Tag Archive: WASHINGTON


Palestine wins UNESCO seat

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/envoy/palestine-wins-unesco-seat-143002573.html

 

Palestine won full admission into UNESCO, the United Nations science, education and cultural heritage organization, in a closely watched vote in Paris Monday. Global diplomacy hands view the 107-14 vote as a benchmark carrying larger implications for the Palestinians’ bid for state recognition before the UN Security Council. Both the United States and Israel have strongly opposed both initiatives.

 

The United States, Israel, Canada, Germany, Sweden and Australia were among the 14 nations voting against the Palestinians’ UNESCO bid, while 107 countries–including France, Spain, Ireland, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, India, Russia, China, South Africa and Indonesia–voted in favor. Fourteen nations–including the United Kingdom and Italy–abstained.

Washington, which called the UNESCO vote “premature” Monday, has threatened to cut off funding to UNESCO if Palestine is granted membership. The United States currently accounts for about one-fifth of the organization’s budget.

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also rejected the UNESCO vote, and warned it would set back peace process.

“This is a unilateral Palestinian maneuver which will bring no change on the ground but further removes the possibility for a peace agreement,” the Israeli ministry said in a statement.  “This decision will not turn the Palestinian Authority into an actual state yet places unnecessary burdens on the route to renewing negotiations.”

Palestine’s successful UNESCO bid comes as Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair is due to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House Monday.

Blair has been trying to advance the Quartet’s efforts to get the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table, asking each side to lay out their specific terms for resolving the issues of borders and security for a two-state solution. Meanwhile, Israeli officials have been depicting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as an unworthy peace partner.

Abbas, in turn, has recently reiterated his periodic threat to dissolve the Palestinian Authority–a move that if carried out would presumably give Israel the burden of administering, funding, and coordinating security for the West Bank’s Palestinian population.

For Amanda Knox, freedom comes at hefty cost

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/10/05/earlyshow/main20115856.shtml

(CBS/AP)

Amanda Knox left Seattle as an anonymous junior attending Washington’s
flagship public university, and on Tuesday she returned as someone whose release
from an Italian jail made her internationally recognizable.

 

But her freedom came with a price, CBS News correspondent Hattie Kauffman
reports.

 

The 24-year-old’s life turned around dramatically Monday when an Italian
appeals court threw out her conviction in the sexual assault and fatal stabbing
of her British roommate. On Tuesday, photos of Amanda Knox crying in the
courtroom after the verdict was read appeared on the front pages of newspapers
in Italy, the U.S., Britain and around the world.

 

 

Special Section:
The Appeal Trial of Amanda Knox

Amanda
Knox: I’m overwhelmed right now

Amanda
Knox’s alleged accomplice wants retrial

 

 

Knox’s first challenge will be repaying the more than $1 million in legal
debts her family piled up in the past two years.

Her parents each took out second mortgages and drained retirement accounts to
pay for her lawyers. Elizabeth Huff, Knox’s grandmother, took out a $250,000
loan to help pay bills, a burden she welcomed.

 

“We are happy; we are elated,” Huff said. “I can’t tell you how happy we
are.”

 

With the international media frenzy that surrounded Knox’s trial continuing
on the journey home — from her flight out of Rome to her landing in Seattle —
there’s no sign the interest in Knox or her story will let up soon. That could
open up an avenue for the family to pay off those debts.

Sources close to Knox tell CBS News that she began to write a memoir while in
prison. That could be worth millions to publishers eager to profit on one of the
most sensational international legal cases in memory.

On CBS’ “The Early Show” Wednesday, Knox’s U.S. attorney, Theodore Simon, said
her writings weren’t discussed during her reunion with family and friends
Tuesday night.

 

 

 

(Watch at left)

 

 

“I’m sure there’s going to be a lot more to come, but I can tell you very
candidly none of those things were discussed last night in any way,” Simon told
“Early Show” co-anchor Erica Hill. “In fact, Amanda is much more about asking
people how they are as opposed to explaining herself, and it was only after much
time and some curiosity where others started asking some questions about her
prison experience, and when everyone hears about all of those I think they are
really going to be really amazed.”

 

As for Knox’s future, her father, Curt Knox, said she would like to return to
the University of Washington at some point to finish her degree.

 

For now, he’s apprehensive about what four years in prison may have done to
his daughter, though there are no immediate plans for her to get counseling.
“What’s the trauma … and when will it show up, if it even shows up?” he told
The Associated Press. “She’s a very strong girl, but it’s been a tough time for
her.”

For now, Knox has just one priority.

 

“My family’s the most important thing to me right now, and I just want to go
be with them,” Knox told reporters Tuesday night. “Thank you for being there for
me.”

 

FILE- This March 12, 2009 file photo shows John Walsh, host of the television show "America's Most Wanted," in New York. This week marks the final weekly airing of "America's Most Wanted" on the Fox network after 23 years and 1153 fugitives nabbed. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, FILE)http://beta.news.yahoo.com/amw-ending-run-fox-john-walsh-isnt-done-200526524.html

NEW YORK (AP) — This week marks the final weekly airing of “America’s Most Wanted” on the Fox network after 23 years and 1,153 fugitives nabbed.

“I don’t think it’s hit me yet,” said John Walsh, the host and driving force of what he turned into a nationwide crime watch. “Saturday when I see the last show — that’s gonna be painful.”

But that broadcast, which airs at 9 p.m. EDT, is billed as the season finale — not the series conclusion — on the “AMW” website.

Not surprisingly, this is the same attitude voiced by Walsh.

“I’m fighting hard to keep this franchise going,” he said. “It’s a television show that gets ratings AND saves lives, and we’ll find somewhere to keep going. We’re not done.”

Speaking by phone Thursday morning, he had just arrived back in Washington from Brazil. There, he was hunting for a pedophile who has been hiding out in Rio de Janeiro for 14 years.

“He’s a fake minister who molested tons of boys in Florida,” Walsh said. “I was working with Brazilian police, and I think I’ll get this guy.”

The case will be spotlighted on Saturday’s show, and, as he spoke, Walsh was headed to “AMW” headquarters to supervise editing the segment.

He said he will make some parting remarks at the end of the show, with the promise, “We’re going to land somewhere else.”

And after that?

