1 | Pakistan
Suicide Attack Hits the Hungry
On Christmas Day, a female suicide bomber in Bajaur, one of Pakistan's restive tribal agencies along the Afghan border, hurled grenades and detonated her explosive vest, killing 45 and injuring more than 100. Many of the victims had been standing in line at the entrance to a World Food Programme distribution center. The U.N. organization swiftly suspended operations in the area, where some 300,000 people are said to be in urgent need of food supplies. While aid distribution may restart soon, experts say the bombing illustrates a shift in the tactics of the Pakistani Taliban, who--rather than attempting to win over the local populace--seem willing to strike at any vulnerable target. Elsewhere in the tribal areas, separate Pakistani military and CIA drone strikes killed nearly 60 suspected militants.
2 | Ivory Coast
Incumbent Stays Put
Three West African leaders arrived in Ivory Coast Dec. 28 in an attempt to persuade incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo to step down from office following his loss in a November election. The U.S., E.U. and U.N. all recognize opponent Alassane Ouattara--a Muslim backed by many in the once rebellious north--as the proper winner. Gbagbo, who has served five years past his initial term, was President during the 2002-03 civil war that split the country in half.
The fault lines of the earlier civil war
[The following text appears within a map. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual map.]
3 | Moscow
Putin Rival Gets Extra Jail Time
A court convicted Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former gas tycoon who has been jailed since 2003 on charges of fraud and tax evasion, of stealing oil from his company and embezzling funds. Originally due to be released in 2011, Khodorkovsky will most likely see his sentence extended to 2017. Once one of Russia's richest men, he used his assets to support opposition to then President (now Prime Minister) Vladimir Putin. As a result, backers claim, Khodorkovsky is a political prisoner; his lawyer branded this second trial a "farce." Both the E.U. and the Obama Administration have condemned the verdict.
4 | Rome
Anarchists Target Embassies
Just days after letter bombs sent to the Swiss and Chilean embassies detonated, injuring two people, disposal experts defused a similar device mailed to the Italian capital's Greek embassy. The Informal Anarchist Federation has claimed responsibility for all the explosives. Suspicious packages received recently at other embassies proved to be false alarms. Authorities are investigating potential links between anarchist groups in Italy and Greece, where similar bombings took place in November.
5 | Australia
When It Rains, It Floods