In brief: Pakistan political bombings kill 11
PESHAWAR, Pakistan – Bomb blasts targeting the election offices of two candidates in northwest Pakistan killed at least 11 people and injured 30 Sunday, the latest in a string of terrorist attacks that have cast a shadow over parliamentary elections scheduled for mid-May.
In recent weeks, Pakistan has been rocked by bombings directed primarily at candidates and backers of three liberal, secular parties, the Awami National Party based in the country’s northwest, President Asif Ali Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party, which led the civilian government for the last five years, and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, the ruling party in Karachi, the country’s largest city.
The bombings Sunday targeted two independent candidates from the country’s tribal region along the Afghan border, an area that is home to many militant groups, including the Pakistani Taliban, which claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attacks.
Blast, building collapse kill 3
REIMS, France – A possible gas explosion ripped off the side of a five-story residential building in France’s Champagne country on Sunday, killing at least three people and injuring 14 others, officials said.
More than 100 rescue workers, firefighters, sniffer-dog squads and bomb and gas experts were deployed to the gutted building in a subsidized housing complex in the city of Reims, east of Paris, officials said. Michel Bernard, the top government official in Reims, said crews searching for survivors turned up the body of a woman under the rubble Sunday afternoon, raising the death toll to three. He said it was unlikely that the toll would rise any higher.
Greece prepares for civil layoffs
ATHENS, Greece – Greece’s parliament approved an emergency bill Sunday to pave the way for thousands of public sector layoffs and free up $11.5 billion in international rescue loans.
The bill, which passed in a 168-123 vote, will allow for the first civil service layoffs in more than a century. About 2,000 civil servants will be laid off by the end of May, with another 2,000 following by the end of the year and a further 11,500 by the end of 2014, for a total of 15,500.
The legislation is the latest wave of Greece’s draconian austerity program. It agreed this month with its bailout rescue lenders – the European Union and International Monetary Fund – to implement the measures as a condition to receive new emergency loans worth $11.5 billion.
The permanence of civil servant jobs has been enshrined in all constitutions since 1911, a form of protection from wholesale sacking when the government changes hands.
The civil servants union, ADEDY, bitterly opposed the bill’s provisions and called for a protest outside parliament.
Armed men target ministry buildings
TRIPOLI, Libya – Libya’s prime minister warned of a perilous security situation Sunday after armed men stormed the Interior Ministry and a state-owned television station after blocking access to the Foreign Ministry.
Two years after the country’s civil war, Libya is struggling to maintain security, build a unified army and rein in militias, which include rebels who fought to oust longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.
About 200 armed men surrounded the Foreign Ministry building in Tripoli, demanding the ministry hire former fighters who helped overthrow Gadhafi. The men allege that many supporters of the old regime still hold senior positions in the ministry and its missions abroad.
About 38 trucks, some with machine guns, surrounded the ministry all day. After sundown, gunmen were still blocking access to the building.
Some in Libya are calling for a political isolation law that would ban members of the former regime from political roles. Others counter that such a law would oust experienced technocrats, including the current prime minister, who served in government under Gadhafi years ago.
Prime Minister Ali Zidan told reporters in Tripoli that the security situation continues to be perilous. He stopped short of saying which militias or armed groups might be behind the incidents.