“I’m so used to doing what I’ve done every day for 23 years that I’m still trying to sort it all out,” he said. “But I have many, many offers, a long list I’ve got to wade through and see where we go from here.”

One possibility, he said, is News Corp. sibling Fox News Channel, which that network confirms.

Fox News chairman Roger Ailes “has had preliminary discussions with John Walsh and he’s a fan of ‘America’s Most Wanted,'” said Fox News spokeswoman Irena Briganti, “but nothing has been decided.”

Walsh said he hopes to have a deal in place, probably with a cable network, within two weeks.

This, of course, is the man who mounted a crime-busting crusade in the aftermath of the abduction and murder of his 6-year-old son Adam in 1981. He became an outspoken advocate for tougher laws against sex offenders, more cooperation among law enforcement agencies, and citizen involvement in flushing out fugitives.

His TV show premiered in April 1988 on the fledgling Fox network and, little more than a year later, it was the first-ever Fox program to rank first in viewership in its time slot. It’s been a fixture on the network ever since, and during the 2010-11 season, was seen by an audience averaging 5 million viewers.

So last month Walsh, 65, was “in shock,” he said, on getting the news that “AMW” had been canceled. The show is too expensive to produce, Fox entertainment head Kevin Reilly explained. The network is planning to air weekly repeats of its prime-time entertainment series in the Saturday slot “AMW” has held for so long.

“AMW” isn’t completely disappearing from the network. There will be four, two-hour specials aired next season, Reilly said in making the announcement in May.

So far, Walsh said, there have been no discussions with Fox about how and when the specials will be produced. And they won’t preserve the current “AMW” operation, with its 70-plus staff.

“I’ve got hotline operators, website guys, reporters, writers, graphic artists, engineers — we’re a full-blown news operation,” Walsh said. “One of the most painful things I’ve got to do is cut everybody loose. Now my first priority is to be sure Fox treats these people fairly, which I think they will.”

Besides offering “AMW” employees what Walsh calls a “really fair” severance package, Fox has agreed to maintain the telephone hotline and website, which are both essential for receiving tips on fugitives from the public.

Then Walsh hopes “AMW” will soon be settled in a new TV home.

“It’s very simple,” he said. “I want to catch bad guys and find missing children — and we’re not done.”

___

Online:

http://www.amw.com

___

EDITOR’S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore(at)ap.org and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier

 

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  • jason
    19users liked this commentThumbs UpThumbs Down0users disliked this comment

    jason2 hours agoReport Abuse

    This man is a true hero.  We will never know the countless lives that may have been saved over the last 23 years because of his brave actions.  He took an unimaginable tragedy and turned it into something so wonderful! I wish you and your family the best in all you do John!

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  • Diana
    12users liked this commentThumbs UpThumbs Down0users disliked this comment

    Diana2 hours agoReport Abuse

    think you need to talk to Oprah!!! She has a new network remember! AMW would make a great add on to the OWN network. Who’s with me on this??

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  • jrab
    11users liked this commentThumbs UpThumbs Down0users disliked this comment

    jrab2 hours agoReport Abuse

    I hope he’s not done, he has done wonderful things coming out of a great tragedy. Goodluck to you Mr. Walsh.

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  • SCOTT N
    10users liked this commentThumbs UpThumbs Down0users disliked this comment

    SCOTT Nabout an hour agoReport Abuse

    Fox ought to do away with their crude, stupid cartoons in order to make room for “America’s Most Wanted”, a show which actually HAS a purpose for being on the air! This show is a public service in and of itself, and should be a priority! Makes me wonder where Fox’s priorities lie!

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  • Linda
    7users liked this commentThumbs UpThumbs Down1users disliked this comment

    Linda2 hours agoReport Abuse

    America’s Most Wanted has been cancelled from Fox and they are wondering what now.  Why can’t AMW have their own show appearing opposite Fox news? I’d watch it over Fox news any day. They are making a mistake.

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  • DanS
    5users liked this commentThumbs UpThumbs Down1users disliked this comment

    DanS2 hours agoReport Abuse

    Shame on FOX!! To end a show that has proven that it was the leading reason dangerous ppl were caught and FOX cancels the show?? Someone at FOX must have bumped their head, hard!! Bring the show back!!! If not, hopefully John Walsh and AMW can find another station to carry/air the show. Good Luck… More

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  • Red Roses
    4users liked this commentThumbs UpThumbs Down0users disliked this comment

    Red Rosesabout an hour agoReport Abuse

    They have to find a new station for this show.  Killers and perverts have to be found.  Walsh is a hero!!!!

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  • Tamara
    4users liked this commentThumbs UpThumbs Down0users disliked this comment

    Tamaraabout an hour agoReport Abuse

    This is unbelievable. This show should never end, never! Mr Walsh is a true hero at best for getting the “bad guys and girls” and has done a wonderful job utilizing our true great detectives all over the world. I am astonished that this show would ever die because unfortunately as long as there are… More

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  • Otter
    7users liked this commentThumbs UpThumbs Down1users disliked this comment

    Otter2 hours agoReport Abuse

    I remember being a child when his son was kidnapped. He really has changed TV and is a hero to me. Good luck Mr Walsh!

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  • Ron
    3users liked this commentThumbs UpThumbs Down0users disliked this comment

    Ronabout an hour agoReport Abuse

    Well, that’s a real shame. I’ve been watching AMW off and on since I was like 12 years old. I agree that Oprah’s network would welcome him into the fold, but I’m not sure if would be quite as effective on a cable network. In any case, I hope the show is able to find a new home. Heck, this is a show… More

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  • Gail
    3users liked this commentThumbs UpThumbs Down0users disliked this comment

    Gail2 hours agoReport Abuse

    what a shame that Fox has done this to AMW. think I will start a boycott of any Fox shows, I know I won’t be watching that station anymore.

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  • Mark
    5users liked this commentThumbs UpThumbs Down1users disliked this comment

    Markabout an hour agoReport Abuse

    Why would you even consider cancelling a show that has actually accomplished something other then destroying brain cells.

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  • Janice R
    5users liked this commentThumbs UpThumbs Down1users disliked this comment

    Janice R2 hours agoReport Abuse

    I can not believe fox has decided to end this show! My God something that is so important to all of us to help apprehend and keep criminals behind bars! All about the money forget safety!

