AP News in Brief

AP News
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Posted: Apr 25, 2011 6:06 AM
AP News in Brief

More than 450 inmates _ most of them Taliban _ make underground escape from Afghan prison

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) _ Taliban militants dug a lengthy tunnel underground and into the main jail in Kandahar city and whisked out more than 450 prisoners, most of whom were Taliban fighters, officials and insurgents said Monday.

The massive overnight jailbreak in Afghanistan's second-largest city underscores the Afghan government's continuing weakness in the south, despite an influx of international troops, funding and advisers. Kandahar city, in particular, has been a focus of the international effort to establish a strong Afghan government presence in former Taliban strongholds.

The 1,200-inmate Sarposa Prison has been part of that plan. The facility has undergone security upgrades and tightened procedures following a brazen 2008 Taliban attack that freed 900 prisoners. Afghan government officials and their NATO backers have regularly said that the prison has vastly improved security since that attack.

But on Sunday night, about 475 prisoners streamed out of a tunnel that had been dug into the facility and disappeared into Kandahar city, prison supervisor Ghulam Dastagir Mayar said. He said the majority of the missing were Taliban militants.

"This is a blow," presidential spokesman Waheed Omar said. "A prison break of this magnitude of course points to a vulnerability." He did not provide details on the incident, saying that the investigation had just started.

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5 killed in new clashes in southern Syria, witnesses say

BEIRUT (AP) _ Syrian troops backed by tanks stormed at least three towns early Monday and snipers fired from rooftops, killing at least five people as the crackdown intensifies on a five-week uprising against President Bashar Assad's authoritarian regime, witnesses and activists said.

The most serious violence appeared to be in the southern city of Daraa, where the protest movement kicked off more than a month ago after authorities arrested a group of teenagers who scrawled anti-regime graffiti on a wall. Since then, more than 300 people have been killed across the country as the anti-government demonstrations have swelled.

"We need international intervention! We need countries to help us!" shouted a witness in Daraa who said he saw five corpses after security forces opened fire on a car. He spoke to The Associated Press by telephone.

Activists on social media posted footage of what they said were troops firing throughout Daraa.

The crackle of heavy gunfire punctuates the footage, as well as the labored, frightened breathing of the activist filming the footage. The activist repeats the date and location and says: "The army forces are entering Daraa. They are shelling the city of Daraa."

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With 12,000 still missing, Japan launches massive search for bodies of those killed in tsunami

SHICHIGAHAMAMACHI, Japan (AP) _ Soldiers prodded marshy ground with slender poles and cleared mounds of rubble by hand Monday as 25,000 troops mounted Japan's largest search yet for the bodies of nearly 12,000 people missing in last month's earthquake and tsunami.

The operation was the third intensive military search since the March 11 disaster, which splintered buildings, flattened towns and killed up to 26,000 people along Japan's northeastern coast. With waters receding, officials hope the team, which also includes police, coast guard and U.S. troops, will make significant progress during the two-day operation.

In the town of Shichigahamamachi, a line of about two dozen Japanese soldiers walked in unison across soggy earth and muddy pools, plunging their poles about 2 feet (60 centimeters) into the muck to ensure that they don't miss any bodies buried below.

The search focused on a marsh drained in recent weeks by members of the army's 22nd infantry regiment using special pump trucks.

Several dozen other soldiers cleared mountains of rubble by hand from a waterfront neighborhood filled with gutted and teetering houses. Four people in the neighborhood were missing, said 67-year-old Sannojo Watanabe.

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Rep. Giffords' husband Mark Kelly says she'll attend his Fla. space shuttle launch on Friday

HOUSTON (AP) _ Doctors have given Rep. Gabrielle Giffords the go-ahead to travel to Cape Canaveral this week to watch husband Mark Kelly's space shuttle launch, Kelly says.

The trip will be the first for the Arizona congresswoman since she was flown from Tucson to Houston more than three months ago to recover after she was shot in the head during a shooting rampage in Tucson, Ariz.

Kelly said during an interview with CBS' Katie Couric that Giffords will witness the launch of Endeavour, which is scheduled for 3:47 p.m. Friday. Kelly is the commander of the mission.

"I've met with her doctors, her neurosurgeon and her doctors, and ... they've given us permission to take her down to the launch," Kelly said in the interview in Houston. The network statement did not specify when the interview occurred.

CBS released excerpts of the interview Sunday, and it was scheduled to air Monday evening.

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Crews discover body of trapped Idaho miner following 9-day rescue effort

BOISE, Idaho (AP) _ For nine days, miners more than a mile underground burrowed around the clock to reach one of their own caught in a cave-in _ never wavering from calling the effort a rescue mission.

That changed Easter Sunday as officials announced the death of 53-year-old Larry Marek. His body was discovered in a collapsed portion of the Lucky Friday silver mine were he had been working with his brother.

"Words cannot express the deep sorrow we feel at the tragic loss of our friend, colleague and 30-year veteran of the mining industry. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, loved ones and friends," a Hecla Mining Co. statement said.

Marek, a 12-year company employee, and his brother, Mike, had just finished watering down blasted-out rock and ore April 15 in northern Idaho mine when the ceiling of a 6,150-foot deep tunnel collapsed. Mike Marek escaped unharmed.

