Saturday, January 26, 2013

Published:

Rioting erupts in Egyptian city after soccer fans sentenced to die; nearly 30 killed

CAIRO (AP) -- Relatives and angry young men rampaged through the Egyptian city of Port Said on Saturday in assaults that killed at least 27 people following death sentences for local fans involved in the country's worst bout of soccer violence.

Unrest surrounding the second anniversary of Egypt's revolution also broke out in Cairo and other cities for a third day, with protesters clashing for hours with riot police who fired tear gas that encompassed swaths of the capital's downtown.

The divisive verdict and bloodshed highlight challenges being faced by President Mohammed Morsi, who took office seven months ago following an Egyptian revolution that ousted autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak. Critics say Morsi has failed to carry out promised reforms in the country's judiciary and police force, and claim little has improved in the two years after the uprising against Mubarak.

The Islamist leader, Egypt's first freely elected and civilian president, met for the first time with top generals as part of the newly formed National Defense Council to discuss the deployment of troops in two cities. The military was deployed to Port Said hours after the verdict was announced, and warned that a curfew could be declared in areas of unrest. The military was also deployed to the canal city of Suez, where protesters attacked the main security compound there after eight people were killed late Friday.

Saturday's riot in Port Said stemmed from animosity between police and die-hard soccer fans know as Ultras, who also were part of the mass uprising against Mubarak that began on Jan. 25, 2011, and at forefront of protests against the military rulers who assumed temporary power after his ouster.

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Senate Democrats may stand in Obama's way as debate begins on tighter gun control measures

WASHINGTON (AP) -- As the Senate prepares to begin debating new gun control measures, some of President Barack Obama's fellow Democrats are poised to frustrate his efforts to enact the most sweeping limits on weapons in decades.

These Democrats from largely rural states with strong gun cultures view Obama's proposals warily and have not committed to supporting them. The lawmakers' concerns could stand in the way of strong legislation before a single Republican gets a chance to vote "no."

"There's a core group of Democratic senators, most but not all from the West, who represent states with a higher-than-average rate of gun ownership but an equally strong desire to feel their kids are safe," said Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. "They're having hard but good conversations with people back home to identify the middle-ground solutions that respect the Second Amendment but make it harder for dangerous people to get their hands on guns."

All eyes are on these dozen or so Democrats, some of whom face re-election in 2014. That includes Sens. Max Baucus of Montana, Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.

The Senate Judiciary Committee begins hearings Wednesday.

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Mali conflict illustrates fears that Libya isbecoming incubator of turmoil

Libya's upheaval the past two years helped lead to the ongoing conflict in Mali, and now Mali's war threatens to wash back and further hike Libya's instability. Fears are growing that post-Moammar Gadhafi Libya is becoming an incubator of turmoil, with an overflow of weapons and Islamic jihadi militants operating freely, ready for battlefields at home or abroad.

The possibility of a Mali backlash was underlined the past week when several European governments evacuated their citizens from Libya's second largest city, Benghazi, fearing attacks in retaliation for the French-led military assault against al-Qaida-linked extremists in northern Mali.

More worrisome is the possibility that Islamic militants inspired by -- or linked to -- al-Qaida can establish a strong enough foothold in Libya to spread instability across a swath of North Africa where long, porous desert borders have little meaning, governments are weak, and tribal and ethnic networks stretch from country to country. The Associated Press examined the dangers in recent interviews with officials, tribal leaders and jihadis in various parts of Libya.

Already, Libya's turmoil echoes around the region and in the Middle East. The large numbers of weapons brought into Libya or seized from government caches during the 2011 civil war against Gadhafi are now smuggled freely to Mali, Egypt and its Sinai Peninsula, the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and to rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad. Jihadis in Libya are believed to have operational links with fellow militant groups in the same swath, Libyan fighters have joined rebels in Syria and are believed to operate in other countries as well.

