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Chechens approve prime minister

The leader of a pro-Kremlin militia accused of major human rights violations was confirmed Saturday as the new prime minister of Chechnya, the strife-torn southern Russian republic that has been the scene two brutal wars in the past 11 years.

Ramzan Kadyrov, 29, the son of an assassinated Chechen president, was unanimously approved by the republic’s People’s Assembly to replace Sergei Abramov, who was injured in a car accident in Moscow in November and resigned this week.

Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, who awarded Kadyrov the Hero of Russia medal in 2004, has been pursuing a policy of Chechenization in the republic, turning over political power and responsibility for security to loyal Chechens willing to fight separatists.

Nazareth, Israel

Marchers demand better protection

Thousands of protesters marched through the streets of this biblical town Saturday demanding better protection for holy sites after a troubled family set off firecrackers inside a major Christian shrine.

Many protesters accused the government of failing to prevent the incident at the Basilica of the Annunciation and rejected the official claim that Friday’s attack was driven by personal distress and not politically motivated.

An Israeli couple accompanied by their daughter interrupted a Lent prayer service by exploding firecrackers in the basilica, one of Christianity’s most revered sites.

The attack caused only light damage but set off a riot that injured two dozen people, including 13 police officers.

Algiers, Algeria

About 200 Islamic militants released

Algeria freed the first group of Islamic militants Saturday after deciding to pardon or reduce sentences for more than 2,000 people detained during an insurgency in the 1990s.

As part of reconciliation efforts, the Justice Ministry announced last week that it would pardon or end legal proceedings for 2,100 convicted or suspected Islamic militants. Some 100 militants, convicted of more serious crimes, will have their sentences reduced.

The exact numbers of prisoners freed Saturday was unclear, as was the nature of their crimes, but prison guards estimated 200 were freed.


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Zimbabwe leader calls assassination attempt ‘cowardly act’

UPDATED: 8:14 p.m.

Zimbabwe’s president was unscathed Saturday by an explosion at a campaign rally that state media called an attempt to assassinate him, later visiting his two injured vice presidents and declaring the “cowardly act” will not disrupt next month’s historic elections.