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   CAIRO (AP) — Three bombings hit high-profile areas around Cairo on Friday, including a suicide car bomber who struck the city's police headquarters, killing five people in the first major attack on the Egyptian capital as insurgents step up a campaign of violence following the ouster of the Islamist president.
   Nobody claimed responsibility for the attacks, but they bore the hallmarks of Islamic extremists who have increasingly targeted police and the military since the July 3 coup against Mohammed Morsi and a fierce crackdown on his supporters led by the Muslim Brotherhood.
   The explosions struck as the country was on high alert ahead of the third anniversary of the Jan. 25 start of the 2011 uprising that toppled autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak. Morsi's supporters had vowed to use the event to gain momentum in their efforts turn to a new momentum to "break the coup."
   Friday's violence began when a suicide bomber rammed a car into cement blocks surrounding the main Egyptian police headquarters in the heart of Cairo, killing at least four people and sending billows of black smoke into the sky. The blast also tore through nearby buildings, including the renowned Museum of Islamic Art.
   Egypt's antiquities minister, Mohammed Ibrahim, said the explosion badly damaged the facade of the 19th century museum and artifacts inside, including a rare collection of Islamic art objects dating back to 1881. He said the museum, which was recently renovated in a multimillion dollar project, will have to be "rebuilt."
   As a large number of ambulances rushed to the scene, an Associated Press photographer saw about six police officers weeping as they on the sidewalk outside the building. Small parts of a vehicle were scattered on the road and a blanket covered a corpse — which officers said was the suicide bomber.
   Several floors of the high-rise security building were wrecked, air conditioning units dangled from broken windows, and the pavement outside was covered with piles of shattered glass, pieces of bricks and rocks. The facade of the adjacent Islamic Art Museum and a court house were also damaged along with shops and cars in the area.
   Egypt's Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim described the attack "vile terrorist act" and vowed, "it will not discourage the police from continuing their fierce war against the black terrorism."
   The Interior Ministry cordoned off the building, which is located in a busy district, as rescue teams worked to extract victims trapped in the rubble. Security forces went on high alert, and closed the central Tahrir Square and main roads, including the one leading to the Interior Ministry.
   The Health Ministry said in a statement that four people were killed and nearly 50 wounded.
   About two hours later, another bomb struck a police car on patrol near a metro station near the Russian Culture Center elsewhere in Cairo, killing one person and wounding eight others, officials said.
   A third, smaller blast targeted the Talbiya police station about four kilometers (two miles) from the famous Giza Pyramids but caused no casualties, officials said.
   The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
   The attacks came a day after the country's military and security leaders marked Police Day depicting security forces as national heroes battling terrorism.
   The military-backed government has blamed the Brotherhood for past attacks and designated it as a terrorist organization. The group has denied the accusations as baseless.
   The most prominent attacks were a failed assassination attempt on the interior minister in Cairo in September and the December suicide car bombing that targeted a security headquarters in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura, leaving nearly 16 dead, most of them policemen.
   An al-Qaida-inspired group called Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, or the Champions of Jerusalem, has claimed responsibility for most of the recent attacks, saying they aimed to avenge the killings of Morsi's supporters in the months-long heavy security crackdown on protesters demanding his reinstatement and denouncing the coup.
   A Brotherhood-led coalition had planned protests after Friday prayers across the country as part of their near-daily demonstrations against Morsi's overthrow and the recent vote on the country's rewritten constitution.
Published in National News
   BAGHDAD (AP) - Authorities say a bomb blast at a funeral north of Iraq's capital has killed at least 16 people, the deadliest of a series of attacks that have killed at least 37.
   The funeral attack happened Wednesday in the town of Buhriz, about 60 kilometers (35 miles) north of Baghdad. Police say 16 people were killed in that blast inside a mourning tent, while at least 26 were wounded.
   Two medical officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.
   Iraq remains gripped by violence as al-Qaida-linked militants took control of two cities in Anbar province, west of Baghdad. A series of bombings in the capital Wednesday killed at least 21 people.
 
Published in National News

   BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon's news agency says 20 people have been killed and 95 wounded in two explosions that struck near the Iranian Embassy in the Lebanese capital of Beirut.

