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Thai bombing hits New Year's festivities; other celebrations pass without incident
Australia New Year Heal
Fireworks explode over the city skyline during the fireworks display just before New Year in Sydney, Australia, Monday, Dec. 31, 2007. - photo by Associated Press

SYDNEY, Australia - A bomb attack wounded 27 people Monday in a Thai tourist town where people had gathered to celebrate the New Year, officials said.

Muslim insurgents were suspected in the attack in Sungai Kolok on the border with Malaysia, where two blasts went off inside a hotel discotheque and one in the basket of a motorcycle outside a hotel, army spokesman Col. Akara Thiprote said.

A blaze in fireworks stalls injured two people in the Philippines but celebrations elsewhere went off without incident. A million revelers cheered in Australia as fireworks sprayed from Sydney's iconic Harbor Bridge in a massive display ignited at the stroke of midnight.

Thousands in Sydney staked out harborside vantage points with beach umbrellas and ice boxes from first light Monday to enjoy Australia's annual centerpiece celebration.

Others joined a flotilla of 3,000 boats beneath the giant steel arch bridge for the 12-minute show, which saw $527,000 in pyrotechnics launched from barges, city roof tops and the bridge.

Chinese President Hu Jintao said in a New Year address broadcast live on state television and radio that he hoped Beijing's hosting of the 2008 Olympics would help China improve relations with its global partners.

Hu said the Games, which are to kick off on Aug. 8, should act as a platform for "promoting understanding and friendly cooperation between the people of China and the world."

Human rights groups have criticized China for failing to improve human rights and media freedoms in line with its Olympic promises in 2001.

In Japan, the country's three main mobile phone carriers urged holiday-makers to hold off calling family and friends or sending messages from their phones in the first two hours of 2008 to prevent a system overload.

"We will try to deliver as many 'congratulations' as we can, but we may have to restrict services temporarily," read an advertisement sponsored by NTT DoCoMo Inc., KDDI Corp. and Softbank Corp. in the nation's major newspapers Monday.

The fire in the Philippines destroyed nine fireworks stalls north of Manila, sending flaming debris and dark-gray smoke billowing into the sky.

Two bystanders were hurt in Bocaue — known as the country's fireworks capital — fire marshal Absalon Zipagan said. Another villager suffered bruises when he fell to the ground while scampering to safety.

Investigators suspect the fire was accidentally lit by a cigarette or reckless testing of fireworks in an alley of stalls, he said.

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