Syrian troops backed by tanks raid rebellious city
BEIRUT (AP) - Thousands of soldiers backed by tanks and snipers moved in before dawn to the city where Syria's anti-government uprising began, causing panic in the streets when they opened fire indiscriminately on civilians and went house-to-house rounding up suspected protesters. At least 11 people were killed and 14 others lay in the streets - either dead or gravely wounded, witnesses said.
The military raids on the southern city of Daraa and at least two other areas suggested Syria is trying to impose military control on the centers of protests against President Bashar Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for four decades.
Residents and human rights activists said the regime wants to terrify opponents and intimidate them from staging any more demonstrations.
The offensive was meticulously planned: Electricity, water and mobile phone services were cut. Security agents armed with guns and knives conducted house-to-house sweeps, neighborhoods were sectioned off and checkpoints were erected before the sun rose.
"They have snipers firing on everybody who is moving," a witness told The Associated Press by telephone. "They aren't discriminating. There are snipers on the mosque. They are firing at everybody," he added, asking that his name not be used for fear of retribution.
The massive assault on Daraa appeared to be part of new strategy of crippling, pre-emptive strikes against any opposition to Assad, rather than reacting to demonstrations. Other crackdowns and arrest sweeps were reported on the outskirts of Damascus and the coastal town of Jableh - bringing more international condemnation and threats of targeted sanctions by Washington.
Nearly 500 prisoners escape in Kandahar
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) - During the long Afghan winter, Taliban insurgents were apparently busy underground.
The militants say they spent more than five months building a 1,050-foot tunnel to the main prison in southern Afghanistan, bypassing government checkpoints, watch towers and concrete barriers topped with razor wire.
The diggers finally poked through Sunday and spent 4 1/2 hours ferrying away more than 480 inmates without a shot being fired, according to the Taliban and Afghan officials. Most of the prisoners were Taliban militants.
Accounts of the extraordinary prison break, carried out in the dead of night, suggest collusion with prison guards, officials or both.
Following a recent wave of assassinations here, the breakout underscores the weakness of the Afghan government in the south despite an influx of international troops, funding and advisers. It also highlights the spirit and resourcefulness of the Taliban despite months of battlefield setbacks.
NATO airstrike on Gadhafi compound steps up pressure
TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) - The latest NATO airstrike on Moammar Gadhafi's compound that reduced parts of it to a smoldering ruin of broken concrete slabs and twisted wires stepped up pressure on the increasingly embattled Libyan leader who is struggling to hold onto the western half of the country.
A Libyan government spokesman denounced Monday's bombing as a failed assassination attempt, saying the 69-year-old leader was healthy, "in high spirits" and carrying on business as usual.
A separate airstrike elsewhere in Tripoli targeted Libyan TV and temporarily knocked it off the air, a government spokesman said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters.
Since an armed uprising erupted in mid-February, Gadhafi has been clinging to control in the western half of Libya, while opposition forces run most of the east. A NATO campaign of airstrikes has sought to break a battlefield stalemate, and the U.S. last week added armed U.S. Predator drones to the mission. Italy said Monday its military will join in strategic bombing raids in Libya.
NATO said its latest airstrike sought to destroy a communications headquarters used to coordinate attacks on civilians. A spokesman for the alliance said it is increasingly targeting facilities linked to Gadhafi's regime.
Federal Reserve winds down economic support program
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Federal Reserve is increasingly confident in the economy and about to end a $600 billion program to support it. Now for the next step - figuring out how to keep inflation from taking off.
Since late last year, the Fed has bought government bonds to keep interest rates low. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and his colleagues are expected to signal this week that they will allow the program to expire as scheduled in June.
The end of the bond-buying program would mean that, aside from tax cuts, almost all the extraordinary measures the government took to prop up the economy are over. Congress is fighting over how deeply to cut federal spending, not whether to spend more for stimulus.
Since the Fed announced the plan last August, worries that the economy would fall back into recession have all but disappeared. The private sector is adding jobs, and the stock market is at its highest point since the summer of 2008.
But higher oil and food prices pose a threat. If companies are forced to raise prices quickly to make up for escalating costs, that could start a spiral of inflation. Exactly how much of a threat inflation poses to the economy right now is a matter of disagreement within the central bank.
Hospital: Giffords can attend husband's shuttle launch
HOUSTON (AP) - Arizona U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords can fly to Florida this week to watch her astronaut husband rocket into space as commander of the space shuttle Endeavour, but she will return shortly after the launch to resume rehabilitation, her doctors in Houston confirmed Monday.
The doctors at TIRR Memorial Hermann said Giffords is "medically able" to travel and that they view the trip to Cape Canaveral as part of her rehabilitation from a gunshot wound to the head.
"Medically, there is no reason she could not travel safely to Florida to participate in this incredible event with her husband," said Dr. Dong Kim, director of the Mischer Neuroscience Institute at Memorial Hermann.
The last time Giffords flew was when she was transported on a private jet from the hospital in Tucson, Ariz., that treated her immediately after the Jan. 8 shooting to Houston, where she has been undergoing intensive rehabilitation. But this time, her flight is not an ambulance transport, Kim added.
"She is medically able and well enough to travel without additional risks," said Kim, who also serves as professor and chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Medical School.
Japanese troops slog through drained swamps in search of 12,000 still missing after tsunami
SHICHIGAHAMAMACHI, Japan (AP) - A line of somber soldiers walked methodically through a drained swamp Monday, with each step sinking their slender poles into the muck beneath.
If one hit a body, he would know.
"Bodies feel very distinctive," said Michihiro Ose, a spokesman for the Japanese army's 22nd infantry regiment.
The men were among 25,000 troops given the morbid duty of searching the rubble, the seas and the swamps of northeastern Japan for the bodies of the nearly 12,000 people still missing in last month's earthquake and tsunami.
The two-day operation was the biggest military search since the March 11 disaster. With waters receding, officials hoped the troops, backed by police, coast guard and U.S. forces, would make significant progress. By Monday evening, they had found 38 bodies, the military said.
500-year-old history book surfaces at small town museum
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Book dealer Ken Sanders has seen a lot of nothing in his decades appraising "rare" finds pulled from attics and basements, storage sheds and closets.
Sanders, who occasionally appraises items for PBS's Antiques Roadshow, often employs the "fine art of letting people down gently."
But on a recent Saturday while volunteering at a fundraiser for the small town museum in Sandy, Utah, just south of Salt Lake, Sanders got the surprise of a lifetime.
"Late in the afternoon, a man sat down and started unwrapping a book from a big plastic sack, informing me he had a really, really old book and he thought it might be worth some money," he said. "I kinda start, oh boy, I've heard this before."
Then he produced a tattered, partial copy of the 500-year-old Nuremberg Chronicle.