis have been killed in violent attacks in recent months -- a level of bloodshed not seen since Iraq pulled back from the brink of civil war in 2008 -- despite appeals for restraint from Shiite and Sunni political leaders.

The attack on the funeral was one of the largest single terrorist assaults on civilians in Iraq in recent years. It happened shortly before sunset in the densely populated Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City in northeastern Baghdad.

Police said at least 72 people were killed and more than 120 were wounded in that attack. One bomber was able to drive up near the tent before detonating his deadly payload, and another on foot blew himself up nearby, police said.

ISLAMABAD

Pakistan frees Taliban leader despite objections by U.S.

Pakistan freed the Afghan Taliban's former deputy leader on Saturday after years of detention in a move that many officials in Islamabad and Kabul hope will aid Afghanistan's struggling peace process.

But others doubt Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar will do much good, and the United States, which opposed his release, is worried he could return to the battlefield. That could give the Taliban in Afghanistan a boost at a time when the U.S. is drawing down its troops and increasingly relying on Afghan forces to fight insurgents.

Kabul has demanded that Islamabad free Baradar ever since he was arrested in a joint raid in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi in 2010 after holding secret peace talks with the Afghan government. Pakistan resisted for years, exacerbating already tense relations with neighboring Afghanistan.

Pakistan's change of heart came amid a renewed push to help strike a peace deal between the Taliban and the Afghan government before the U.S. withdraws most of its combat troops by 2014. Pakistan is increasingly worried that further instability in Afghanistan could make it more difficult to fight Islamic militants at home.

Baradar was released Saturday morning, said Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry.

BOSTON

Harvard begins quest for $6.5 billion in donations

Harvard University launched a $6.5 billion capital campaign Saturday that, if successful, would be the largest fundraising effort in the history of higher education.

The school said the campaign had broad goals spanning all its schools and would fund research into neuroscience, stem cell science and low-cost energy for the developing world.

The campaign quietly began two years ago. Harvard says it has already raised $2.8 billion in gifts and pledges, some of which has already been used.

The school aims to reach its $6.5 billion goal by 2018.

If it does so, the campaign would surpass a five-year, $6.2 billion campaign by Stanford University that ended last year.

Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania have completed multiyear fundraising campaigns that netted $3.9 billion and $3.5 billion, respectively.

Harvard's endowment at the end of the last fiscal year was $30.7 billion.

MIAMI

Chiquita wary of lawsuits linked to Colombian civil war

Faced with potentially billions of dollars in legal liability, Chiquita Brands International is asking a federal appeals court to block lawsuits filed against it in the U.S. by thousands of Colombians whose relatives were killed in that country's bloody, decades-long civil war.

The produce giant, which long had huge banana plantations in Colombia, has admitted paying a right-wing Colombian paramilitary group $1.7 million over a seven-year period. The Charlotte, N.C.-based company insists it was blackmailed into paying or risking violence against its own operations and employees, although in 2007 Chiquita pleaded guilty to U.S. criminal charges that it had supported terrorists. It paid a $25 million fine.

-- From news service reports

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