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WORLD IN BRIEF: Algerians demand reform

ALGIERS, Algeria — Heavily outnumbered by riot police, thousands of Algerians defied government warnings and dodged barricades to rally in their capital Saturday, demanding democratic reforms a day after mass protests toppled Egypt’s autocratic ruler.

Protesters chanting ‘‘No to the police state!’’ and brandishing signs that read ‘‘Give us back our Algeria’’ clashed with baton-wielding police in helmets and visors. Organizers said more than 400 people were briefly detained, but aside from some jostling between police and protesters no violence was reported.

The opposition said demonstrators’ bold defiance of a long-standing ban on public protests in Algiers marked a turning point.

At least 18 killed in Taliban raid

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Taliban insurgents wearing explosive vests attacked a police headquarters in southern Afghanistan on Saturday, unleashing an arsenal of car bombs, automatic rifle fire and rocket-propelled grenades. At least 18 people, many of them police, died and dozens were wounded.

The afternoon raid on the provincial police base in Kandahar appeared to be an effort to undercut NATO assertions that the security situation had improved since last year’s influx of U.S. and Afghan troops into Kandahar province, the Taliban’s birthplace.

The Islamic militant movement claimed responsibility for the attack, which came amid American-backed efforts to train Afghan forces so that they can take responsibility for national security by a 2014 deadline.

Bomber strikes Shiite pilgrims

BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber blew himself up Saturday on a bus carrying Shiite pilgrims, officials said, killing 26 people headed back from a revered shrine that has been a flashpoint in Iraqi sectarian strife.

It was the second attack in three days targeting visitors to the al-Askari mosque in the former insurgent stronghold of Samarra, north of Baghdad, for commemorations of the death of a ninth century religious figure who is buried there.

Witness Kamil Mamdoh described mayhem, with police shooting into the air to disperse the hysterical crowd.

The shrine is still being rebuilt after its golden dome was destroyed in a Feb. 22, 2006, bombing that was blamed on al-Qaida in Iraq and sparked years of retaliatory bloodshed between Sunnis and Shiites. Officials said the mosque was not damaged in Saturday’s attack.