   The National News Agency says the dead include two Iranian nationals.

   The mid-morning blasts hit Beirut's upscale neighborhood of Janah, a stronghold of the Shiite militant Hezbollah group. One explosion blew out the large black main gate of the Iranian mission, damaging the three-story facility.

   Debris was scattered on the street and cars were on fire as people ran away from the chaotic scene.

   A Lebanese security official confirmed that the casualty figures. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

   Attacks have targeted Lebanon's Shiite strongholds recently in what many see as retaliation by extremists for Hezbollah's role in Syria.

Published in National News
Wednesday, 28 August 2013 02:46

US lays groundwork for possible Syria strike

   WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is laying the groundwork for potential military action in Syria in the coming days, with intelligence agencies readying additional evidence about last week's alleged chemical weapons attack and high-ranking U.S. officials declaring there was "no doubt" that Bashar Assad's government was to blame.

   Administration officials also said Assad's actions posed a direct threat to U.S. national security, providing President Barack Obama with a potential legal justification for launching a strike without authorization from the United Nations or Congress. However, officials did not detail how the U.S. was directly threatened by an attack contained within Syria's borders. Nor did they present concrete proof that Assad was responsible.

   "Allowing the use of chemical weapons on a significant scale to take place without a response would present a significant challenge to, threat to the United States' national security," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday.

   The U.S. and international partners were unlikely to undertake military action before Thursday. That's when British Prime Minister David Cameron will convene an emergency meeting of Parliament, where lawmakers were expected to vote on a motion clearing the way for a British response.

   Obama and Cameron spoke Tuesday, their second known conversation since the weekend. A Cameron spokesman said the two leaders agreed that a chemical attack had taken place, and that the Assad regime was responsible. Cameron "confirmed that the government had not yet taken a decision on the specific nature of our response, but that it would be legal and specific to the chemical weapons attack," the spokesman said.

   Also Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden became the highest-ranking U.S. official to charge that Assad's government fired chemical weapons last week near Damascus. Assad has denied using chemical weapons, calling the allegations "preposterous."

   "There's no doubt who is responsible for this heinous use of chemical weapons in Syria: the Syrian regime," Biden said.

   Obama is weighing a response focused narrowly on punishing Assad for violating international agreements that ban the use of chemical weapons, an act the president repeatedly has said would cross a "red line." Officials said the goal was not to drive the Syrian leader from power nor affect the broader trajectory of Syria's bloody civil war, which is now in its third year.

   "The options we are considering are not about regime change," Carney told reporters.

   According to U.S. officials, the most likely military operation would be largely sea-based, with the strikes coming primarily from Navy warships in the Mediterranean Sea. Fighter jets often are deployed to monitor the area and protect the ships, but Syria's robust air defense system makes airstrikes more difficult and risky.

   Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said military forces stood ready to strike Syria immediately if the commander in chief gave the order. The Navy has four destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean within range of targets inside Syria and also has warplanes in the region.

   "We are ready to go," Hagel said in a BBC television interview Tuesday while traveling in Asia.

   Ahead of any strike, the U.S. also planned to release additional intelligence it said would directly link Assad to the Aug. 21 attack in the Damascus suburbs. Syrian activists said hundreds of people were killed in the attack. A U.S. official said the intelligence report was expected to include "signals intelligence" — information gathered from intercepted communications.

   All of the officials insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the internal deliberations.

   Even before releasing that information, U.S. officials said they had very little doubt that Assad was culpable in the attack, based on witness reports, information on the number of victims and the symptoms of those killed or injured, and intelligence showing the Syrian government has not lost control of its chemical weapons stockpiles.

   Other administration officials echoed Biden's comments, which marked a subtle shift in the administration's rhetoric on who bears responsibility for the attack. Earlier in the week officials would say only that there was "very little doubt" Assad was responsible.

Published in National News

   BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian activists say President Bashar Assad's forces are pressing on with a military offensive in the rebel-held eastern Damascus suburbs where the opposition says a chemical weapons attack killed over 100 people.

   The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says it had no word on casualties in Thursday's bombing of eastern Ghouta.

