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News Wrap: 23 Arrested Over Muslim, Coptic Christian Clash in Egypt

May 9, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: Security officials in Egypt arrested 23 people today, after weekend clashes between Muslims and Coptic Christians left more than a dozen people dead and a church in ashes.

The riots raged for hours Saturday night, triggered by a rumor that Christians had abducted a woman who converted to Islam. Security measures across Cairo were stepped up today, with armored vehicles and riot police at the ready. Still, about 1,000 demonstrators gathered peacefully to protest the weekend clashes.

The United Nations Refugee Agency today reported a ship carrying some 600 migrants fleeing the violence in Libya has sunk. Witnesses said it broke apart soon after leaving a port near Tripoli on Friday. There was no immediate word on the death toll. In a separate incident, about 400 Libyan migrants were safely brought ashore early Sunday after their boat crashed into rocks near a tiny Italian island.

Fresh raids across Syria rounded up hundreds of anti-government activists and demonstrators today. Security officials took them into custody in house-to-house raids across four cities, as a crackdown to end seven weeks of uprising intensified.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner acknowledged getting clear information on the situation is difficult but denounced the latest aggression.

MARK TONER, State Department spokesman: We obviously know that there are — there’s extreme cases of violence taking place in Syria. And we’re obviously concerned. These kinds of actions are reprehensible. And we would just ask that the Syrian government desist.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Human rights groups estimate the unrest has claimed the lives of at least 630 people.

NATO officials announced today all the attackers involved in a weekend battle in Afghanistan have been captured or killed. The two-day battle erupted Saturday in Kandahar when Taliban fighters attacked several government buildings and the Kandahar Hotel. At least 25 insurgents and two civilians were killed.

There was heightened security across Baghdad today after an attempted jail break this weekend left 17 people dead. It began when the man accused of masterminding a church siege last fall tried to escape, creating a melee inside the high-security prison. In all, six police officers and 11 detainees were killed before guards regained control.

A new mass grave with more than 68 bodies has been uncovered in Ivory Coast. U.N. officials were investigating the scene, a soccer field in a suburb of the commercial capital, Abidjan. Witnesses said the victims were killed in the aftermath of a political — a violent political standoff between former President Laurent Gbagbo and the new president, Alassane Ouattara. It was unclear if the dead were Gbagbo’s forces or those loyal to Ouattara.

A Japanese nuclear plant will close later this week, so a seawall can be built to protect against tsunamis. The government asked the owners of the Hamaoka plant to shut down three of the reactors while it beefs up anti-earthquake measures. The plant sits next to the sea southwest of Tokyo. About 80,000 people live within a six-mile radius of it. The plant’s shutdown will likely mean more power shortages this summer. More than a third of Japan’s electricity comes from nuclear energy.

One out of 38 children in South Korea has an autism spectrum disorder, according to a new study released in The American Journal of Psychiatry. In the U.S., estimates are much lower, at one in 110. They’re based on education and medical records.

This new study cast a wider net by surveying 55,000 children in Seoul, South Korea, over five years. Researchers stressed, the study didn’t show that autism is on the rise, just that incidents of the disorder may be undercounted.

Nevada has a new Republican senator, Dean Heller. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval appointed the congressman to fill out the rest of Sen. John Ensign’s second term in office. Ensign resigned last month in the wake of an ethics investigation stemming from an extramarital affair. A general election for the seat will take place in November 2012.

Stocks on Wall Street closed higher today on a commodities rally. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 46 points to close at 12,684. The Nasdaq rose 15 points to close at 2,843.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.