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  • A different Michael
    4users liked this commentThumbs UpThumbs Down1users disliked this comment

    A different Michaelabout an hour agoReport Abuse

    Rupert Murdoch, are you reading these comments? From one Jew to another, put AMW back on the air, you schmuck.

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  • MissDee
    4users liked this commentThumbs UpThumbs Down1users disliked this comment

    MissDee2 hours agoReport Abuse

    Somebody who’s doing something to stop bad guys, when did heros start getting let go?

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  • Gee
    2users liked this commentThumbs UpThumbs Down0users disliked this comment

    Gee36 minutes agoReport Abuse

    John Walsh should be proud of the service he has performed for America’s children.
    He turned his personal tragedy into public service. Kudos to both him and his wife.

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  • oz
    2users liked this commentThumbs UpThumbs Down0users disliked this comment

    oz44 minutes agoReport Abuse

    If it’s not trash FOX doesn’t want it…John I hope you’re back soon…I agree, OPRAH should pick up this show…fox tries to make good guys look bad…Here’s a good guy who has done great things like “CATCHING BAD PEOPLE”…Not only is FOX racist but stupid…

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  • Kevin
    2users liked this commentThumbs UpThumbs Down0users disliked this comment

    Kevinabout an hour agoReport Abuse

    dearfox network i am very up set that you took amw off theair and i willnot watch your new fallshows this fall sign kevin lane

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  • Red Roses
    2users liked this commentThumbs UpThumbs Down0users disliked this comment

    Red Rosesabout an hour agoReport Abuse

    I like a lot of shows on Fox, but since they are getting rid of AMW is will boycott them.

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  • ROSE M B
    1users liked this commentThumbs UpThumbs Down0users disliked this comment

    ROSE M B24 minutes agoReport Abuse

    ok Fox you have a lot of people against this. what about your own personal message to the people watching FOX? we do not need more smut. we ned the good shows that solves things.

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White House defends legality of Libya mission

Jay Carneyhttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110615/ap_on_go_pr_wh/us_us_libya

By JULIE PACE, Associated Press        Julie Pace, Associated Press–    10 mins ago

WASHINGTON – The White House says the cost of U.S. military involvement and humanitarian assistance in Libya is about $800 million as of early June.

Officials estimate the U.S. will spend about $1.1 billion in Libya through the beginning of September.

The administration included those cost estimates in a report on the Libya mission sent to Congress on Wednesday. The report is in response to a House resolution that chastised Obama for failing to provide Congress enough information on the scope and cost of U.S. military campaign in Libya.

The White House also says in the report that President Barack Obama has the authority to continue U.S. military involvement in Libya even without authorization from Congress.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

Pushing back against congressional criticism, the White House said Wednesday that President Barack Obama has the authority to continue U.S. military action in Libya even without authorization from lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

In a detailed, 30-page report being sent to Congress, the administration argues that the U.S. has a limited, supporting role in the NATO-led bombing campaign in Libya. Because U.S. forces are not engaged in sustained fighting and there are no troops on the ground there, the White House says the president is within his constitutional rights to direct the mission on his own.

The administration’s defense of the Libya mission comes in response to a non-binding House resolution passed earlier this month that chastised Obama for failing to provide a “compelling rationale” for U.S. involvement in Libya.

The resolution gave the administration until Friday to respond to a series of questions on the mission, including the scope of U.S. military activity, the cost of the mission, and its impact on other U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It remained to be seen whether the administration’s reasoning would be enough to quell congressional criticism. House and Senate leaders grew frustrated Wednesday when the White House briefed reporters on the report well before sending it to Congress.

Obama did not seek congressional consent before ordering U.S. airstrikes against Moammar Gadhafi’s forces nearly three months ago. Despite that, the White House has maintained that the president is not in violation of the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which prohibits the military from being involved in actions for more than 60 days without congressional authorization, plus a 30-day extension.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, sent Obama a letter this week stating that the 90-day window runs out on Sunday.

However, senior administration officials previewing the report Wednesday said U.S. forces are not involved in the kind of “hostilities” for which the War Powers Resolution says the commander in chief must get congressional approval.

While the U.S. led the initial airstrikes on Libya, NATO forces have since taken over the mission, which is in its third month. The U.S still plays a significant support role that includes aerial refueling of warplanes and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance work.

The White House and Capitol Hill have been at odds throughout much of the three-month campaign over whether the administration has fully consulted Congress on the mission. Congressional leaders and key committee members were only summoned to the White House the day before Obama ordered air strikes against Gadhafi’s forces. Several lawmakers attended in person, others by phone as Congress had just begun a weeklong break.

Obama aides insist they have briefed Congress extensively throughout, citing more than 30 briefings with lawmakers and their staff, and 10 hearings where administration officials have testified on Libya.

The White House has called the House resolution chiding Obama, as well as a similar resolution in the Senate, unhelpful and unnecessary. The administration much prefers a resolution sponsored by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and John McCain, R-Ariz., that would signal support for the Libya operation.

However, the fate of that measure is in limbo as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee delayed plans to discuss so lawmakers could review the House report.

A bipartisan group of 10 lawmakers also sued Obama on Wednesday for taking military action against Libya without war authorization from Congress. The lawmakers said Obama violated the Constitution in bypassing Congress and using international organizations like the United Nations and NATO to authorize military force.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that the president expects congressional support for the Libya campaign will continue. With Gadhafi under pressure to leave power, he said now is not the time to send “mixed messages” about U.S. commitment to the campaign.

___

Associated Press writer Donna Cassata contributed to this report.

 

Libyan combat stymies moves on antiaircraft threat

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110515/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/us_libya_anti_aircraft_missile_threat

By STEPHEN BRAUN, Associated Press Stephen Braun, Associated Press 2 hrs 34 mins ago

WASHINGTON – The fierce combat in Libya has unleashed a once-hidden arsenal of portable anti-aircraft missiles that the government fears could easily be siphoned off to terror groups, giving rise to a potential threat to commercial aviation that the U.S. is only beginning to confront, government officials and arms experts said.

The fears are compounded by suspicions that Libyan government and opposition forces are both deploying fighters with ties to terrorists and mercenaries. With more than 20,000 missile launchers estimated in Libya, there have been unconfirmed reports that some anti-aircraft weapons have already been funneled to North African militants, but amid the vast caches wielded by both sides, there is no solid evidence yet that terrorists have them.

