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Clayton Rd remains closed at Skinker as police investigate a person hit by a vehicle in the 600 block of South Skinker.
Friday, 22 March 2013 08:54
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The Associated Press BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Police with automatic weapons went door-to-door in a coastal Georgia town searching for suspects after a gunman opened fire on an infant as his mother pushed him in his stroller. The suspects in the Thursday killing of the 13-month-old boy and wounding of his mother are thought to be from 10 to 15 years old, Brunswick Police Chief Tobe Green said. "He said 'I'm going to kill you if you don't give me money,' and I said, 'I swear I don't have any,'" the mother, Sherry West, said in a tearful interview with WAWS-TV of Jacksonville. She said she tried to protect her baby, Antonio, but shots rang out. "I put my arms over my baby and he shoves me and then he shot my baby right in the head," West said. She was recovering from a gunshot wound to her leg after the crime, which happened around 9:15 a.m. "This is obviously a terrible day in Brunswick," Brunswick Mayor Bryan Thompson said. "Please call if you know something. You are complicit in this crime." Antonio's father, Louis Santiago, told the TV station he wishes he could have been there to protect his family. "He was special," Santiago said. "He had the bluest, bluest eyes." Residents described the neighborhood south of downtown as normally quiet, though there have been some property crimes recently. The city is about 80 miles south of Savannah. "This makes me very uneasy," Patricia Buie told The Brunswick News. "Now I am very concerned. It is making me want to move to the mountains." Officers from a SWAT team checked vacant houses as investigators tried to find possible witnesses. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources provided a helicopter to aid the search. Police are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction. Copyright The Associated Press
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JERUSALEM (AP) — Wrapping up a three day visit to Israel, President Barack Obama paid respects to the nation's heroes and to victims of the Holocaust, solemnly reaffirming the Jewish state's right to exist.

Accompanied by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, Obama laid wreaths at the graves of Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism who died in 1904 before realizing his dream of a Jewish homeland, and former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995.

He also toured the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, declaring after that the memorial illustrates the depravity to which man can sink but also serves as a reminder of the "righteous among the nations who refused to be bystanders."

Friday's stop at Herzl's grave, together with Thursday's visit to see the Dead Sea Scrolls, the ancient Hebrew texts, were symbolic stops for Obama that acknowledged that the rationale for Israel's existence rests with its historical ties to the region and with a vision that predated the Holocaust. Obama was criticized in Israel for his 2009 Cairo speech in which he gave only the example of the Holocaust as reason for justifying Israel's existence.

"Here on your ancient land, let it be said for all the world to hear," Obama said at Yad Vashem Friday, in a clear response to that criticism. "The state of Israel does not exist because of the Holocaust, but with the survival of a strong Jewish state of Israel, such a holocaust will never happen again."

Later in the day, Obama was traveling to Jordan where he planned to meet with King Abdullah II. Among the topics is Jordan's struggle with the influx of a half-million refugees from the Syrian civil war. Abdullah has voiced fears that extremists and terrorists could create a regional base in Jordan.

Before leaving for Jordan, Obama had lunch with Netanyahu and then took his motorcade to Bethlehem in the West Bank to visit the Church of the Nativity.

Obama had been scheduled to take a helicopter to Bethlehem but had to change plans due to unusually high winds. The route gave Obama a clear look at Israel's separation barrier with the West Bank, which runs south of Jerusalem and is the subject of weekly protests by Palestinians.

About 300 Palestinians and international pilgrims gathered near the Nativity Church, awaiting Obama's arrival. But a knot of protestors along the route held up signs stating: "Gringo, return to your colony" and "US supports Israeli injustice."

At a nearby mosque, Mohammed Ayesh, a Muslim religious official in Bethlehem, issued a plea to Obama in a speech to worshippers: "America, where are your values? Where are the human rights? Isn't it time that you interfere to make it stop?"

Amid high security, Obama toured the church with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. They stopped at the Grotto of the Nativity, which is said to stand where Jesus Christ was born. About 20 children waving U.S. and Palestinian flags greeted Obama in a courtyard outside the sanctuary. He posed for photographs with Abbas and Bethlehem's mayor, Vera Baboun.

