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Explosion at Yemen Arms Factory Kills at Least 78; Suicide Bombers Strike Afghan Construction Company

Yemenis lined up bodies after a massive blast killed at least 75 people at an ammunition plant in southern Yemen looted by al-Qaida on March 28. (AFP/Getty Images)

In Jaar, Yemen, several massive explosions at an ammunition factory killed at least 78 people after it was raided by Islamist militants the previous day.

The deadly blasts come after weeks of protests in which demonstrators have called on President Ali Abdullah Saleh to leave office. The growing protests have challenged a government already strained by separatist movements and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula operating from the country.

Though the explosions were reportedly accidental, the takoever of the factory by militants caused concern for the U.S., which is closely allied with Saleh in anti-terrorism efforts. The factory, in Yemen’s restive south, was used to build AK-47s and explosives. The towns of Jaar and al-Husn also were under the control of militants.

President Saleh had reached an agreement over the weekend to leave office, but has backed away from implementing the deal.

Estimated 23 Killed, 60 Injured in Suicide Attack in Eastern Afghanistan

Suicide bombers attacked a construction company in the Paktika province Monday, shooting their way in before detonating a large truck filled with explosive materials. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place in the volatile border region with Pakistan, which has seen an uptick in violence in recent months.

The attack on a civilian facility may have indicated a shift from the more heavily secured facilities of the Afghan National Army and foreign forces, according to a NATO spokesman.

Other recent attacks have targeted cell phone towers, disrupting service in several provinces.

Afghanistan is bracing for a spring offensive by the Taliban, which has become a grim tradition as fighters retreat during the country’s harsh winters and then reemerge to battle under the green cover of spring.

Security Forces Use Tear Gas in Syria Protests

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is preparing to address the nation Tuesday after a week of growing demonstrations in a move to ease the unrest. The government is considering ending a 50-year state of emergency and concede to some of the protesters’ demands in order to stave off the crises that have engulfed the governments of other Arab nations.

But security forces also have reportedly cracked down in cities like Daraa, in the southern part of the country, in a bid to hamper the opposition. Daraa has been home to the most intense of the protests, a poverty-ridden city that has seen more than a week of anti-government demonstrations.

Syria, an established ally of Iran, has had an often-tense relationship with the U.S., but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was careful to emphasize contrasts between al-Assad and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, whose forces are the target of NATO airstrikes that have aided the country’s opposition.

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