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Other News: Death Toll Grows in Pakistan Bombing

December 29, 2009 at 12:00 AM EDT
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In other news, Pakistani authorities called for calm as the death toll from Monday's suicide bombing grew to 43, and an Afghan soldier reportedly shot and killed a U.S. soldier at a military base in western Afghanistan.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The death toll from a deadly suicide bombing in Pakistan grew to 43 today. Thousands gathered in central Karachi for funerals from yesterday’s attack. It struck a Shiite procession marking the holy day of Ashura. Authorities appealed for calm today, after Shiites rioted in the wake of the bombing.

In Afghanistan, there was word an Afghan soldier shot and killed a U.S. soldier at a base in the west. Afghan authorities said a member of the Afghan army opened fire as an allied helicopter was about to land. Two Italian soldiers were wounded in the shooting. An investigation was under way.

A crackdown on unrest in Iran expanded with new arrests of opposition leaders. The roundup began yesterday, after at least eight people were killed in widespread protests on Sunday. Today, thousands of people rallied in support of the government. They echoed calls to punish opposition leaders for fomenting unrest.

The latest to be arrested included relatives of Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi and opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi. A representative of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei went further. He called for executing opposition leaders.

China executed a British man today on drug smuggling charges. British leaders had pressed for clemency over claims the man suffered from mental illness.

We have a report from Nina Nannar of Independent Television News.

NINA NANNAR: Despite last-minute appeals for clemency from his family and the Foreign Office, Akmal Shaikh’s life was ended here by lethal injection in the early hours of this morning, the Chinese authorities in the end refusing to accept claims that Shaikh was mentally ill.

Hours later, the Chinese ambassador left the Foreign Office in London after what was described as a difficult conversation, China accused of failing in its basic human rights responsibilities.

IVAN LEWIS, British Foreign Office: The Chinese courts refused to even undertake a medical assessment prior to proceeding with this execution. By any standards of human rights at the beginning of the 21st century, that cannot be acceptable.

NINA NANNAR: Akmal Shaikh, a 53-year-old father from North London, was convicted of drug smuggling after four kilograms of heroin were found in his suitcase when he arrived in Urumchi in northwestern China.

Supporters say it had been planted there by professional criminals taking advantage of Shaikh’s bipolar disorder. But, today, the Chinese foreign ministry said they had seen no evidence that Shaikh was mentally ill, adding they hoped this wouldn’t damage relations between both countries.

The language used between both sides has certainly been strong, the Chinese warning today that no one has the right to comment on its judicial affairs.

But e-mails Shaikh had written before his arrest, along with witness statements, prove mental illness, according to one psychologist contacted by campaigners.

DR. PETER SCHAAPVELD, forensic psychologist: It seems fairly clear that he was going through a very destabilized time, most probably a manic phase, in which his ability to think rationally, control his impulses, think through the consequences of actions, was severely compromised.

NINA NANNAR: Many years ago, Akmal Shaikh was simply a successful businessman. Now he’s the first European to be executed in China for half-a-century. And is family say they have been left saddened and stunned.

HARI SREENIVASAN: China executes more people each year than any other country.

North Korea confirmed today it has detained an Arizona man for illegally entering the country. Family members identified the man as 28-year-old Christian missionary Robert Park. Supporters said he crossed from China into North Korea on Christmas Day, urging the release of political prisoners. The state news agency said today he is being investigated for illegal entry.

On Wall Street today, stocks broke a six-day winning streak. The Dow Jones industrial average lost more than a point to close at 10,545. The Nasdaq fell more than two points to close at 2,288.