Troops loyal to Moammar Gadhafi and opposition fighters have made frequent use of Russian-built anti-aircraft weapons in the two-month-long civil war, including aging 30-year-old shoulder-fired models to advanced truck-mounted missile launchers, according to battlefront accounts and an array of combat photographs and video.

The availability of man-portable air defense systems, also known as MANPADS, across the world’s conflict zones has long worried counterterrorism officials. Passenger flights have never been targeted by such missiles inside the U.S., but there have been nearly a dozen lethal strikes over the past decade in Africa and Asia.

Surveillance by aerial drones and diplomatic pressure on Libya’s African neighbors to police its porous borders may be the best, if limited, actions the U.S. can take for now. U.S. military planes can fly above the range of the missiles and use electronic jamming to elude them, but detection and evasion gear are considered too bulky and expensive to install in the world’s civilian aircraft fleets.

Congressional officials are pressing U.S. diplomatic and military officials for details on how they might counter the anti-aircraft missile threat in Libya, but said they have heard few specifics. Late last month, Edward R. Royce, R-Calif., chairman of a House subcommittee on terrorism, nonproliferation and trade, urged Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to step up efforts to monitor and secure antiaircraft weapons — even as rebel units were reportedly receiving new shipments of armaments from abroad.

“The department should be in contact with neighboring countries to exercise vigilance in locating and securing any missiles that may be transiting out of Libya,” Royce wrote in a letter to Clinton. He urged State Department officials to press rebels to keep tight control over any such missile stockpiles. The U.S., he added, should mount “an aggressive missile destruction and recovery program” once a new Libyan government is installed.

A State Department spokesperson, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe the department’s efforts, said an internal task force has turned urgent attention to the threat. The spokesperson also said officials were in contact with the Libyan opposition and international organizations inside the country.

Even those first steps are unlikely to be effective in quickly securing the anti-aircraft missiles and launchers in use in Libya, experts said.

“The problem is that you have amorphous groups on both sides and all sorts of weaponry are coming into play from unregulated caches,” said a former assistant secretary of state, Lincoln P. Bloomfield Jr., who headed a Bush administration effort to recover and dispose of anti-aircraft weapons. “The primary objective is to make sure these missiles don’t cross Libyan borders. In theory, that’s the goal, but it’s not clear it can be done in the middle of a hot war.”

The U.S. general who led the early American airstrikes enforcing the Libyan no-fly zone estimated earlier this month that Gadhafi’s military amassed as many as 20,000 portable missile launchers before the conflict started. That would outstrip similar caches of terror groups and militants in Afghanistan and Iraq in recent years.

“Many of those we know are now not accounted for, and that’s going to be a concern for some period of time,” Gen. Carter Ham, head of the U.S. Africa Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last month.

Chad’s President Idriss Deby Itno said last month that a cache of surface-to-air missiles and launchers taken from liberated Libyan stocks already reached al Qaeda’s North African contingent, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Similar accounts have come from Algerian officials but the reports have yet to be confirmed, the U.S. officials said.

The fluid contours of the conflict, with war-torn cities changing hands repeatedly, make it nearly impossible to closely monitor stockpiles. Shoulder-fired launchers can easily be concealed, even from airborne U.S. Predator drones and spy planes, and truck-mounted units can be disassembled or masked by canopies. Poorly armed rebels will not likely give up their limited MANPADS supplies, and Gadhafi’s forces would presumably be hostile to any effort to turn over arms while the U.S. and allied forces enforce the no-fly zone.

Bloomfield, who was special envoy for MANPADS threat reduction in the final year of the Bush administration, worked with the State and Defense departments to track and dispose of weapons of mass destruction and conventional arms. Since 2003, the U.S. has led international efforts to recover 32,000 MANPADS from Afghanistan to the Ukraine — a figure dwarfed by congressional estimates that there are 500,000 to 750,000 worldwide.

The cost of outfitting large passenger planes with defensive devices was deemed too expensive — as much as $3 million per jet. Since 1975, missiles fired at civilian planes in nearly a dozen incidents have killed more than 200 people from Africa to Central Asia. A shoulder-fired missile was blamed for deaths of 11 crew members aboard an Ilyushin cargo plane downed in Somalia in March 2007. Two U.N. transports were struck by missiles over Angola in 1998 and 1999, leaving 23 dead. Two missiles fired by terrorists barely missed a chartered Israeli commercial jet taking off in November 2002 with 271 passengers and crew near Mombasa, Kenya.

U.S. anti-missile efforts involve negotiations with legitimate governments, said J. Christian Kessler, former director of the State Department’s Office of Conventional Arms Threat Reduction, which works with the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement to counter the anti-aircraft threat. “That process simply can’t function if you’re dealing with a hostile government and an unorganized opposition at war.”

The U.S. has worked to reduce stockpiles of such missiles in 20 other countries with smaller arsenals than Libya, and when the U.S. began renewing ties with Gadhafi’s government, it pressured the regime to disassemble its nuclear weapons program and chemical arms stockpile. But there was no similar anti-missile effort in Libya that might have limited the current battlefield proliferation.

“We really didn’t have our finger on MANPADS as an agenda item,” said Bloomfield, now chairman of the Stimson Center, a nonpartisan global security group in Washington. The issue never re-emerged, he said, because of growing U.S. strains with Gadhafi over the precise reciprocal steps to resolve Libya’s culpability in the 1988 bombing of a Pan AM flight over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people.

The missiles sighted in Libyan battle zones are mostly Russian, typically shoulder-fired SA-7 Strela missiles and launchers that date to the 1970s, said Matthew Schroeder, an arms expert with the Federation of American Scientists who has examined images of nearly four dozen separate anti-aircraft weapons in use on the Libyan front. Some SA-7s are likely too old to function.

The head of Russia’s Center for Analysis of World Arms Trade reported last month that Gadhafi’s forces had also amassed between 600 and 1,500 1980s-vintage Russian MANPADS. And recent Associated Press photos and other images from the Libyan front show both sides wielding advanced Strelets vehicle-mounted launchers capable of firing new SA-24 Grinch missiles. KBM, a Russian arms exporting company, confirmed a recent sale of an unspecified number to Gadhafi’s military, according to Aviation News, a trade publication.

