DAMASCUS, Syria – Syria’s prime minister narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in the heart of the heavily defended capital Monday, state media said, laying bare the vulnerability of President Bashar Assad’s regime.
The bombing, which killed several other people, highlights an accelerating campaign targeting government officials, from mid-level civil servants to the highest echelons of the Syrian regime.
State television said Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi was not hurt in the bombing, which struck his convoy as it drove through the posh Mazzeh neighborhood, home to embassies, government officials and business elites with close ties to the regime.
Inmates at risk for illness evacuated
The federal official who controls medical care in California prisons on Monday ordered thousands of high-risk inmates out of two Central Valley prisons in response to dozens of deaths resulting from Valley fever, which is caused by an airborne fungus.
Medical receiver J. Clark Kelso ordered the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to exclude black, Filipino and other medically risky inmates from Avenal and Pleasant Valley state prisons because those groups are more susceptible to the fungal infection, which originates in the region’s soil.
Boston suspect gets top defense lawyer
The defense team representing the Boston Marathon bombing suspect got a major boost Monday with the addition of Judy Clarke, a San Diego lawyer who has managed to get life sentences instead of the death penalty for several high-profile clients, including the Unabomber and the gunman in the rampage that injured former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Clarke’s appointment was approved Monday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler. A request from Miriam Conrad, the public defender of 19-year-old suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, for a second death penalty lawyer was denied.
Found 9/11 debris is piece of wing
The rusted metal aircraft part believed to be from one of the hijacked jetliners that slammed into the World Trade Center in the Sept. 11 attacks came from a wing, not landing gear, police said Monday.
The 5-foot piece is a trailing edge flap support structure, police said. Investigators initially thought it was part of the landing gear because both pieces have similar-looking hydraulics.
Both hijacked planes that struck the towers were Boeing 767s, but Boeing officials told police it isn’t possible to determine which flight the part came from.
Gas blast injures dozens in Prague
A powerful blast believed to be a gas explosion ripped open an office building in the center of Prague on Monday, injuring at least 35 people and sending shockwaves through the Old Town tourist district.
The blast shattered windows in the scenic area of charming streets and postcard-pretty buildings, sending glass flying. Authorities closed a wide area around the site, stranding tourists on street corners with baggage-loaded trolleys, unable to get into their hotels.
Authorities said dogs searching the rubble had not indicated that anyone was buried, and the prime minister said it appeared no one had died.
Deadly bombings add to chaos in Iraq
A wave of car bomb blasts tore through Shiite areas south of Baghdad on Monday, killing at least 36 and deepening fears that Iraq is rapidly spiraling back out of control.
At least 218 people have been killed in attacks and battles between gunmen and security forces that began with clashes at a Sunni protest camp in northern Iraq last Tuesday.
The unrest follows four months of widespread protests among Iraq’s Sunni minority, who feel they are discriminated against and are being marginalized by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite-led government.
Death toll soars in ’11 Somalia famine
The 2011 Somali famine killed an estimated 260,000 people, half of them age 5 and younger, according to a new report to be published this week that more than doubles previous death toll estimates, officials told The Associated Press.
The aid community believes that tens of thousands of people died needlessly because the international community was slow to respond to early signs of approaching hunger in East Africa in late 2010 and early 2011.
The toll was also exacerbated by extremist militants who banned food aid deliveries to the areas of south-central Somalia that they controlled. They have also made figuring out an accurate death toll difficult.