Libyan officials, activists and experts are increasingly raising alarm over how Islamic militants have taken advantage of the oil-rich country's weakness to grow in strength. During his more than four-decade rule Gadhafi stripped the country of national institutions, and after his fall the central government has little authority beyond the capital, Tripoli. Militias established to fight Gadhafi remain dominant, and tribes and regions are sharply divided.

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French forces take control of airport, bridge in Gao, Malian city held by Islamic extremists

KONNA, Mali (AP) -- French and Malian troops regained control of the airport and bridge of the crucial, northern city of Gao on Saturday, marking their biggest advance yet in their bid to oust al-Qaida-linked extremists who have controlled northern Mali for months, military officials said.

The move comes just two weeks after France launched its military offensive in support of the shaky, central government of this former French colony. It is unclear what kind of resistance French and Malian troops will face in the coming days.

The French military said in a statement on its website that their special forces, which had stormed in by land and by air, had come under fire from "several terrorist elements" that were later "destroyed."

In a later press release entitled "French and Malian troops liberate Gao" the French ministry of defense said they were bringing back the town's mayor, Sadou Diallo, who had fled to the Malian capital of Bamako far to the west.

However, a city official interviewed by telephone by The Associated Press said coalition forces so far only controlled the airport, the bridge and surrounding neighborhoods.

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The tale of 16-year-old child soldier is a window into Mali's dirty war

SEVARE, Mali (AP) -- The boy sits with his knees tucked under his chest on the concrete floor of the police station here, his adolescent face a tableau of fear. He's still garbed in the knee-length tunic he was ordered to wear by the Islamic extremist who recruited him.

It's these same clothes, styled after those worn by the Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century, which gave him away when he tried to flee earlier this week. They have now become his prison garb.

Adama Drabo is 16, and his recruitment into the ranks of a group designated as a terrorist organization, followed by his violent interrogation at the hands of the Malian army, underscores the obstacles faced by France as it tries to wash its former West African colony clean of the al-Qaida-linked fighters occupying it.

"In terms of the rules of engagement, you have to think to yourself, what will you do if a child comes up to you wearing an explosive vest? What do you do if a 12-year-old is manning a checkpoint?" says Rudolph Atallah, former director of counterterrorism for Africa at the Pentagon during the Bush administration. "It's a very difficult situation."

France, which now has around 2,500 troops on the ground, plunged headfirst into the conflict in Mali two weeks ago, after the Islamist groups that have controlled the nation's northern half since last year began an aggressive push southward. The French soldiers are equipped with night vision goggles, anti-tank mines and laser-guided bombs. However, their enemy includes the hundreds of children, some as young as 11, who have been conscripted into the rebel army.

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Man arrested after officer killed, 2 sheriff's deputies hurt in south La.; follows deadly fire

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Police on Saturday arrested a man suspected of fatally shooting a police officer and critically wounding two sheriff's deputies after setting a deadly fire at a mobile home near a south Louisiana casino.

A Chitimacha tribal officer was pronounced dead at the scene of the shootings in Charenton, while two St. Mary Parish sheriff's deputies were critically wounded and taken to local hospitals, said Louisiana State Police Trooper Stephen Hammons.

Hammons said investigators found the burned remains of a man after extinguishing a fire at a mobile home that Wilbert Thibodeaux, 48, is suspecting of setting before the officers confronted him.

Hammons said the officers were responding to a report of an armed man walking down a road near the Cypress Bayou Casino when Thibodeaux allegedly shot them.

Thibodeaux was treated for a gunshot wound that wasn't considered life-threatening, according to Hammons, who said investigators were questioning him Saturday evening.

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Garment factory fire kills 7 female workers, injures 5 in Bangladesh

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) -- A fire swept through a two-story garment factory in Bangladesh's capital Saturday, killing at least seven female workers and injuring another five, police and fire officials said.

The fire at the Smart factory occurred just two months after a blaze killed 112 workers in another factory near the capital city, raising questions about safety standards and treatment of workers in Bangladesh's $20-billion garment industry that exports clothes to leading Western retailers. The country has more than 4,000 garment factories

The cause of the latest fire was not immediately known, fire official Abdul Halim said.