The SA-24 has a longer range — accurate to 11,000 feet — than the 1980s Russian models, Schroeder said. Its bulkier vehicle mount would make it harder to hide, said Pieter Wiezeman, a senior arms expert with the Stockholm International Peace Institute, a nongovernment group in Stockholm.

But a carefully-concealed truck-mounted weapon would still be mobile and compact enough to be taken anywhere in Africa, he said, adding: “If someone gets near a runway with some of those missiles in a 4-by-4 truck, how are you going to stop them?”

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20110504/us_time/08599206932700

By TIM PADGETT Tim Padgett Wed May 4, 12:15 pm ET

There has rarely been a starker juxtaposition of evil and innocence than the moment President George W. Bush received the news about 9/11 while reading The Pet Goat with second-graders in Sarasota, Fla.

Seven-year-olds can’t understand what Islamic terrorism is all about. But they know when an adult’s face is telling them something is wrong – and none of the students sitting in Sandra Kay Daniels’ class at Emma E. Booker Elementary School that morning can forget the devastating change in Bush’s expression when White House chief of staff Andrew Card whispered the terrible news of the al-Qaeda attack. Lazaro Dubrocq’s heart started racing because he assumed they were all in trouble – with no less than the Commander in Chief – but he wasn’t sure why. “In a heartbeat, he leaned back and he looked flabbergasted, shocked, horrified,” recalls Dubrocq, now 17. “I was baffled. I mean, did we read something wrong? Was he mad or disappointed in us?” (See pictures of people celebrating Osama bin Laden’s death.)

Similar fears started running through Mariah Williams’ head. “I don’t remember the story we were reading – was it about pigs?” says Williams, 16. “But I’ll always remember watching his face turn red. He got really serious all of a sudden. But I was clueless. I was just 7. I’m just glad he didn’t get up and leave, because then I would have been more scared and confused.” Chantal Guerrero, 16, agrees. Even today, she’s grateful that Bush regained his composure and stayed with the students until The Pet Goat was finished. “I think the President was trying to keep us from finding out,” says Guerrero, “so we all wouldn’t freak out.”

Even if that didn’t happen, it’s apparent that the sharing of that terrifying Tuesday with Bush has affected those students in the decade since – and, they say, it made the news of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s killing by U.S. commandos on May 1 all the more meaningful. Dubrocq, now a junior at Riverview High School in Sarasota, doubts that he would be a student in the rigorous international-baccalaureate program if he hadn’t been with the President as one of history’s most infamous global events unfolded. “Because of that,” he says, “I came to realize as I grew up that the world is a much bigger place and that there are differing opinions about us out there, not all of them good.”(See pictures of the evolution of Ground Zero.)

Guerrero, today a junior at the Sarasota Military Academy, believes the experience “has since given us all a better understanding of the situation, sort of made us take it all more seriously. At that age, I couldn’t understand how anyone could take innocent lives that way. And I still of course can’t. But today I can problem-solve it all a lot better, maybe better than other kids because I was kind of part of it.” Williams, also a junior at the military academy, says those moments spent with Bush conferred on the kids a sort of historical authority as they grew up. “Today, when we talk about 9/11 in class and you hear kids make mistakes about what happened with the President that day, I can tell them they’re wrong,” she says, “because I was there.” (Watch TIME’s video of the celebration at Ground Zero after Osama bin Laden’s death.)

One thing the students would like to tell Bush’s critics – like liberal filmmaker Michael Moore, whose 2004 documentary Fahrenheit 911 disparaged Bush for lingering almost 10 minutes with the students after getting word that two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center – is that they think the President did the right thing. “I think he was trying to keep everybody calm, starting with us,” says Guerrero. Dubrocq agrees: “I think he was trying to protect us.” Booker Principal Gwendolyn Tose-Rigell, who died in 2007, later insisted, “I don’t think anyone could have handled it better. What would it have served if [Bush] had jumped out of his chair and ran out of the room?”

See TIME’s 2001 cover story on the 9/11 attacks.

See pictures of the devastation on Sept. 11, 2001.

See TIME’s full coverage of Osama bin Laden’s death.

When the children’s story was done, Bush left for the school’s library, where he discussed the New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania nightmare with aides, reporters and another group of students waiting for him. Back in the classroom, Daniels brought in a television and turned on the first bewildering images of the Twin Towers in flames and smoke. At that point the kids started connecting the dots. “It was pretty scary,” says Williams, “and I remember thinking, So that’s why the President looked so mad.” (See pictures of the evolution of Ground Zero.)

Dubrocq got mad himself. “But I had to wait a few years before I could digest what had really happened and why they attacked us,” he says. “I of course grew up to have nothing but contempt for Osama bin Laden.” Yet he adds the episode “motivated me to get a better handle on the world and to want to help improve the world.” It also made Dubrocq, who wants to study international business, more aware of his own multinational roots – he’s French and Cuban on his father’s side and Spanish and Mexican on his mother’s. Not surprisingly, he also wants to learn other languages, like Chinese and, in an echo of his 9/11 memories, perhaps even Arabic.

Williams says she also hated Bin Laden more as she grew up and gained a better appreciation of how fanatics had changed her world on 9/11. “All that just because he wanted to control everybody in the world, control how we think and what we do,” she says. Williams doesn’t plan to pursue a military career – she wants to be a veterinarian – but the military academy student was impressed by the Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan that killed Bin Laden: “I was shocked – I thought after 10 years they’d never find him. But what the SEALs did, it, like, gives me even more respect for that kind of training.” (See “The Accused 9/11 Plotters: What Happened to Them?”)

Guerrero, in fact, may as well be part of that training. She also plans a civilian life – she hopes to study art and musical theater – but she’s a Junior ROTC member and part of her school’s state champion Raiders team, which competes against other academies in contests like rope bridge races, map navigation and marksmanship. In other words, the same sort of skills the SEAL commandos have to master. She admits to feeling an added rush when she woke up to Monday morning’s news: the SEALs operation, she says, “was very, very cool.”

More than cool, Guerrero says, it was also “so reassuring, after a whole decade of being scared about these things.” Most of all, it “brought back a flood of memories” of their tragic morning with a President – memories that prove kids can carry a lot heavier stuff in those plastic backpacks than adults often realize.

