Hilla (Iraq) (AFP) - A suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged vehicle at a crowded checkpoint south of Baghdad on Sunday, killing 12 people and damaging dozens of cars, Iraqi police and a medical source said. Iraq has been hit by a year-long surge in bloodshed that has reached levels not seen since 2008, driven principally by widespread discontent among its Sunni Arab minority and by the civil war in neighbouring Syria. The checkpoint blast at the northern entrance to the city of Hilla also wounded 60 people. "Some of the victims were burned inside their cars," a police officer said.
Thousands took to the streets for rival pro- and anti-Kremlin rallies across Ukraine on Sunday as the West and Moscow dug in their heels over a deepening crisis in Crimea. The protests come after a new marathon round of phone calls by US President Barack Obama seeking to defuse the Cold War-style standoff in the ex-Soviet state. Tensions in Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which has come under de facto control by Russian forces, have resulted in a new face-off between Russia and the West, with each side imposing sanctions or warning of further prohibitive measures to force the other to back down. Foreign observers have failed to get into Crimea, a majority Russophone region of Ukraine, to get a first-hand look at the situation on the ground and were forced to turn back on Saturday after pro-Kremlin gunmen fired warning shots.