   The government has denied as "absolutely baseless" allegations it used chemical weapons in artillery barrages there on Wednesday.

   The U.S., Britain and France have demanded that a team of U.N. experts already in the country be granted immediate access to investigate the site.

   Opposition figures and activists have reported widely varying death tolls, from 136 to as high as 1,300. But even the most conservative tally would make it the deadliest alleged chemical attack in Syria's civil war.

Published in National News

BOSTON (AP) — Authorities say Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faces a 15-count state indictment related to the death of a police officer and a police shootout.

That's in addition to a 30-count federal indictment returned by a federal grand jury Thursday.

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz and state officials said at a news conference that they're thinking of the three people killed and 260 people injured when two bombs exploded April 15 near the finish line.

Authorities say the suspects later shot Massachusetts Institute of Technology officer Sean Collier in his cruiser and tried to steal his gun.

Tsarnaev was indicted Thursday on federal charges for which he could get the death penalty. His attorney has declined to comment.

His brother was killed in the shootout with police April 19.

Published in National News

BOSTON - AP - Three men who attended college with the Boston Marathon suspect have been charged in connection with the case.

Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev are charged with conspiring to obstruct justice. A third man, Robel Phillipos, is charged with making false statements to federal investigators.

An FBI affidavit says the three men removed bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s backpack from his dorm room at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth three days after the bombing.

The affidavit says Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev agreed to get rid of it after concluding from news reports that Tsarnaev was one of the bombers.

A court appearance for the three is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

Published in National News

BOSTON (AP) — Investigators have their suspect and are now looking to stitch together the details of the Boston Marathon bombing plot.

FBI agents have picked through a landfill near the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where 19-year-old suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (joh-HAHR' tsahr-NEYE'-ehv), was a sophomore. FBI spokesman Jim Martin would not say what investigators were looking for.

Also, two college buddies of the suspect have been questioned, but a lawyer says they had nothing to do with the attacks. He says the two are being detained in a Boston jail for violating their student visas by not regularly attending classes.

And U.S. officials said his mother had been added to a federal terrorism database months before the April 15 attack. His mother said it's all "lies."

Published in National News

   BOSTON (AP) - The next step in the legal process against the surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect is likely to be an indictment, in which federal prosecutors could add new charges to existing ones that could carry the death penalty.

   Still unable to speak because of wounds, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev answered questions in writing yesterday and was officially charged in the bombing.

   U.S. officials say Tsarnaev  and his brother appear to have been motivated by their religious views, not any connection to any Muslim terrorist groups. The officials made the assessment after Tsarnaev was interrogated in his hospital room, where he's being treated for severe wounds allegedly suffered during violent encounters with law enforcement following the Boston Marathon bombings.

   He was charged Monday with federal crimes that could bring the death penalty, including using a weapon of mass destruction to kill.

   The brothers, ethnic Chechens from Russia who had been living in the U.S. for about a decade, practiced Islam.

Published in National News

BOSTON (AP) - Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was charged in his hospital room Monday with using a weapon of mass destruction to kill, and he could get the death penalty.

 

   Tsarnaev, 19, was accused by federal prosecutors of joining with his older brother to set off the two pressure-cooker bombs that sprayed shrapnel into the crowd at the finish line last Monday, killing three people and wounding more than 180.

 

   The criminal complaint containing the charges shed no light on the motive for the attack.

 

   Tsarnaev was listed in serious but stable condition at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, unable to speak because of a gunshot wound to the throat. His brother, Tamerlan, 26, died last week in a fierce gunbattle with police.

 

   "Although our investigation is ongoing, today's charges bring a successful end to a tragic week for the city of Boston and for our country," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.

   The charges carry the death penalty or a prison sentence of up to life.

 

   "He has what's coming to him," a wounded Kaitlynn Cates said from her hospital room. She was at the finish line when the first blast knocked her off her feet, and she suffered an injury to her lower leg.

 

   In outlining the evidence against him in court papers, the FBI said Tsarnaev was seen on surveillance cameras putting a knapsack down on the ground near the site of the second blast and then manipulating a cellphone and lifting it to his ear.

 

   Seconds later, the first explosion went off about a block down the street and spread fear and confusion through the crowd. But Tsarnaev - unlike nearly everyone around him - looked calm and quickly walked away, the FBI said.

