39 people killed in Kenya mall attack claimed by Somali militants; hostages still held
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- Terrified shoppers huddled in back hallways and prayed they would not be found by the Islamic extremist gunmen lobbing grenades and firing assault rifles inside Nairobi's top mall Saturday. When the way appeared clear, crying mothers clutching small children and blood-splattered men sprinted out of the four-story mall.
At least 39 people were killed and more than 150 wounded in the assault, Kenya's president announced on national TV, while disclosing that his close family members were among the dead.
Foreigners were among the casualties. France's president said that two French women were killed. Two Canadians were killed, including a diplomat, said the Candadian prime minister. Four American citizens were reported injured but not killed in the attack, the State Department said Saturday.
Early Sunday morning, 12 hours after the attack began, gunmen remained holed up inside the mall with an unknown number of hostages. President Uhuru Kenyatta called the security operation under way "delicate" and said a top priority was to safeguard hostages.
As the attack began shortly after noon Saturday, the al-Qaida-linked gunmen asked the victims they had cornered if they were Muslim: Those who answered yes were free to go, several witnesses said. The non-Muslims were not.
Kenya mall: Reporter outside, 2 friends and toddler inside make personal, professional collide
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- The frantic phone call came from a close friend staying the weekend with my family: She was inside Nairobi's most upscale mall and could hear gunshots. Her husband and 2-year-old daughter were inside too, but she didn't know where. Where should she go?
Over the next several hours my role as a reporter collided with my concern for close friends in mortal danger. Reporters everywhere must separate their emotions from scenes of horror, but that's a near-impossible task when your friends are facing attackers lobbing grenades and firing bullets.
Lyndsay called my wife two minutes after the first blast. It was 12:40 p.m. Saturday. Lyndsay, who was at a top-floor bookstore, initially thought it was a robbery. I rushed from home to the shopping center, a mile away. The scene was eerie: Gunmen had shot up cars at the mall's entrance. Bodies lay hanging from the vehicles.
Volleys of gunfire and small explosions rang in my ears as I and others ducked behind cars.
Lyndsay's husband, Nick, was with their daughter Julia in the downstairs cafe that appeared to be the initial attack point. He scooped up his toddler and ran. They ended up being pushed into a department store storage area and would stay there the next three hours.
NATO says 3 US soldiers killed by gunman wearing Afghan security forces uniform
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- An Afghan wearing a security forces uniform turned his weapon against U.S. troops Saturday, killing three in eastern Afghanistan, officials said, in another apparent attack by a member of the Afghan forces against their international allies.
The shooting took place in Gardez, capital of eastern Paktia province, Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, an Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman, said. The area, near the border with Pakistan, has been a front line in fighting with the Taliban and other militants.
The attack took place inside a base of the Afghan army in the city, according to a security official in Gardez, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give details while the incident was still under investigation.
A U.S. Defense Department official confirmed that all three soldiers were Americans, but that no further details would be released until after their relatives had been notified. NATO said the shooting was carried out by a gunman wearing the uniform of the Afghan National Security Forces, but it gave no further details.
Killings by uniformed Afghans of foreign soldiers and civilians rose dramatically last year, eroding confidence between the sides at a crucial turning point in the conflict. So-called insider attacks killed 62 personnel in 47 incidents last year compared to 35 killed in 21 attacks a year earlier, according to NATO.
Obama urges supporters of gun limits to help push stalled legislation after mass shootings
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Days after mass shootings in both of his hometowns, President Barack Obama urged his most ardent supporters Saturday "to get back up and go back at it" and help push stalled legislation out of Congress so dangerous people won't get their hands on guns.
"We can't rest until all of our children can go to school or walk down the street free from the fear that they will be struck down by a stray bullet," Obama said in a keynote speech to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's annual awards dinner.
Legislation calling for expanded background checks failed to clear the Senate earlier this year despite a strong push by Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, people whose loved ones had been killed by gunfire and other gun-control advocates.
The bill was part of a package of measures Obama promised to put the full weight of his office behind after 20 first-graders and six educators were killed last December in a mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
Republicans and some Democrats voted against the measure.
Analysis: UN may see big action on Syria, Iran as all players share chance to come out winners
WASHINGTON (AP) -- After years of estrangement, the United States and Russia are joined as partners in a bold plan to rid Syria of chemical weapons. More surprising yet, American and Iranian leaders -- after an exchange of courteous letters -- may meet in New York for the first time since the Islamic revolution swept Iran nearly 35 years ago.
Hopes are unusually high as world leaders gather at the United Nations this week. While the results are far from certain, all players in the delicate diplomacy confronting them in the coming days could even come out winners in a world increasingly fraught with zero-sum outcomes.
It begins with the U.N. Security Council scrambling to put together a resolution that is sweeping enough to ensure that Syrian President Bashar Assad surrenders all his chemical arms, and with sufficient penalties to discourage him from reneging.
