A series of coordinated bombings shattered Shiite neighborhoods and struck at Iraqi security forces Sunday, killing at least 26 in attacks that one official described as a rallying call by al-Qaida just days after dozens of militants escaped from prison.
The blasts brought September's death toll from sectarian violence to nearly 200 people — a grim, above-average monthly total for the period since U.S. troops left last year. The steady pace of attacks has worked to undermine confidence in the government.
"Al-Qaida leaders have no intention of leaving this country or letting Iraqis live in peace," said Hakim al-Zamili, a Shiite member of parliament's security committee. "The jailbreak in Tikrit has boosted al-Qaida's morale in Iraq and thus we should expect more attacks in the near future."
A suicide attacker detonated a car bomb near a Syrian security compound in a remote, predominantly Kurdish town Sunday, killing at least four people, state media said, in a new sign that the country's largest ethnic minority might be drawn into a widening civil war.
Opposition activists said at least eight Syrian intelligence agents were killed and several dozen people wounded in the attack in the northeastern town of Qamishli, more than 435 miles from the capital Damascus.
Syria's more than 2 million Kurds, long marginalized, have largely stayed out of the fighting, though some have participated in protests against the regime of President Bashar Assad.
The Russian Orthodox Church on Sunday asked for clemency for three jailed members of the rock band Pussy Riot if they repent for their "punk prayer" for deliverance from President Vladimir Putin at Moscow's main cathedral, a statement that came a day before an appeal hearing and appeared to reflect a desire to put an end to the case that has caused an international outrage.
But it was unclear whether the women, who were sentenced to two years last month, would offer a penitence sought by the church and how much leniency a court may show. Putin has always been reluctant to avoid leaving an impression that he could bow to public pressure and has taken an increasingly tough line on dissent since his inauguration in May.
Swedish concert organizers say Art Garfunkel failed to show up at two scheduled events and instead flew home to the United States.
Organizer Niels Estrup told the Sydsvenskan paper on Sunday that the iconic 1960s pop singer failed to appear at Night of the Proms, a fusion of classical and pop music, in Goteborg on Friday and Malmo on Saturday.
It is unclear why Garfunkel, 70, skipped the concert, though organizer Julius Malmstrom told the Sydsvenskan that he had seen the singer in Goteborg on Thursday and said Garfunkel looked healthy but did not seem confident about his voice.
In 2010 Garfunkel was diagnosed with vocal cord problems, according to his website.