White House: bin Laden unarmed during assault

Local people and media gather outside the perimeter wall and sealed gate into the compound and a house where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was caughhttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110503/ap_on_re_us/us_bin_laden

By Nancy Benac, Associated Press Nancy Benac, Associated Press 46 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Osama bin Laden was unarmed when he was confronted by U.S. commandos at his Pakistani hideout but tried to resist the assault, the White House said Tuesday as new details emerged about the audacious raid that killed the world’s most wanted terrorist.

The White House said it was considering whether to release photos that were taken of bin Laden after he was killed but was concerned that the photos were “gruesome” and could be inflammatory.

Other details that emerged on Tuesday, according to U.S. officials: One of bin Laden’s wives tried to rush the commandos and was shot in the leg. High temperatures caused a lumbering helicopter carrying the raiders to make a hard landing. And as Navy SEALs swept through the compound, they handcuffed those they encountered with plastic zip ties and pressed on in pursuit of their target, code-named Geronimo.

Once bin Laden had been shot, they doubled back to move the prisoners away from the compound before blowing up the downed helicopter.

The fuller picture of the high-stakes assault emerged as U.S. officials weighed whether to release video and photos of bin Laden, who was killed with a shot above his left eye.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee and revealed some of the new details about the raid, said she’d known about the suspected bin Laden compound since last December — offering rare evidence that Washington can indeed keep a blockbuster secret.

President Barack Obama made plans to go to ground zero in New York on Thursday to mark the milestone of bin Laden’s demise and to remember the dead of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said the U.S. was scouring items seized in the raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan — said to include hard drives, DVDs, a pile of documents and more — that might tip U.S. intelligence to al-Qaida’s operational details and perhaps lead to the presumed next-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahri.

As for publicly releasing photos and video, Brennan said in a series of appearances on morning television. “This needs to be done thoughtfully,” with careful consideration given to what kind of reaction the images might provoke.

At issue were photos of bin Laden’s corpse and video of his swift burial at sea. Officials were reluctant to inflame Islamic sentiment by showing graphic images of the body. But they were also anxious to address the stories already building in Pakistan and beyond that bin Laden was somehow still alive.

In a move that could increase pressure for the release of photos, Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah said talk of bin Laden’s death was “premature,” adding that the U.S. had not presented “convincing evidence,” the SITE Intelligence Group reported.

Obama, who approved the extraordinarily risky operation and witnessed its progression from the White House Situation Room, his face heavy with tension, reaped accolades from world leaders he’d kept in the dark as well as from political opponents at home. Pakistan, however, called the raid “unauthorized” Tuesday and it shouldn’t serve as a precedent for future actions.

CIA Director Leon Panetta, in interviews with Time and PBS’ “Newshour,” sketched the scene in the Situation Room as the tense final minutes of the raid played out.

“Once those teams went into the compound,” he told PBS, “I can tell you there was a time period of almost 20 or 25 minutes that we really didn’t know just exactly what was going on.”

Then, Panetta told Time, when Adm. William McRaven, head of the Joint Special Forces Command, reported that the commandos had identified “Geronimo” — the code name for bin Laden — “all the air we were holding came out.”

And when the helicopters left the compound 15 minutes later, Panetta said, the room broke into applause.

Carney filled in details about the assault, saying that bin Laden did resist the commandos, although he was not armed. One of bin Laden’s wives, Carney said, was in the room and tried to charge at the U.S. assaulters.”

Monday night, Republican and Democratic leaders gave Obama a standing ovation at an evening White House meeting that was planned before the assault but became a celebration of it, and an occasion to step away from the fractious political climate.

The episode was an embarrassment, at best, for Pakistani authorities as bin Laden’s presence was revealed in their midst. The stealth U.S. operation played out in a city with a strong Pakistani military presence and without notice from Washington. Questions persisted in the administration and grew in Congress about whether some elements of Pakistan’s security apparatus might have been in collusion with al-Qaida in letting bin Laden hide in Abbottabad.

Brennan asked the question that was reverberating around the world: “How did Osama bin Laden stay at that compound for six years or so and be undetected?”

“We have many, many questions about this,” he said. “And I know Pakistani officials do as well.” Brennan said Pakistani officials were trying to determine “whether there were individuals within the Pakistani government or military intelligence services who were knowledgeable.” He questioned in particular why bin Laden’s compound hadn’t come to the attention of local authorities.

Feinstein, for her part, said Congress may consider docking the almost $1.3 billion dollars in annual aid to Pakistan if it turns out the Islamabad government knew bin Laden’s whereabouts.

In an article published Tuesday by The Washington Post, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari denied suggestions his country’s security forces may have sheltered bin Laden, and said their cooperation with the United States helped pinpoint his whereabouts.

As Americans rejoiced, they worried, too, that terrorists would be newly motivated to lash out. In their wounded rage, al-Qaida ideologues fed that concern. “By God, we will avenge the killing of the Sheik of Islam,” one prominent al-Qaida commentator vowed. “Those who wish that jihad has ended or weakened, I tell them: Let us wait a little bit.”

In that vein, U.S. officials warned that bin Laden’s death was likely to encourage attacks from “homegrown violent extremists” even if al-Qaida is not prepared to respond in a coordinated fashion now.

U.S. officials say the photographic evidence shows bin Laden was shot above his left eye, blowing away part of his skull.

He was also shot in the chest, they said. This, near the end of a frenzied firefight in a high-walled Pakistani compound where helicopter-borne U.S. forces found 23 children, nine women, a bin Laden courier who had unwittingly led the U.S. to its target, a son of bin Laden who was also slain, and more.

Bin Laden could have lived at the fortified compound for up to six years, putting him far from the lawless and harsh Pakistani frontier where he had been assumed to be hiding out.

They said SEALs dropped down ropes from helicopters, killed bin Laden aides and made their way to the main building.

U.S. officials said the information that ultimately led to bin Laden’s death originally came from detainees held in secret CIA prison sites in Eastern Europe. There, agency interrogators were told of an alias used by a courier whom bin Laden particularly trusted.

It took four long years to learn the man’s real name, then years more before investigators got a big break in the case, these officials said.

Sometime in mid-2010, the courier was overheard using a phone by intelligence officials, who then were able to locate his residence — the specially constructed $1 million compound with walls as high as 18 feet topped with barbed wire.

