Christians, police clash in Pakistan after Muslim mob burns homes of minority religious group
LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) -- Hundreds of Christians clashed with police across Pakistan on Sunday, a day after a Muslim mob burned dozens of homes owned by members of the minority religious group in retaliation for alleged insults against Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.
Christians are often the target of Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws, which rights activists say are frequently used to persecute religious minorities or settle personal disputes. Politicians have been reluctant to reform the laws for fear of being attacked by religious radicals, as has happened in the past.
The plight of Pakistan’s other religious minorities, such as Shiite Muslims, Hindus and Ahmadis, has also deepened in recent years as hard-line interpretations of Islam have gained ground and militants have stepped up attacks against groups they oppose. Most Pakistanis are Sunni Muslims.
The latest incident began Friday after a Muslim in the eastern city of Lahore accused a Christian man of blasphemy -- an offense punishable by life in prison or even death. A day later, hundreds of angry Muslims rampaged through the Christian neighborhood, burning about 170 houses.
Authorities have arrested 160 suspected members of the mob, many of whom were identified through TV footage and photos published in newspapers, said police officer Abdur
Afghan leader: Taliban, U.S. are colluding to help show foreign forces are needed after 2014
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday accused the Taliban and the U.S. of working in concert to convince Afghans that violence will worsen if most foreign troops leave -- an allegation the top American commander in Afghanistan rejected as "categorically false."
Karzai said two suicide bombings that killed 19 people on Saturday -- one outside the Afghan Defense Ministry and the other near a police checkpoint in eastern Khost province -- show the insurgent group is conducting attacks to demonstrate that international forces will still be needed to keep the peace after their current combat mission ends in 2014.
"The explosions in Kabul and Khost yesterday showed that they are at the service of America and at the service of this phrase: 2014. They are trying to frighten us into thinking that if the foreigners are not in Afghanistan, we would be facing these sorts of incidents," he said during a nationally televised speech about the state of Afghan women.
Karzai is known for making incendiary comments in his public speeches, a tactic that is often attributed to him trying to appeal to Taliban sympathizers or to gain leverage when he feels his international allies are ignoring his country’s sovereignty. In previous speeches, he has threatened to join the Taliban and called his NATO allies occupiers who want to plunder Afghanistan’s resources.
U.S. and NATO forces commander Gen. Joseph Dunford said Karzai had never expressed such views to him, but said it was understandable that tensions would arise as the coalition balances the need to complete its mission and the Afghans’ move to exercise more sovereignty.
Captured Syrian city a test for rebels as they govern, kill captives
BEIRUT (AP) -- Since rebels seized the capital of Raqqa province in northern Syria from the government last week, they have posted guards at state buildings, returned bread prices to pre-war levels and opened a hotline that residents can phone to report security issues, anti-regime activists said Sunday.
At the same time, they have killed captured security forces in public squares and driven their dead bodies through the streets. The most powerful rebel brigades in the city are extremist Muslims and include Jabhat al-Nusra, which the U.S.government says is linked to al-Qaida.
As the first major Syrian city to fall entirely under rebel control, Raqqa is shaping up to be the best test case yet for how opposition fighters will administer territory amid Western concerns over who will fill the vacuum if President Bashar Assad is ousted. While the city’s new rulers try to govern, they are struggling with the same divisions that have hampered the rebel movement’s effectiveness throughout Syria’s civil war.
The rising power of Islamic extremists in their ranks also could block them from receiving badly needed aid from countries that support the anti-Assad struggle but fear weapons could fall into the wrong hands. The United States recently promised $60 million in new, non-lethal assistance to the opposition inside Syria, and other powers are considering sending arms. Most of these countries would look askance, however, at rebels who seek an Islamic state or stand accused of war crimes.
Rebels in Raqqa reached via phone and Skype on Sunday acknowledged the strength of Islamic brigades but said these groups didn’t seek to impose outside ideologies on the city. "This is not Islamic extremism," said Abu Yazan, a leader in the Islamist Faithful of Raqqa Brigade. "It is these Islamic movements that freed us from the criminal regime."
Jeb Bush jokes reporters are ‘crack addicts’ for asking about 2016 White House bid
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Sunday likened political reporters to "crack addicts" and "heroin addicts" during a tour of morning talk shows that drew repeated questions about the still-distant 2016 presidential election.
