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32 die as 24 gunmen set fire to a casino

MONTERREY, Mexico (AP) -- Two dozen gunmen burst into a casino in northern Mexico on Thursday, doused it with a flammable liquid and started a fire that trapped gamblers inside, killing at least 32 people and injuring a dozen more, authorities said.

The fire at the Casino Royale in Monterrey, which has seen a surge in drug cartel-related violence, represented one of the deadliest attacks on an entertainment center in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against drug cartels in late 2006.

State police officials quoted survivors as saying that about two dozen armed men burst into the casino, apparently to rob it, and began dousing the premises with fuel from tanks they brought with them. The officials were not authorized to be quoted by name for security reasons.

With shouts and profanities, the attackers told the customers and employees to get out. But many terrified customers and employees fled further inside the building, where they died trapped amid the flames and thick smoke that soon billowed out of the building.

Monterrey Mayor Fernando Larrazabal said that many of the bodies were found inside the casino's bathrooms, where employees and customers had locked themselves to escape the armed commandos.

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More than 450 held in government protests

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) -- Tens of thousands of Chileans marched peacefully Thursday, demanding major changes in the country's heavily centralized and privatized form of government, after scattered violence throughout the night raised the arrest toll to more than 450.

Union members, students, government workers and Chile's center-left opposition parties joined the nationwide two-day strike, which included four separate marches in the capital Thursday as well as similar demonstrations across the country. In many areas, families have grabbed spoons and spilled into the streets each night, participating in noisy pot-banging shows of support for the activists.

But violence also has broken out, with hooded, rock-throwing protesters confronting police, looting stores, burning cars and setting up fiery barricades.

President Sebastian Pinera reached out to union and student leaders Wednesday, saying: "They always have the doors open to dialogue. The government is ready to talk directly with them."

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Widespread bombings kill at least 15

BAGHDAD (AP) -- Bombs killed at least 15 people across Iraq on Thursday, including eight police officers and a soldier, in the latest strike against Iraqi security forces as U.S. troops prepare to leave.

Gunmen attacked a police station Thursday in Karmah, about 50 miles west of Baghdad. After exchanging gunfire with officers, the gunmen withdrew, and a car bomb exploded near the police station, killing five officers, officials said.

About 30 minutes later a parked car bomb exploded near a police checkpoint in a village outside Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad. Three policemen and one civilian were killed.

In the southern city of Basra, a suicide bomber blew up his vehicle near a Shiite mosque. Four worshippers died, and another 50 were injured, according to hospital and morgue officials.

Earlier Thursday, a roadside bomb exploded near an Iraqi army checkpoint in Mosul, police said. One soldier died in the blast in the northern city that was once an al-Qaida hotbed. In Baghdad, a car bomb killed one passer-by and wounded 17 others.