U.S. counterterrorism officials considered bombing the place, an option that was discarded by the White House as too risky, particularly if it turned out bin Laden was not there.

Panetta told Time that a “direct shot” with cruise missiles was still under consideration as late as Thursday but was ruled out because of the possibility of “too much collateral” damage. Waiting for more information also was a possibility.

Ultimately, Obama signed an order on Friday for the team of SEALs to chopper onto the compound under the cover of darkness.

In addition to bin Laden, one of his sons was killed in the raid, Brennan said. Bin Laden’s wife was shot in the calf but survived, a U.S. official said. Also killed were the courier, and the courier’s wife and brother, U.S. intelligence officials believe.

Feinstein, asked if the information gleaned from high-value detainees in the CIA’s former secret prisons had proved the worth of such tactics, said “nothing justifies the kind of procedures used.”

Some people found at the compound were left behind when the SEALs withdrew and were turned over to Pakistani authorities who quickly took over control of the site, officials said. They identified the trusted courier as Kuwaiti-born Sheikh Abu Ahmed, who had been known under the name Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti.

Within 40 minutes, the operation was over, and the SEALs flew out — minus the helicopter that had to be destroyed. Bin Laden’s remains were flown to the USS Carl Vinson, then lowered into the North Arabian Sea.

Bin Laden’s death came 15 years after he declared war on the United States. Al-Qaida was also blamed for the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa that killed 224 people and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 American sailors in Yemen, as well as countless other plots, some successful and some foiled.

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New York City police officers stand guard outside the Armed Forces recruitment center in New York's Times Square,  Monday, May 2, 2011. The Obama admihttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110502/ap_on_re_us/us_bin_laden_dna

By ROBERT BURNS and CALVIN WOODWARD, Associated Press Robert Burns And Calvin Woodward, Associated Press 45 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Knowing there would be disbelievers, the U.S. says it used convincing means to confirm Osama bin Laden’s identity during and after the firefight that killed him. But the mystique that surrounded the terrorist chieftain in life is persisting in death.

Was it really him? How do we know? Where are the pictures?

Already, those questions are spreading in Pakistan and surely beyond. In the absence of photos and with his body given up to the sea, many people don’t want to believe that bin Laden — the Great Emir to some, the fabled escape artist of the Tora Bora mountains to foe and friend alike — is really dead.

U.S. officials are balancing that skepticism with the sensitivities that might be inflamed by showing images they say they have of the dead al-Qaida leader and video of his burial at sea. Still, it appeared likely that photographic evidence would be produced.

“We are going to do everything we can to make sure that nobody has any basis to try to deny that we got Osama bin Laden,” John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, said Monday. He said the U.S. will “share what we can because we want to make sure that not only the American people but the world understand exactly what happened.”

In July 2009, the U.S. took heat but also quieted most conspiracy theorists by releasing graphic photos of the corpses of Saddam Hussein’s two powerful sons to prove American forces had killed them.

So far, the U.S. has cited evidence that satisfied the Navy SEAL force, and at least most of the world, that they had the right man in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

The helicopter-borne raiding squad that swarmed the luxury compound identified bin Laden by appearance. A woman in the compound who was identified as his wife was said to have called out bin Laden’s name in the melee.

Officials produced a quick DNA match from his remains that they said established bin Laden’s identity, even absent the other techniques, with 99.9 percent certainty. U.S. officials also said bin Laden was identified through photo comparisons and other methods.

Tellingly, an al-Qaida spokesman, in vowing vengeance against America, called him a martyr, offering no challenge to the U.S. account of his death.

Even so, it’s almost inevitable that the bin Laden mythology will not end with the bullet in his head. If it suits extremist ends to spin a fantastical tale of survival or trickery to gullible ears, expect to hear it.

In the immediate aftermath, people in Abbottabad expressed widespread disbelief that bin Laden had died — or ever lived — among them.

“I’m not ready to buy bin Laden was here,” said Haris Rasheed, 22, who works in a fast food restaurant. “How come no one knew he was here and why did they bury him so quickly? This is all fake — a drama, and a crude one.”

Kamal Khan, 25, who is unemployed, said the official story “looks fishy to me.”

The burial from an aircraft carrier in the North Arabian Sea was videotaped aboard the ship, according to a senior defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity because a decision on whether to release the video was not final. The official said it was highly likely that the video, along with photographs of bin Laden’s body, would be made public in coming days.

The swiftness of the burial may have raised suspicions but was in accord with Islamic traditions. Islamic scholars, however, challenged U.S. assertions that a burial at sea was an appropriate fate for a Muslim who had died on land.

The act denied al-Qaida any sort of burial shrine for their slain leader. Once again, bin Laden had vanished, but this time at the hands of the United States and in a way that ensures he is gone forever.

If that satisfies U.S. goals and its sense of justice, Brad Sagarin, a psychologist at Northern Illinois University who studies persuasion, said the rapid disposition of the body “would certainly be a rich sort of kernel for somebody to grasp onto if they were motivated to disbelieve this.”

Also expected to come out is a tape made by bin Laden, before U.S. forces bore down on him, that may provide fodder to those who insist he is alive.

Pakistan, for one, is a land of conspiracy theorists, and far-fetched rumors abound on the streets and in blogs throughout the Arab world. But that’s not just a characteristic of the Islamic pipeline. Many ordinary Americans — and one billionaire — persistently questioned whether Obama was born in the U.S. despite lacking any evidence that he wasn’t.

Sagarin said most people will probably be convinced bin Laden is dead because they cannot imagine the government maintaining such an extraordinary lie to the contrary in this day and age.

Yet, he said, “as with the birther conspiracy, there’s going to be a set of people who are never going to be convinced. People filter the information they receive through their current attitudes, their current perspectives.”

To be sure, even photos and video, subject to digital manipulation, may not provide the final word to everyone. But Seth Jones, a RAND Corp. political scientist who advised the commander of U.S. special operations forces in Afghanistan, said the administration should do all it can to minimize doubts.

“There are always conspiracy theories,” he said. “There are individuals who believe that bin Laden wasn’t involved in the 9/11 attacks.”

