By Ali al-Rubaie HILLA, Iraq (Reuters) - A suicide bomber driving a minibus packed with explosives killed at least 32 people and wounded 147 on Sunday in the southern Iraqi city of Hilla, police and medical sources said. The attacker approached a main checkpoint at a northern entrance to the largely Shi'ite Muslim city and detonated the minibus, a police officer said on condition of anonymity. Sunni Islamist insurgents linked to al Qaeda have been regaining ground in Iraq over the past year, particularly in the western province of Anbar bordering Syria. No one claimed responsibility for Sunday's attack, but the deputy chairman of Hilla provincial council, Aqeel al-Rubaie, accused al Qaeda of being behind the bombing.
Bakhchysaray (Ukraine) (AFP) - Victims of Stalin's mass deportations in 1944, Crimea's Tatar Muslim minority look warily on next week's referendum on joining Russia, which could well bring the crisis on the tense peninsula to new heights. At the Great Mosque in Bakhchysaray, near the southern tip of the Black Sea region, the local Tatar representative Akhtem Chiygoz describes the March 16 vote as "illegal". The referendum is meant to confirm Thursday's decision by Crimea's pro-Moscow parliament to become part of the Russian Federation, but the authorities in Kiev have deemed it "illegitimate". While the move has been greeted by Crimea's Russian-speaking majority, it has drawn a less than enthusiastic response from the minority Tatars.
By Hamid Shalizi and Katharine Houreld KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan's powerful vice president, Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim, died of natural causes on Sunday, only weeks before the country is due to elect a new leader. Once one of Afghanistan's most feared warlords, Fahim had been a top commander in the Northern Alliance, a group of anti-Taliban militia leaders, after the 1992-96 civil war. "It is with deep sadness that we learn of the passing away of Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim, the First Vice-president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. May his soul rest in peace," President Hamid Karzai's office said, declaring three days of national mourning.