Pentagon: US military captures an al-Qaida leader in Libya linked to 1998 US Embassy bombings
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon says American forces have captured an al-Qaida leader in Libya who is linked to the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in east Africa.
The Pentagon identifies the leader as Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, known by his alias Anas al-Libi. He has been wanted by the U.S. for more than a decade.
The chief spokesman for the Pentagon, George Little, says al-Libi has been lawfully detained by the U.S. military in a secure location outside of Libya.
Relatives of al-Libi say he was seized Saturday outside his house in the Libyan capital of Tripoli.
Al-Libi has been high on Washington's list of most-wanted fugitives. His capture would represent a significant blow to what remains of the core al-Qaida organization once led by Osama bin Laden.
US forces raid Somalia, nab al-Qaida leader in Libya in missions against E. Africa terrorism
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — In a stealthy seaside assault in Somalia and in a raid in Libya's capital, U.S. special forces on Saturday struck out against Islamic extremists who have carried out terrorist attacks in East Africa, snatching a Libyan al-Qaida leader allegedly involved in the bombings of U.S. embassies 15 years ago but aborting a mission to capture a terrorist suspect linked to last month's Nairobi shopping mall attack after a fierce firefight.
A U.S. Navy SEAL team swam ashore near a town in southern Somalia before militants of the al-Qaida-linked terrorist group al-Shabab rose for dawn prayers, U.S. and Somali officials told The Associated Press. The raid on a house in the town of Barawe targeted a specific al-Qaida suspect related to the mall attack, but the operation did not get its target, one current and one former U.S. military official told AP.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the raid publicly.
In Washington, Pentagon spokesman George Little confirmed that U.S. military personnel had been involved in a counterterrorism operation against a known al-Shabab terrorist in Somalia, but did not provide details.
U.S. officials said there were no U.S. casualties in either the Somali or Libyan operation.
Obama: Consumers should not give up on health insurance enrollment; wait times being reduced.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Defending the shaky rollout of his health care law, President Barack Obama said frustrated Americans "definitely shouldn't give up" on the problem-plagued program now at the heart of his dispute with Republicans over reopening the federal government.
Obama said public interest far exceeded the government's expectations, causing technology glitches that thwarted millions of Americans when trying to use government-run health care websites.
"Folks are working around the clock and have been systematically reducing the wait times," he said.
The federal gateway website was taken down for repairs over the weekend, again hindering people from signing up for insurance.
Obama, in a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press, also disclosed that U.S. intelligence agencies believe Iran continues to be a year or more away from having the capability to make a nuclear weapon. That assessment is at odds with Israel, which contends Tehran is on a faster course toward a bomb.
Recall of most Pentagon workers and back-pay bill take a bite out of political impasse
WASHINGTON (AP) — For days lawmakers have debated which federal workers should be put back to work. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ended the argument Saturday for most Pentagon civilian employees, ordering nearly all 350,000 back on the job.
That's a large chunk of the estimated 800,000 federal workers on furlough because of the partial government shutdown. All those in the government off the job or working without paychecks would benefit from a bill the House approved Saturday without dissent that orders them to be paid once the shutdown ends.
The back-pay bill and Hagel's decision, based on a bill supported by Republicans and Democrats and signed into law by President Barack Obama, would appear to take a big bite out of the impact of the political impasse that has left the government without a budget. With an unprecedented default on the federal debt in less than two weeks, key members of both parties concede that no one has presented a plausible plan for avoiding it.
Hagel said he based his decision on a Pentagon interpretation of a law called the Pay Our Military Act, which was passed shortly before the partial government shutdown began last Tuesday. Republican lawmakers had complained in recent days that the Obama administration was slow to bring back those workers even though the law allowed it.
In a written statement explaining his action, Hagel said the Justice Department advised that the law does not permit a blanket recall of all Pentagon civilians. But government attorneys concluded that the law does allow the Pentagon to eliminate furloughs for "employees whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members."
After summer of convulsion, Arabs search for ways to make democracy work
CAIRO (AP) — "For too long, many nations, including my own, tolerated, even excused, oppression in the Middle East in the name of stability... We must help the reformers of the Middle East as they work for freedom, and strive to build a community of peaceful, democratic nations." — President George W. Bush in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Sept. 21, 2004
Almost a quarter-century ago, a young American political scientist achieved global academic celebrity by suggesting that the collapse of communism had ended the discussion on how to run societies, leaving "Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government."
In Egypt and around the Middle East, after a summer of violence and upheaval, the discussion, however, is still going strong. And almost three years into the Arab Spring revolts, profound uncertainties remain.
That became shatteringly clear on July 3, when Egyptian generals ousted the country's first freely elected president, Mohammed Morsi, installing a technocratic government in the wake of massive street protests calling for the Islamist leader to step down. He had ruled incompetently for one year and badly overstepped his bounds, they argued. A crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood has put more than 2,000 of its members in jail and left hundreds dead, and a court has ordered an outright ban on the group. Although new elections are promised, the plans are extremely vague.
