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NIGERIA / 38 die in weekend attacks

At least 38 people have died over the Christmas weekend in attacks across Nigeria. They include six killed at churches in the country's north by suspected members of a radical Muslim sect and 32 died in central Nigeria in a series of bomb blasts in the worst violence to hit the region in months. Authorities have not identified suspects following the Christmas Eve explosions in Jos and it was not immediately clear if those attacks had a religious motive. On Sunday, there were reports of renewed violence in the area, though no official figures were released on the number of people who may have been wounded or killed.


PAKISTAN / Food shortage feared after bombing

About 300,000 desperately poor villagers impoverished by fighting in Pakistan's tribal belt are scrambling to feed themselves after a female suicide bomber killed 45 people outside a World Food Program food distribution center, triggering a district wide suspension of the relief project. Pakistan says the attack is a sign of insurgent desperation, but the bombing and ongoing battles challenge Islamabad's claims of victory over al-Qaida and the Taliban in this part of the northwest border. WFP district coordinator Shahab Khan said Sunday that all four food relief centers run by the United Nations agency in the Bajur district had been shut indefinitely since the bombing.


TURKEY / Raided ship returns

Thousands of pro-Palestinian activists on Sunday welcomed back to Istanbul the ship that was the scene of bloodshed during an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May. Activists meanwhile, promised to send more ships in an effort to break the Gaza blockade. Balloons were released as the ship, Mavi Marmara, sailed into Istanbul's Sarayburnu port, following repairs at a port on Turkey's Mediterranean coast. The activists, mostly members of pro-Islamic groups, waved Palestinian and Turkish flags and chanted "down with Israel" and "Allah is great" as they greeted the vessel. Protesters also boarded boats to welcome the approaching ship, which was adorned with a poster of the nine activists from Turkey who were killed during the raid. The ship was part of an international flotilla carrying supplies to Gaza in a campaign to breach the blockade on Gaza when Israeli troops intercepted the convoy. Eight Turks and an American-Turkish teenager were killed in the violence that erupted on board the Mavi Marmara.

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