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One of the Bloodiest Days in Iraq Since the US Troop Withdrawal

A wave of bombings hit Shia targets after a court convicts in absentia and sentences to death a prominent Sunni vice president. “Car bombs tore through mainly Shi’ite Baghdad districts on Sunday after Iraq’s fugitive Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi was sentenced to death, as more than 100 people were killed across the country in one of the bloodiest days this year. Hashemi’s sentencing in absentia and the violence threatened to further stoke sectarian tensions in Iraq where a Shi’ite-led government is battling political deadlock and a Sunni Islamist insurgency nine months after U.S. troops left. A senior Sunni politician, Hashemi fled Iraq after the authorities issued a warrant for his arrest in December, a move that threatened to collapse a fragile power-sharing deal among Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish blocs. After Sunday’s court ruling, bombs tore through six mainly Shi’ite neighborhoods around Baghdad, one going off outside a restaurant and another in a busy commercial district, following earlier bombs that had hit other cities nationwide” (Reuters http://reut.rs/Okn8Xn)

India and Pakistan Sign Historic Visa Pact

Yet more evidence that relations are slowly but surely improving between the two nuclear armed rivals. “For the first time ever, the two countries have introduced tourist visas, but with the restriction that these will have to be groups of 10 to 50 people travelling through a registered tourist agency. Indians and Pakistanis were seen welcoming this on Facebook, making plans to visiting the Taj Mahal in India or the ancient sites of the Harappa civilization in Pakistan. The new visa pact will especially be of relief to families – mostly Muslim – who are divided between the two countries. The validity of such visas has been increased from 30 days to six months and from three to five cities. The two countries grant city-specific visas. In the earlier visa regime, people had to apply for a visa months in advance. The new rules stipulate a fixed period of 45 days. The two countries have also agreed to grant visa on arrival to citizens above 65 years or below 12 years of age. This will come as a relief to those who long to visit the cities they left during the partition in 1947. And to strengthen trade ties, a new multiple entry business visa for 10 cities, valid up to a year, has been introduced.”  (CSM http://bit.ly/Okmx7U)

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