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iraq

Suicide bombings leave 33 dead, 80 wounded

BAGHDAD (AP) – Suicide bombings and other attacks across Iraq killed at least 33 people and wounded nearly 80 more on Monday, officials said, the latest in an uptick in sectarian violence as the country counts down to crucial parliament elections later this month.

Over the past year, violence has surged in Iraq to levels unseen since 2008. The increase in deadly shootings and bombings has become the Shiite-led government’s most serious challenge as the nation prepares to head to the polls on April 30 – the first vote in Iraq since the U.S. army withdrawal in 2011.

Monday’s carnage came a day after at least 18 people and wounded nearly 50 across the country.

syria

Presidential election is slated for early June

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) – Syria called a presidential election for June 3, aiming to give President Bashar Assad a veneer of electoral legitimacy in the midst of a civil war that has killed more than 150,000 people and driven a third of the population from their homes.

The opposition and the United States denounced the vote as a farce, and a U.N. spokesman said it will “hamper the prospects for a political solution.” But Assad’s government appears determined to hold the election as a way of exploiting its recent military gains.

The announcement Monday by Parliament Speaker Jihad Laham raises questions about how the government intends to hold any kind of credible vote within the deeply divided country.

iceland

Plane crash probe expected to take weeks

HELSINKI (AP) – An investigation into a small plane crash that killed eight skydivers in Finland could take weeks or longer to complete because the charred remains of the aircraft are scattered over a large area of forest, authorities said Monday.

Two jumpers and the pilot aboard the Comp Air 8 kit aircraft managed to parachute to safety in Sunday’s crash, the head of the investigation, Ismo Aaltonen, said Monday. The three men were hospitalized with minor injuries. Finnish MTV 3 television news reported that one of the survivors told investigators that something had “gone wrong” during the flight, but no details were given.

The turboprop plane was built from a kit manufactured by Comp Air based in Titusville, Fla.

yemen

Drone-backed forces hit al-Qaida militants

SANAA, Yemen (AP) – Yemeni forces, reportedly backed by U.S. drone strikes, hit al-Qaida militants for a second straight day Monday in what Yemen officials said was an assault on a major base of the terror group hidden in the remote southern mountains. The government said 55 militants were killed so far.

The sprawling base was a rare instance of a permanent infrastructure set up by al-Qaida’s branch in the country, Yemeni security officials said. Built over the past months, it includes a training ground and storehouses for weapons.

The assault appeared to be a significant escalation in the U.S. and Yemeni campaign against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.