The week at a glance ... International
BeijingCensus seeks kids: The once-a-decade census is under way in the world’s largest country this week, and this time Chinese authorities are trying to encourage people to be honest about how many children they have. Families that have more than the legally permissible one child often lie to census takers rather than pay the hefty fine—around $28,000—to register an extra child. This year the government has promised to reduce the fine for families that come clean. Unregistered children, who likely number in the millions, cannot attend school. “We want to provide an education to these kids,” said census official Duan Chengrong, “but in many cases we don’t know how many children there are.”
IstanbulBomb threatens accord: A suicide bomb in Istanbul’s central Taksim Square this week threatened to derail recent peace overtures between the Turkish government and Kurdish rebels. The bomber targeted police officers stationed in the busy square, killing himself and wounding 32 others. He struck just as a two-month cease-fire called by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been waging a 26-year insurgency against Turkey, expired. But the PKK said it was not involved, and that it would extend its cease-fire until after the 2011 elections, likely to take place in the spring. Turkish analysts speculated that the perpetrator may have been from a Kurdish splinter group or was perhaps a Turkish ultranationalist opposed to the peace process.
Baghdad Christians massacred: Iraq’s tiny Christian community this week suffered its biggest attack since the 2003 U.S. invasion, when a militant group connected to al Qaida in Mesopotamia took over a Catholic church. Five or six gunmen burst into Baghdad’s Our Lady of Salvation Church during Mass and set off two suicide vests filled with ball bearings to kill as many people as possible. The remaining attackers took some 100 people hostage. Iraqi forces stormed the church, killing all the terrorists and possibly some of the hostages. In all, 58 people were killed and as many as 300 wounded. “Flesh was stuck to the top roof of the hall,” said Hussain Nahidh, a police officer. “Many people went to the hospitals without legs and hands.”
Khogeyani, AfghanistanPolice join Taliban: Nearly the entire police force of the town of Khogeyani defect ed to the Taliban this week, taking their guns and trucks with them and burning the police station as they left. “This was not an attack but a plot,” said Mohammed Yasin, Khogeyani police chief, who was not on duty at the time. “The Taliban and the police made a deal.” A Taliban spokesman said the 19 officers “joined us voluntarily and are happy to work with us, and to start the holy war shoulder to shoulder with their Taliban brothers.” The incident is a setback for the Afghan government’s efforts to encourage Taliban militants to switch sides.
Sanaa, YemenHunt for radical cleric: Yemen has charged American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in absentia with incitement to kill foreigners, the first legal action the country has taken against the spiritual leader of al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. The group is believed to be responsible for the parcel bombs that were mailed from Yemen and intercepted last week en route to Chicago synagogues. Al-Awlaki, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Yemen who calls for jihad against the West, has also been linked to the failed “underpants” airplane bombing last December and to the shooting rampage at Fort Hood. He’s believed to be hiding in the Yemeni mountains, where his well-connected tribe protects him. Al-Awlaki is the first U.S. citizen placed on a list of CIA assassination targets.
Kampala, Uganda Halt to gay outing: A Ugandan judge has ordered a local newspaper to stop publishing the names and photographs of people it claims are gay. Rolling Stone, a tabloid unrelated to the U.S. music magazine, published names and photos of 15 people last month under the headline “Hang them.” Several of those pictured were subsequently attacked; one woman was almost killed by a stone-throwing mob. Editor Giles Muhame said he would abide by the letter of the injunction but added, “The war against gays will and must continue. We have to protect our children from this dirty homosexual affront.” Uganda drew international criticism last year when a lawmaker introduced a bill to impose the death penalty for homosexual acts; the bill has yet to be taken up.