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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
Monday, 30 December 2013 02:52

14 dead after suicide bomber on Russian bus

   MOSCOW (AP) - Russia's main investigative agency says a Volgograd bus explosion was caused by a suicide bomber and officials raised the death toll to 14.
   The bombing comes a day after 17 people died in a railway station bombing also blamed on a suicide bomber.
   Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said in a statement that Monday's explosion on an electric bus involved a similar bomb, proving a link between the two attacks.
   Public health officials said that at least 14 people were killed in explosion during morning rush hour.
   No one has claimed responsibility for either bombing, but they came a few months after Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov threatened new attacks against civilian targets in Russia, including Olympics in Sochi in February.
Published in National News

   ADEN, Yemen (AP) - Military and hospital officials say a suicide bomber had detonated his explosives-laden car at Yemen's Defense Ministry, killing 15 soldiers and wounding at least 40.

   They said as many as 12 gunmen also have been killed in a firefight between troops and a carload of attackers who arrived minutes after the Thursday morning blast, apparently in a bid to take over the complex in downtown Sanaa, Yemen's capital.

   They said the gunmen were armed with assault rifles, hand grenades and rocket-propelled grenades.

   There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which bore the hallmarks of al-Qaida, whose chapter in Yemen is considered among the world's most active.

   The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.

Published in National News
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Militants staged two suicide attacks that killed at least 19 people on Saturday, the first full day of U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's visit to Afghanistan. They were a fresh reminder of the challenges posed by insurgents to the U.S.-led NATO force as it hands over the country's security to the Afghans. "This attack was a message to him," Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said of Hagel, in an email to reporters about the bombing outside the country's Defense Ministry in Kabul. Hagel was nowhere near that attack, but heard it across the city. He told reporters traveling with him that he wasn't sure what it was when he heard the explosion. "We're in a war zone. I've been in war, so shouldn't be surprised when a bomb goes off or there's an explosion," said Hagel, a Vietnam War veteran. Asked what his message to the Taliban would be, he said that the U.S. was going to continue to work with its allies to insure that the Afghan people have the ability to develop their own country and democracy. In the first attack, a suicide bomber on a bicycle struck outside the Afghan Defense Ministry early Saturday morning, just as employees were arriving for work. About a half hour later, another suicide bomber hit a joint NATO and Afghan patrol near a police checkpoint in Khost city, the capital of Khost province in eastern Afghanistan, said provincial spokesman Baryalai Wakman. Nine Afghan civilians were killed in the bombing at the ministry and 14 wounded, and two Afghan policemen and eight children died in the blast in Khost while another two Afghan civilians were wounded, according to a statement from President Hamid Karzai's office. Karzai condemned the bombings, calling them un-Islamic. "The perpetrators of such attacks are cowards who are killing innocent children at the orders of foreigners," he said in a statement emailed to reporters. Karzai usually uses the term "foreigners" to refer to Pakistan, which he blames for failing to crack down on Taliban militants who take sanctuary there. Hagel's first visit to Kabul as Pentagon chief comes as the U.S. and Afghanistan grapple with a number of disputes, from the aborted handover of a main detention facility - canceled at the last moment late Friday as a deal for the transfer broke down - to Afghan President Hamid Karzai's demand that U.S. special operations forces withdraw from Wardak province just outside Kabul over allegations of abuse. The prison transfer, originally slated for 2009, has been repeatedly delayed because of disputes between the U.S. and Afghan governments about whether all detainees should have the right to a trial and who will have the ultimate authority over the release of prisoners the U.S. considers a threat. The Afghan government has maintained that it needs full control over which prisoners are released as a matter of national sovereignty. The issue has threatened to undermine ongoing negotiations for a bilateral security agreement that would govern the presence of U.S. forces in Afghanistan after the current combat mission ends in 2014. U.S. military officials said Saturday's transfer ceremony was canceled because they could not finalize the agreement with the Afghans, but did not provide details. Afghan officials were less forthcoming. "The ceremony is not happening today," Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said, without elaborating. Regarding Wardak, Karzai set a deadline for Monday for the pullout of the U.S. commandos, over allegations that joint U.S. and Afghan patrols engaged in a pattern of torture, kidnappings and summary executions. "Each of those accusations has been answered and we're not involved," said Brigadier Adam Findlay, NATO's deputy chief of staff of operations, in an interview with The Associated Press Saturday. "There are obviously atrocities occurring there, but it's not linked to us, and the kind of atrocities we are seeing, fingers cut off, other mutilations to bodies, is just not the way we work." Findlay said NATO officials have made provisional plans to withdraw special operations forces, if Karzai sticks to his edict after meetings this weekend with Hagel and top military commander in Afghanistan Gen. Joseph Dunford. "What we've got to try to do is go to a middle ground that meets the president's frustration," but also keeps insurgents from using Wardak as a staging ground to launch attacks on the capital, Findlay said. "That plan would be that you would put in your more conventional forces into Wardak," to replace the special operators and maintain security, he said. NATO officials see the weekend violence as part of the Taliban's coming campaign for the spring fighting season. "There's a series of attacks that have started as the snow is thawing. We had a potential insider attack yesterday ... and there's been a number of attacks on the border," Findlay explained. The suspected insider attack occurred in Kapisa province in eastern Afghanistan several hours before Hagel arrived Friday. Three men presumed to be Afghan soldiers forced their way onto a U.S. base and opened fire, killing one U.S. civilian contractor and wounding four U.S. soldiers, according to a senior U.S. military official. The official said investigators were "95 percent certain it was an insider attack," because the three men came from the Afghan side of the joint U.S.-Afghan base, and rammed an Afghan army Humvee through a checkpoint dividing the base, before jumping out and opening fire on the Americans with automatic weapons. All three attackers were killed. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. The Taliban said it was not behind the Tagab base attack, and has not yet weighed in on the attack in Khost, but the group claimed responsibility for the morning attack at the ministry shortly after it happened. Pentagon spokesman George Little said Hagel was in a briefing at a U.S.-led military coalition facility in another part of the city when the explosion occurred. He said the briefing continued without interruption. Azimi, the defense ministry spokesman, said the bomber on a bicycle struck just before 9 a.m. local time about 30 meters (yards) from the main gate of the ministry. A man at the scene, Abdul Ghafoor, said the blast rocked the entire area. "I saw dead bodies and wounded victims lying everywhere," Ghafoor told the Associated Press. "Then random shooting started and we escaped from the area." The ministry said at least nine civilians were killed and others were wounded. Reporters traveling with Hagel were in a briefing when they heard the explosion. They were moved to a lower floor of the same building as U.S. facilities in downtown Kabul were locked down as a security precaution.
Published in National News

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