The five permanent members of the Security Council -- the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France -- all hold veto power, and Russia has not shied from blocking a council resolution that would punish Syrian behavior in the civil war. The Russians were especially vigorous in promising to veto air strikes to punish Syria for the Aug. 21 chemical attack that killed hundreds of people in a Damascus suburb. The U.S. blames Assad's regime for the attack; Russia says there is no proof that the regime was responsible and suggests it may have been the rebels who carried it out.
Lacking U.N. approval, U.S. President Barack Obama -- who had warned last year that Assad's use of chemical weapons would cross a "red line" -- was nevertheless about to wage a limited air offensive against Syria but pulled up short and sought U.S. congressional approval. It then quickly became clear that Obama would not get that backing, with polls showing the American public solidly against any further military involvement in the Middle East.
Suicide bombers target mourners at Shiite funeral as day of violence in Iraq claims 96 lives
BAGHDAD (AP) -- Two suicide bombers, one in an explosives-laden car and the other on foot, struck a cluster of funeral tents packed with mourning families in a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad, the deadliest in a string of attacks around Iraq that killed at least 96 people on Saturday.
The assaults, the latest in a months-long surge of violence, are a chilling reminder of insurgents' determination to re-ignite sectarian conflict more than a decade after the U.S.-led invasion.
Thousands of Iraqis have been killed in violent attacks in recent months -- a level of bloodshed not seen since Iraq pulled back from the brink of civil war in 2008 -- despite appeals for restraint from Shiite and Sunni political leaders.
The attack on the funeral was one of the largest single terrorist assaults on civilians in Iraq in recent years. It happened shortly before sunset in the densely populated Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City in northeastern Baghdad.
Police said at least 72 people were killed and more than 120 were wounded in that attack. One bomber was able to drive up near the tent before detonating his deadly payload, and another on foot blew himself up nearby, police said.
Republican divide over health law preview fights to rebuild party, seize White House in 2016
MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (AP) -- A clear divide over the health care law separates the emerging field of potential GOP candidates for the 2016 presidential race, previewing the battles ahead as they try to rebuild their party and seize the White House.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz says he will fight "with every breath" to stop President Barack Obama's signature domestic achievement, even if that means shutting down parts of the federal government. It's an approach that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush calls "quite dicey" politically for Republicans. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky says flatly that a shutdown is "a dumb idea."
"I'm acknowledging we probably can't defeat or get rid of Obamacare," Paul told reporters Saturday while attending a Republican conference in Michigan. "But by starting with our position of not funding it maybe we get to a position where we make it less bad."
Allied on the other side with Cruz are U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and others who say they are making a principled stand, willing to oppose the law at all costs.
Then there are those taking what they call a pragmatic approach by accepting the law, if grudgingly, and moving on. This group includes Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who says a shutdown would violate the public trust.
Court set to hand down verdict in Bo Xilai case in biggest Chinese political scandal in years
JINAN, China (AP) -- A Chinese court was expected to hand down a guilty verdict Sunday for corruption charges against fallen politician Bo Xilai in one of the country's most lurid political scandals in decades.
The Jinan Intermediate People's Court was to announce the verdict against Bo, who was tried last month on charges of taking bribes, embezzlement and abuse of power. The former Politburo member and party chief of the megacity Chongqing vigorously denied any criminal wrongdoings during the trial, but Chinese courts are not independent and a guilty verdict is widely expected.
Bo was escorted into the court by marshals Sunday morning and stood to listen as the judge began reading the lengthy verdict, which reviewed the facts established in the trial.
Bo's downfall was set in motion by his wife's murder of a British businessman, followed by a defection of his top aide to a U.S. consulate with information about the murder case just ahead of a leadership transition.
Bo, once a rising political star, was removed from office in March and expelled from the party in September.
AP PHOTOS: Festivals around the world
AP highlights the best photos from festivals held around the world this week. This collection includes revelers celebrating at the Holi Festival of Colors in Lisbon, rounds of beer at Oktoberfest in Munich, devotees participating in Ganesh Chaturthi festival celebrations in India and more.
Follow AP photographers and photo editors on Twitter: http://apne.ws/15Oo6jo
No. 19 Florida loses QB Jeff Driskel for season, beats Tennessee 31-17 behind Tyler Murphy
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- The second Jeff Driskel started waving for help, Florida coach Will Muschamp knew it was bad.
It turned out to be the worst-case scenario.
Driskel broke his lower right leg Saturday in the first quarter of the 19th-ranked Gators' 31-17 victory over Tennessee, a season-ending injury that thrust seldom-used backup Tyler Murphy onto the field for the most significant action of his four-year career.
Murphy responded better than anyone could have realistically expected.
He had a 52-yard touchdown throw to Solomon Patton, a swing pass that went the distance, and made several huge plays with his legs as Florida (2-1, 1-0 SEC) won its ninth consecutive game in the series.