Dhaka Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Monzurul Kabir told The Associated Press that the bodies of seven women were recovered from the top floor of the factory in Dhaka's Mohammadpur district. He said the factory was making pants and shirts, but could not provide further details.

Halim said it took firefighters about two hours to bring Saturday's blaze under control.

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Serial killer takes secrets to his grave, but search for his unknown victims goes on

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- The suspect, hands and feet shackled, fidgeted in his chair, chuckling at times as he confessed to a brutal killing.

Israel Keyes showed no remorse as he described in merciless detail how he'd abducted and strangled an 18-year-old woman, then demanded ransom, pretending she was alive. As the two prosecutors questioned him, they were struck by his demeanor: He seemed pumped up, as if he were reliving the crime. His body shook, they said, and he rubbed his muscular arms on the chair rests so vigorously his handcuffs scraped off the wood finish.

The prosecutors had acceded to Keyes' requests: a cup of Americano coffee, a peanut butter Snickers and a cigar (for later). Then they showed him surveillance photos, looked him in the eye and declared: We know you kidnapped Samantha Koenig. We're going to convict you.

They aimed to solve a disappearance, and they did. But they soon realized there was much more here: a kind of evil they'd never anticipated.

Confessing to Koenig's killing, Keyes used a Google map to point to a spot on a lake where he'd disposed of her dismembered body and gone ice fishing at the same time. He wasn't done talking, though. He declared he'd been "two different people" for 14 years. He had stories to tell, stories he said he'd never shared. He made seemingly plural references and chilling remarks such as, "It takes a long time to strangle someone."

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Hoax 911 calls add to celebrities' problems, with CA police and lawmakers urging crackdown

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Celebrities have long contended with the occasional downsides of stardom -- tabloid scandals, stalkers, box office bombs, the paparazzi. Now, add "swatting" to the list -- a prank that sends police charging to the gates of stars' homes on false reports of gunmen, hostages or other crimes in progress.

Instead of bad guys, responding officers, police dogs, helicopters and sometimes SWAT teams have found only stunned domestic and security staff unaware of any trouble -- because there wasn't any.

The recent hoax 911 calls to the homes of Tom Cruise, Justin Bieber, Ashton Kutcher, Chris Brown and other stars are leading authorities to eye some 911 calls with extra suspicion and lawmakers to call for stiffer penalties for the pranksters.

"This is a very vexing problem that needs to be fixed at the early stages," said California State Sen. Ted Lieu, who is proposing tough consequences, including hefty fines, for those caught swatting. "If this isn't resolved, this will result in a tragic situation."

Swatting is the rare trend that actually didn't start in Hollywood. Authorities in Dallas, Washington state, Alabama and elsewhere have arrested teens and young men for bogus 911 calls that have drawn large police responses and in some cases, resulted in innocent people being detained by police.

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Hall of Famer Stan Musial remembered during funeral Mass

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Stan Musial was remembered during a funeral and memorial outside Busch Stadium on Saturday as a Hall of Famer and a St. Louis icon embraced by generations of fans who never had the privilege of watching him play.

Broadcaster Bob Costas, his voice cracking with emotion at times, pointed out during a two-hour Mass that in 92 years of life, Stan the Man never let anyone down.

Costas noted that even though Musial, who died Jan. 19, was a three-time NL MVP and seven-time batting champion, the pride of Donora, Pa., lacked a singular achievement. Joe DiMaggio had a 56-game hitting streak, Ted Williams was the last major leaguer to hit .400, and Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle soared to stardom in the New York spotlight. Musial didn't quite reach the 500-homer club -- he finished with 475 -- and played in his final World Series in 1946, "wouldn't you know it, the year before they started televising the Fall Classic!"

"What was the hook with Stan Musial other than the distinctive stance and the role of one of baseball's best hitters?" Costas said. "It seems that all Stan had going for him was more than two decades of sustained excellence as a ballplayer and more than nine decades as a thoroughly decent human being.

"Where is the single person to truthfully say a bad word about him?"