 

   Just 10 seconds or so later, the second blast occurred where he had left the knapsack, the FBI said.

 

   The FBI did not make it clear whether authorities believe he used his cellphone to detonate one or both of the bombs or whether he was talking to someone.

 

   The court papers also said that during the long night of crime Thursday and Friday that led to the older brother's death and the younger one's capture, one of the Tsarnaev brothers told a carjacking victim: "Did you hear about the Boston explosion? I did that."

 

   The brothers are ethnic Chechens from Russia who have lived in the U.S. for about a decade. Investigators are focusing on a trip the older brother made last year to Chechnya and Dagestan, in a region of Russia that has become a hotbed of separatist politics and Islamic extremism.

 

   Tsarnaev was charged with using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against persons and property, resulting in death. He is also likely to face state charges in connection with the shooting death of an MIT police officer.

 

   The Obama administration said it had no choice but to prosecute Tsarnaev in the federal court system. Some politicians had suggested he be tried as an enemy combatant in front of a military tribunal, where defendants are denied some of the usual U.S. constitutional protections.

 

   But Tsarnaev is a naturalized U.S. citizen, and under U.S. law, American citizens cannot be tried by military tribunals, White House spokesman Jay Carney said. Carney said that since 9/11, the federal court system has been used to convict and imprison hundreds of terrorists.

 

   In its criminal complaint, the FBI said it searched Tsarnaev's dorm room at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth on Sunday and found BBs as well as a white hat and dark jacket that look like those worn by one of one of the suspected bombers in the surveillance photos the FBI released a few days after the attack.

 

   Seven days after the bombings, meanwhile, Boston was bustling Monday, with runners hitting the pavement, children walking to school and enough cars clogging the streets to make the morning commute feel almost back to normal.

 

   Residents paused in the afternoon to observe a moment of silence at 2:50 p.m., the time of the first blast. Church bells tolled across the city and state in tribute to the victims.

 

   Standing on the steps of the state Capitol, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick bowed his head and said after the moment of silence: "God bless the people of Massachusetts. Boston Strong."

   On Boylston Street, where the bombing took place, the silence was broken when a Boston police officer pumped his fists in the air and the crowd erupted in applause. The crowd then quietly sang "God Bless America."

 

   Also, hundreds of family and friends packed a church in Medford for the funeral of bombing victim Krystle Campbell, a 29-year-old restaurant worker. A memorial service was scheduled for Monday night at Boston University for 23-year-old Lu Lingzi, a graduate student from China.

 

   Fifty-one victims remained hospitalized Monday, three of them in critical condition.

 

   At the Snowden International School on Newbury Street, a high school set just a block from the bombing site, jittery parents dropped off children as teachers - some of whom had run in the race - greeted each other with hugs.

 

   Carlotta Martin of Boston said that leaving her kids at school has been the hardest part of getting back to normal.

 

   "We're right in the middle of things," Martin said outside the school as her children, 17-year-old twins and a 15-year-old, walked in, glancing at the police barricades a few yards from the school's front door.

 

   "I'm nervous. Hopefully, this stuff is over," she continued. "I told my daughter to text me so I know everything's OK."

 

   Tsarnaev was captured Friday night after an intense all-day manhunt that brought the Boston area to a near-standstill. He was cornered and seized, wounded and bloody, after he was discovered hiding in a tarp-covered boat in a Watertown backyard.

 

   He had apparent gunshot wounds to the head, neck, legs and hand, the FBI said in court papers.

 

   Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Sunday that Tsarnaev's throat wound raised questions about when he will be able to talk again, if ever. It was not clear whether the wound was inflicted by police or was self-inflicted.

 

   The wound "doesn't mean he can't communicate, but right now I think he's in a condition where we can't get any information from him at all," Coats told ABC's "This Week."

 

   Meanwhile, investigators in the Boston suburb of Waltham are looking into whether there are links between Tamerlan Tsarnaev and an unsolved 2011 slaying. Tsarnaev was a friend of one of three men found dead in an apartment with their necks slit and their bodies reportedly covered with marijuana.

Published in National News
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