Police to scrutinize use of deadly force in DC car chase as sisters of woman voice concerns
WASHINGTON (AP) — Police in Washington are reviewing the use of officers' deadly force in the killing of a woman who tried to ram her car through a White House barrier, a shooting her family says was unjustified.
The investigation will reconstruct the car chase and shooting, which briefly put the U.S. Capitol on lockdown, and explore how officers dealt with the driver and whether protocols were followed.
Senate Sergeant at Arms Terrance Gainer said he was confident the officers "did the best they could under the situation." Police guarding national landmarks must make fast decisions without the luxury of all the facts, especially when a threat is perceived, he said.
"This is not a routine highway or city traffic stop. It is simply not that," Gainer said Saturday. "The milieu under which we're operating at the United States Capitol and I suspect at the White House and at icons up in New York is an anti-terrorism approach, and that is a difference with a huge, huge distinction."
Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine maintained that his officers acted "heroically" to protect the community.
Suicide attack on Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad, other attacks kill at least 66 in Iraq
BAGHDAD (AP) — A suicide bomber blew himself up among a crowd of Shiite pilgrims passing through a mainly Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad and another detonated his explosives inside a cafe north of the capital, the deadliest of several attacks across Iraq on Saturday that killed at least 66 people.
The killings, which also included attacks on journalists and anti-extremist Sunni fighters, are part of the deadliest surge in violence to hit Iraq in five years. The accelerating bloodshed is raising fears that the country is falling back into the spiral of violence that brought it to the edge of civil war in the years after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
The extent of the carnage from the evening attack on the pilgrims became clearer as midnight approached, when officials sharply revised the death toll upward to at least 42. Another 80 were reported injured.
The bomber detonated his explosives at a checkpoint in the northern neighborhood of Azamiyah as the pilgrims en route to a prominent Shiite shrine in the nearby neighborhood of Kazimiyah, according to police officials. At least four policemen manning the checkpoint were among the dead, the officials said.
Azamiyah and the Shiite district of Kazimiyah sit on opposite sides of the Tigris River that snakes through the Iraqi capital. Their proximity made them a key flashpoint for the widespread sectarian conflict that gripped Iraq after Saddam Hussein's ouster and peaked in 2006 and 2007. Authorities closed the bridge between the neighborhoods after hundreds of Shiite pilgrims died in a 2005 stampede sparked by fears of a suicide bomber, and reopened it in 2008.
At Westgate, al-Qaida group figures out that less is more, with dangerous consequences
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Salim Massebellah had just reached the parking lot at Nairobi's premiere mall. Private guards inspected his trunk, then passed a mirror underneath his vehicle, checking for the exposed wires that would indicate a bomb. That was the weapon of choice of al-Shabab, the terrorist group Kenyans had been warned might one day target their capital.
Moments later, the shooting erupted. The terrified guards ran, dropping the mirror. It hit the pavement with a clang.
Sitting stiffly at the wheel, Massebellah saw the two attackers pass by his car. Each one was holding a single, belt-fed machine gun. What neither of them was wearing was a suicide vest. "They were shooting indiscriminately," said Massebellah. "There was nothing the guards could have done."
Experts say the attackers' choice of weapons, including AK-47s and grenades, was decidedly low-tech for al-Shabab, the al-Qaida affiliate based in neighboring Somalia which is known for their lethal use of suicide bombers. And it's this very decision to use small arms, instead of explosives, that made possible the most deadly terrorist attack in Kenya since the 1998 bombing of the United States embassy, analysts say.
If copied elsewhere, including in Western countries, this style of attack could prove equally difficult to stop, both because public places like malls cannot be protected in the same manner as government buildings, and because security services are trained to detect explosives, not small arms.
Karen weakens to a tropical depression with winds of 35 mph off Louisiana coast
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Karen lost more of its punch late Saturday and fell below tropical-storm status while stalling off the Louisiana coast.
Even as a tropical depression with top sustained winds of 35 mph (55 kph), the system threatened to bring strong wind and heavy rain to vulnerable low-lying areas. However, all watches and warnings were discontinued along the Gulf Coast.
The National Weather Service said Saturday evening that the system was stationary but expected to move across or near the southeast Louisiana coast late Saturday or early Sunday, then track eastward and lose strength. It spent Saturday either stalled or moving slowly.
Karen was centered about 185 miles (295 km) southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River.
Forecasters expected for there to be little change in the system's strength over the next 24 hours and that it would turn into a remnant Monday.
NYC police arrest another man in biker-SUV brawl caught on video
NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Police Department has arrested another man in connection with the videotaped beating of a New York City SUV driver by a gang of bikers.
The NYPD says Reginald Chance was charged with first-degree gang assault, first-degree assault and criminal mischief.
The 37-year-old Chance was in custody Saturday and unable to comment. There is no phone number listed for Chance at the address provided by police.
Police have said the bikers stopped the SUV on a highway, attacked the vehicle and pulled the driver from the car after he plowed over a motorcyclist from Massachusetts while trying to escape.
Police have arrested four people in connection with the attack, though the case against one of those motorcyclists was subsequently dismissed when prosecutors said they needed more time to investigate.