__

Associated Press writers Nahal Toosi in Abbottabad, Pakistan; Malcolm Ritter in New York; and Lolita C. Baldor, Ben Feller, Matt Apuzzo and Pauline Jelinek in Washington contributed to this report.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110502/ts_nm/us_binladen_compound

By Patricia Zengerle and Alister Bull Patricia Zengerle And Alister Bull Mon May 2, 5:57 am ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. forces finally found al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden not in a mountain cave on Afghanistan’s border, but with his youngest wife in a million-dollar compound in a summer resort just over an hour’s drive from Pakistan’s capital, U.S. officials said.

A small U.S. team conducted a night-time helicopter raid on the compound early on Monday. After 40 minutes of fighting, bin Laden and an adult son, one unidentified woman and two men were dead, the officials said.

U.S. forces were led to the fortress-like three-story building after more than four years tracking one of bin Laden’s most trusted couriers, whom U.S. officials said was identified by men captured after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

“Detainees also identified this man as one of the few al Qaeda couriers trusted by bin Laden. They indicated he might be living with or protected by bin Laden,” a senior administration official said in a briefing for reporters.

Bin Laden was finally found — more than 9-1/2 years after the 2001 attacks on the United States — after authorities discovered in August 2010 that the courier lived with his brother and their families in an unusual and extremely high-security building, officials said.

They said the courier and his brother were among those killed in the raid.

“When we saw the compound where the brothers lived, we were shocked by what we saw: an extraordinarily unique compound,” a senior administration official said.

“The bottom line of our collection and our analysis was that we had high confidence that the compound harbored a high-value terrorist target. The experts who worked this issue for years assessed that there was a strong probability that the terrorist who was hiding there was Osama bin Laden,” another administration official said.

The home is in Abbottabad, a town about 35 miles north of Islamabad, that is relatively affluent and home to many retired members of Pakistan’s military.

It was a far cry from the popular notion of bin Laden hiding in some mountain cave on the rugged and inaccessible Afghan-Pakistan border — an image often evoked by officials up to and including former President George W. Bush.

The building, about eight times the size of other nearby houses, sat on a large plot of land that was relatively secluded when it was built in 2005. When it was constructed, it was on the outskirts of Abbottabad’s center, at the end of a dirt road, but some other homes have been built nearby in the six years since it went up, officials said.

WALLS TOPPED WITH BARBED WIRE

Intense security measures included 12- to 18-foot outer walls topped with barbed wire and internal walls that sectioned off different parts of the compound, officials said. Two security gates restricted access, and residents burned their trash, rather than leaving it for collection as did their neighbors, officials said.

Few windows of the three-story home faced the outside of the compound, and a terrace had a seven-foot (2.1 meter) privacy wall, officials said.

“It is also noteworthy that the property is valued at approximately $1 million but has no telephone or Internet service connected to it,” an administration official said. “The brothers had no explainable source of wealth.”

U.S. analysts realized that a third family lived there in addition to the two brothers, and the age and makeup of the third family matched those of the relatives — including his youngest wife — they believed would be living with bin Laden.

“Everything we saw, the extremely elaborate operational security, the brothers’ background and their behavior and the location of the compound itself was perfectly consistent with what our experts expected bin Laden’s hide-out to look like,” another Obama administration official said.

Abbottabad is a popular summer resort, located in a valley surrounded by green hills near Pakistani Kashmir. Islamist militants, particularly those fighting in Indian-controlled Kashmir, used to have training camps near the town.

(Editing by Mary Milliken, Will Dunham and Mark Trevelyan)

Syrian security forces open fire at demonstrators

In this image made on a mobile phone, a Syrian man sits inside a bus as he looks through the window at  a military truck carrying Syrian soldiers, inhttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110422/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_syria

By BASSEM MROUE, Associated Press Bassem Mroue, Associated Press 47 mins ago

BEIRUT – Syrian security forces fired live bullets and tear gas Friday at tens of thousands of people shouting for freedom and democracy, wounding about 10 people on a day that could be a major test of whether President Bashar Assad’s promises of sweeping reform will quell the monthlong uprising.

Protesters flooded into the streets after prayers Friday in at least five major areas across the country.

“The people want the downfall of the regime!” shouted protesters in Douma, a Damascus suburb where some 40,000 people took to the streets, witnesses said. It is the same rallying cry that was heard during the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia.

Security forces opened fire in Douma and in the central city of Homs, according to eyewitnesses. At least four people were wounded in Douma and seven in Homs, the witnesses said.

Other massive protests were reported in the coastal city of Banias, the northeastern Kurdish region and the southern city of Daraa, where the uprising kicked off more than a month ago.

The protest movement has crossed a significant threshold in recent days, with increasing numbers now seeking the downfall of the regime, not just reforms. The security crackdown has only emboldened protesters, who are enraged over the deaths of more than 200 people over five weeks.

Friday’s witness accounts could not be independently confirmed because Syria has expelled journalists and restricted access to trouble spots. Witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Activists promised that Friday’s protests will be the biggest rallies yet against the regime led by Assad, who inherited power from his father 11 years ago in one of the most authoritarian countries in the Middle East.

The president has been trying to defuse the protests by launching a bloody crackdown along with a series of concessions, most recently lifting emergency laws that gave authorities almost boundless powers of surveillance and arrest.

He also has fulfilled a decades-old demand by granting citizenship to thousands among Syria’s long-ostracized Kurdish minority, fired local officials, released detainees and formed a new government.

But many protesters said the concessions have come too late — and that Assad does not deserve the credit.

“The state of emergency was brought down, not lifted,” prominent Syrian activist Suhair Atassi, who was arrested several times in the past, wrote on her Twitter page. “It is a victory as a result of demonstrations, protests and the blood of martyrs who called for Syria’s freedom.”

Earlier Friday, witnesses said security forces in uniform and plainclothes set up checkpoints around the Damascus suburb of Douma, checking peoples identity cards and preventing nonresidents from going in.

Syria stands in the middle of the most volatile conflicts in region because of its alliances with militant groups like Lebanon’s Hezbollah and with Shiite powerhouse Iran. That has given Damascus a pivotal role in most of the flashpoint issues of the region, from the Arab-Israeli peace process to Iran’s widening influence.

If the regime in Syria wobbles, it also throws into disarray the U.S. push for engagement with Damascus, part of Washington’s plan to peel the country away from its allegiance to Hamas, Hezbollah and Tehran.

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