Rescuers worked on the hope that not all of the 75-foot section of tunnel collapsed and the missing miner had perhaps survived in an open space amid the tons of fallen rock and debris.

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Leaked Gitmo documents provide fresh information on background of terror suspects

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Secret documents about detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison reveal new information about some of the men that the United States believes to be terrorists, according to reports about the files released by several American and European newspapers. The U.S. government criticized the publication as "unfortunate."

The military detainee assessments were made public Sunday night by U.S. and European newspapers after the WikiLeaks website obtained the files. The records contain details of the more than 700 detainee interrogations and evidence the U.S. had collected against these suspected terrorists, according to the media outlets.

It's not clear if the media outlets published the documents with the consent of WikiLeaks.

The files _ know as Detainee Assessment Briefs or DABs _ describe the intelligence value of the detainees and whether they would be a threat to the U.S. if released. To date, 604 detainees have been transferred out of Guantanamo while 172 remain locked up.

The disclosures are likely to provide human right activists with additional ammunition that some cases against inmates appear to be based on flawed evidence. However, the DABs show certain inmates were more dangerous than previously known to the public and could complicate efforts by the U.S. to transfer detainees out of the controversial prison that President Barack Obama has failed to close.

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Witness: Yemeni troops loyal to president attack protesters in south, injuring dozens

SANAA, Yemen (AP) _ A Yemeni activist says forces loyal to the country's embattled president attacked protesters calling for his ouster in a southern city, injuring dozens.

Activist Nouh al-Wafi says presidential guard troops, controlled by President Ali Abdullah Saleh's eldest son, fired bullets and tear gas Monday into tens of thousands in the city of Taiz.

Al-Wafi couldn't provide an exact toll of the injured. He says dozens had gunshot wounds while scores of others had breathing difficulties.

The demonstrators were rallying for Saleh's ouster, chanting: "Leave!"

Saleh has ruled for 32 years. On Saturday, he agreed to an Arab proposal to leave within 30 days of signing a deal and transferring power to a deputy, but near-daily protests demand he leave immediately.

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St. Louis-area officials call no tornado deaths miracle, laud weather service's early warning

BRIDGETON, Mo. (AP) _ The St. Louis area's most powerful tornado in 44 years rips into an airport and through a densely populated suburban area, destroying up to 100 homes, shattering hundreds of panes of glass at the main terminal and blowing a shuttle bus on top of a roof. Yet no one is killed, or even seriously hurt, and the airport reopens less than 24 hours later. How?

Early warnings, good timing and common sense all helped prevent a tragedy Friday night. But on Easter Sunday, many of those cleaning up the mess also thanked a higher power.

"I don't know why God decided to spare our lives but I'm thankful for it," Joni Bellinger, children's minister at hard-hit Ferguson Christian Church, said Sunday.

Lambert Airport reopened for arriving flights Saturday night, and departing flights began Sunday morning. Still, dozens of flights have been canceled, the airport's Concourse C is still closed and complete repairs could take up to two months.

The tornado peaked at an EF-4 level, second-highest on the Enhanced Fujita scale, packing winds of up to 200 mph, National Weather Service meteorologist Wes Browning said. It was the most powerful twister in metropolitan St. Louis since 1967 _ and eerily, it followed a path similar to that of the earlier tornado.

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Jimmy Carter says he hopes to meet with Kim Jong Il as part of his trip to North Korea

BEIJING (AP) _ Former President Jimmy Carter said Monday that he hopes to meet with North Korea's reclusive leader during a visit aimed at assessing severe food shortages and discussing the revival of nuclear disarmament talks.

Carter is making the three-day visit to North Korea this week accompanied by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Brundtland and former Irish President Mary Robinson. The four are members of a group of retired world leaders called the Elders founded by former South African President Nelson Mandela.

Carter said the group "would like very much" to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, as well as his son and heir-apparent Kim Jong Un, but was unsure whether that would happen.

"We have no indication that we will do so, but it would be a pleasure if we could," he said at a news conference in Beijing prior to his departure for Pyongyang on Tuesday.

The former president said he was not "prejudging in advance" his discussions on restarting talks on North Korea's nuclear programs, which have been stalled for the past two years.

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Paul's triple-double lifts Hornets over Lakers, 93-88, ties series 2-2

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ With his left hand wrapped in a black bandage and cut patched up over his right eye, Chris Paul triumphantly cupped his hand to his ear and soaked in the roars of a packed and delirious New Orleans Arena.

Hornets fans rejoiced in knowing they would get to see Paul and Co. back in the Big Easy at least one more time, thanks to the All-Star guard's first triple double of the season.

Paul had 27 points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds, and the New Orleans Hornets held on for a 93-88 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night to even their first-round playoff series at 2-2.

"Regardless of what happens in this series, it was good to see the city with a smile on their face," said Paul, who hit 7 of 14 shots and all 11 of his free throws. "It was fun, man. I'm just so thankful to get to say this is my way of life."

Paul scored 14 of New Orleans' 24 points in the fourth quarter. He capped what will go down as one of the best playoff performances in Hornets history by driving into a crowd of Lakers and turning an aborted shot into a perfect pass to set Jarrett Jack's short jumper, which made it 90-86 with 9.3 seconds left.