Bush, capping a media-heavy week that sparked chatter about a presidential campaign for a third member of his family, tried to keep the conversation focused on his book "Immigration Wars." But as Bush wrapped up a conversation with NBC’s David Gregory," he likened journalists and their questions about the 2016 campaign to drug addicts.
"Who’s the hottest Florida politician right now? Is it you or Marco Rubio?" Gregory asked, referring to Rubio, a senator who is also a potential GOP contender. "Who are we more likely to see in the White House?"
"Man, you guys are crack addicts. You really are obsessed with all this politics," Bush replied.
The "Meet the Press" host interrupted, saying he’d been called a lot of things, but never a crack addict.
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles to run in election to replace Hugo Chavez
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles is set to announce he will run in elections to replace Hugo Chavez, setting up a make-or-break encounter against the dead president’s hand-picked successor, a close adviser to the candidate says.
"He will accept" the nomination, the adviser told The Associated Press. He spoke Sunday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the decision publicly ahead of a formal announcement scheduled for later in the day.
Other opposition sources refused to comment, but a political consultant at ORC Consultores, which advises Capriles, also said he would run.
"He will put himself forward," said Oswaldo Ramirez. "History is giving Capriles Radonski an important role."
Venezuela’s election commission has set April 14 as the date of the vote, with formal campaigning to start just 12 days earlier. Ramirez said the 40-year-old opposition leader would demand that officials extend the campaign period by moving up the start date by more than a week, and that acting president Nicolas Maduro not be allowed to abuse state resources to boost his chances during the campaign.
Camps of cardinals rally behind their men as the Catholic church prepares to choose a new pope
VATICAN CITY (AP) -- The Vatican insists that the cardinals participating in the upcoming conclave will vote their conscience, each influenced only by silent prayers and reflection. Everybody knows, however, that power plays, vested interests and Machiavellian maneuvering are all part of the game, and that the horse-trading is already under way.
Can the fractious Italians rally behind a single candidate? Can the Americans live up to their surprise billing as a power broker? And will all 115 cardinals from around the world be able to reach a meeting of minds on whether the church needs a people-friendly pope or a hard-edged manager able to tame Vatican bureaucrats?
This time there are no star cardinals and no big favorites, making the election wide open and allowing the possibility of a compromise candidate should there be deadlock.
While deliberations have been secret, there appear to be two big camps forming that have been at loggerheads in the run-up to the conclave.
One, dominated by the powerful Vatican bureaucracy called the Curia, is believed to be seeking a pope who will let it continue calling the shots as usual. The speculation is that the Curia is pushing the candidacy of Brazilian Odilo Scherer, who has close ties to the Curia and would be expected to name an Italian insider as Secretary of State -- the Vatican No. 2 who runs day-to-day affairs at the Holy See.
Authorities identify 6 teens killed, 2 injured in Sunday morning SUV crash in northeast Ohio
WARREN, Ohio (AP) -- Ohio authorities have identified six teenagers killed in a one-vehicle SUV crash, along with two teens who were able to escape from the overturned sport utility vehicle submerged in a pond.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol says it’s not believed that the eight people inside the vehicle were closely related.
Killed were 19-year-old Alexis Cayson; 14-year-old Andrique Bennett; 17-year-old Brandon Murray; and Kirkland Behner, Daylan Ray and Ramone White, all 15. All six were from Warren, in northeast Ohio.
Eighteen-year-old Brian Henry and 15-year-old Asher Lewis, both of Warren, survived.
Seeking to be a first in 2 ways,
City Council speaker Quinn announces NYC mayoral bid
NEW YORK (AP) -- Long seen as a leading contender, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn formally launched Sunday what she hopes will be a history-making mayoral bid.
A veteran of city politics, Quinn would be a groundbreaking mayor across two personal dimensions: She would be the first female and first openly gay mayor to lead the nation’s largest city.
Announcing on Twitter that she’s in the race, Quinn said she wanted to give middle- and working-class New Yorkers the same opportunities generations of her family got when they came here.
"I’m running for mayor because I love this city. It’s the greatest place in the world," she said in a video linked to her post, before starting what she called a walk-and-talk tour intended to take her to every neighborhood in the city before the Democratic primary in September.
Her first stop was the upper Manhattan neighborhood of Inwood, where she was surrounded by supporters carrying signs that read "Christine Quinn for Mayor" and wearing baseball caps with her initials on them.