Earlier in Jerusalem, Obama and his Israeli hosts arrived at the somber Herzl grave site under cloudless skies. Obama approached Herzl's resting place alone and bowed his head in silence. He turned briefly to ask Netanyahu where to place a small stone in the Jewish custom, then laid the stone atop the grave.

"It is humbling and inspiring to visit and remember the visionary who began the remarkable establishment of the State of Israel," Obama wrote in the Mt. Herzl guestbook. "May our two countries possess the same vision and will to secure peace and prosperity for future generations."

At Rabin's grave a short walk away, Obama was greeted by members of Rabin's family. He initially placed a stone on Rabin's wife's side of the grave, then returned to place one atop Rabin's side. In a gesture linking the U.S. and Israel, the stone placed on Rabin's grave was from the grounds of the Martin Luther King memorial in Washington, the White House said.

Rabin, Obama told family members, was "a great man."

Chatting with the family, Obama joked that "Bibi arranged for perfect weather," using Netanyahu's familiar name. He then added that "Shimon plied me with wine" at the official state dinner Thursday evening. At one point the talk turned to the singer who performed at the dinner, and Obama pointed out that he was known to sing, too. "They had me on YouTube," he said with a laugh. "Check it out -- Obama singing Al Green."

At Yad Vashem, Obama donned a skull cap and was accompanied by Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, a survivor of the Buchenwald Concentration camp who lost both parents in the Holocaust. Among his stops was Yad Vashem's Hall of Names, a circular chamber that contains original testimony documenting every Holocaust victim ever identified.

"Nothing could be more powerful," Obama said.

---- Associated Press writers Dalia Nammari in Bethlehem and Daniel Estrin contributed.
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DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — The Syrian president vowed on Friday to rid the country of Muslim extremists whom he blamed for a suicide blast the previous evening that killed dozens of people, including a top Sunni preacher who was a staunch supporter of Bashar Assad.

And in a warning to rebels battling to topple his regime, the Syrian leader pledged that his troops will "wipe out" and clean the country of the "forces of darkness."

Assad's statement came as the Syrian Health Ministry raised the death toll from the Thursday night bombing in Damascus to 49, after seven of the wounded died overnight in hospital.

In the attack, a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a mosque in the heart of the Syrian capital, killing Sheikh Mohammad Said Ramadan al-Buti as he was giving a sermon. The blast also wounded 84 people.

It was one of the most stunning assassinations of the two-year civil war and marked a new low in the conflict: while suicide bombings blamed on Islamic extremists fighting with the rebels have become common, the latest attack was the first time a suicide bomber detonated his explosives inside a mosque. The grandson of the 84-year-old al-Buti was among those killed in the attack.

In the statement carried by Syria's state SUNA news agency, Assad said al-Buti represented true Islam in facing "the forces of darkness and extremist" ideology.

"Your blood and your grandson's, as well as that of all the nation's martyrs will not go in vain because we will continue to follow your thinking to wipe out their darkness and clear our country of them," said Assad.

Syria's crisis started in March 2011 as peaceful protests against Assad's authoritarian rule. The revolt turned into a civil war as some opposition supporters took up arms the fight a harsh government crackdown on dissent. The U.N. says more than 70,000 people have been killed since.

It was not immediately clear when al-Buti's funeral would take place. The government declared Saturday as a day of mourning and state-run Syrian TV halted its regular programs on Friday to air readings from the Muslim holy book, the Quran, as well as speeches of the late cleric.

Al-Buti was the most senior religious figure to be killed in Syria's civil war and his slaying was a major blow to Assad. The preacher had been a vocal supporter of the regime since the early days of Assad's father and predecessor, the late President Hafez Assad, providing a Sunni cover and legitimacy to their rule. Sunnis are the majority sect in Syria while Assad is from the minority Alawite sect — an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

In a speech earlier this month, al-Buti had said it was "a religious duty to protect the values, the land and the nation" of Syria. "There is no difference between the army and the rest of the nation," he said at the time — a clear endorsement of Assad's forces in their effort to crush the rebels.

The mosque bombing was also among the most serious security breaches in Damascus. In July, an attack that targeted a high-level government crisis meeting killed four top regime officials, including Assad's brother-in-law and the defense minister.

Last month, a car bomb that struck in the same area, which houses the headquarters of Syria's ruling Baath party, killed at least 53 people and wounded more than 200.

____ Mroue reported from Beirut.
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