Bombings kill Iraqi pilgrims

BAGHDAD - A series of powerful explosions ripped through processions of pilgrims celebrating a major Shiite Muslim religious holiday Monday, threatening to inflame sectarian tensions as U.S. troops streamed out of the country ahead of a Dec. 31 deadline.

Nearly two dozen Iraqis were killed and more than 75 wounded in at least seven attacks on pilgrims headed to or from the Shiite holy city of Karbala in southern Iraq. The processions are attacked almost every year during Ashura, which commemorates the death of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson, Imam Hussein.

Iraqi security forces did not immediately attribute responsibility for the attacks, but police in the past blamed al-Qaeda militants or Baath Party insurgents.

The bombings came during a period of heightened security fears as the last several thousand U.S. troops in Iraq made preparations to leave.

- Los Angeles Times

S. Korea sends aid to kids in North

SEOUL, South Korea - South Korea said Monday it would resume sending aid to the North through UNICEF, the United Nations children's agency, which it had halted more than a year ago amid tensions over the sinking of a South Korean warship.

The Unification Ministry, a government agency in charge of relations with North Korea, said it would send $5.7 million through UNICEF programs for medicines, vaccines and nutrients for malnourished North Korean children.

It was the latest sign of easing tensions, with Pyongyang signaling a possible willingness to resume talks on ending its nuclear weapons program, and Seoul easing restrictions on nongovernmental aid shipments and exchanges with the North.

- New York Times

Land mines still plague Vietnam

HANOI, Vietnam - More than 100,000 Vietnamese have been killed or injured by land mines or other abandoned explosives since the Vietnam War ended nearly 40 years ago, and clearing all of the country will take decades more, officials said Monday.

"The war's painful legacy, which includes hundreds of thousands of tons of bombs and unexploded ordnance, continues to cause painful casualties every day," Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told a U.N. conference.

Dung said 42,132 people had been killed and 62,163 wounded by land mines, bombs and other explosives since the war ended in 1975.

The U.S. used about 16 million tons of bombs and ammunition while allied with the former South Vietnam government, which was defeated by northern communist fighters who reunified the country. The U.S. has provided $62 million to help with the cleanup.

- AP

Elsewhere:

Peruvian President Ollanta Humala declared a 60-day state of emergency that took effect Monday to quell increasingly violent protests over the country's biggest investment, a highlands gold mine, by peasants who fear it will damage their water supply.