Passenger jet crashes near Havana with at least 110 aboard

HAVANA — A Cuban-operated airliner with at least 110 people on board crashed into a cassava field just after takeoff from Havana’s international airport on Friday. There appeared to be mass casualties as Cuban officials said three people had survived, but had yet to give an official toll.

Authorities said there were 104 passengers and nine foreign crew members on the flight, operated by Cubana de Aviacion. An employee of a Mexican charter firm said the plane belonged to the company and it had a six-person Mexican crew.

Residents of the rural site of the crash a short distance from the end of the runway told The Associated Press they saw some survivors being taken away in ambulances, and a military officer who declined to provide his name said there were three survivors in critical condition from the Cubana airlines flight.

“It’s a disaster,” the officer said.

State media also Continue reading “Passenger jet crashes near Havana with at least 110 aboard”

Local media report fatalities at Texas school shooting

SANTA FE, Texas — Houston-area media citing unnamed law enforcement officials are reporting that there are fatalities following a shooting at a high school.

Television station KHOU and the Houston Chronicle are citing unnamed federal, county and police officials following the shooting early Friday at Santa Fe High School, about 30 miles southeast of Houston.

The Associated Press has not been able to confirm the reports.

Assistant Principal Cris Richardson says a suspect "has been arrested and secured."

Students from the high school are being transported to another location to reunite with their parents.

"We hope the worst is over and I really can’t say any more about that because it would be pure speculation," Richardson told media outlets at the scene.

One student told Houston television station KTRK in a telephone interview that a gunman came into her first-period art class and started shooting. The student said she Continue reading “Local media report fatalities at Texas school shooting”

Police: Man yelling about president arrested after firing shots at Trump golf club

DORAL, Fla. — A man was arrested early Friday after exchanging gunfire with officers, shouting about President Donald Trump and draping a flag over the counter in the lobby of the Trump National Doral Golf Club near Miami that’s owned by Trump, police said.

Police were notified of an "active shooter" about 1:30 a.m., Doral Police Chief Hernan Organvidez told news reporters. He said officers from Doral and Miami-Dade confronted him immediately and exchanged gunfire with the man who was "neutralized" and taken into custody.

Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez said the man was shouting about Trump, and "actively shooting."

"He was yelling and spewing some information about President Trump and that’s what we know so far. And he had an American flag that he did drape over the counter," Perez said.

Perez said a Doral officer received an unspecified injury.

"You know, these officers did not Continue reading “Police: Man yelling about president arrested after firing shots at Trump golf club”

Following U.S. lead, Guatemala moves embassy to Jerusalem

JERUSALEM — Guatemala festively opened its new embassy in Jerusalem on Wednesday, becoming the second country to do so after the United States, and giving Israel a diplomatic boost as it faces international criticism for the deadly violence on the Gaza border.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales dedicated the embassy just two days after a high-powered American delegation also marked the transfer of its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was fitting since Guatemala also followed the U.S. to be the second country to recognize Israel 70 years ago.

“You were always among the first,” he said at the ceremony. “We remember our friends and Guatemala is our friend, then and now.”

President Donald Trump announced his decision in December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the American embassy there, triggering a joyous reaction from Netanyahu’s government.

Israel has Continue reading “Following U.S. lead, Guatemala moves embassy to Jerusalem”

U.S. hits head of Iran’s central bank with terror sanctions

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is designating the head of Iran’s central bank as a terrorist and hitting him with sanctions intended to further isolate Iran from the global financial system.

The Treasury Department accuses Valiollah Seif of helping transfer millions of dollars to Hezbollah, the Iran-backed militant group. Seif is the governor of the Iranian central bank. He’s being named a “specially designated global terrorist.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says Seif “covertly funneled” money from the Iran’s Revolutionary Guards through al-Bilad Islamic Bank in Iraq to help Hezbollah. The Iraqi bank and its chairman is also being punished with sanctions.

The U.S. says it’s also imposing so-called secondary sanctions on Seif. That means anyone who does business with him could be cut off from the U.S. financial system.

Palestinians bury dead after bloodiest Gaza day since 2014

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Palestinians observed a strike Tuesday to mourn dozens killed by Israeli troops in a mass protest on the Gaza border — the single deadliest day there since a 2014 war and part of a high-stakes campaign by Gaza’s Hamas rulers to break a decade-long border blockade.

In Monday’s protest, Israeli forces killed 58 Palestinians, most by gunfire, and injured more than 2,700, Gaza health officials said. In jarring contrast, the U.S. held a festive inauguration ceremony for a new U.S. Embassy in contested Jerusalem just a few miles away.

The juxtaposition of bloodshed on the Gaza border and festivities attended by a high-powered Trump administration delegation — captured on split screens in TV broadcasts around the world — briefly drew attention to the plight of Gaza and its 2 million people.

The high casualty toll also revived international criticism of Israel’s use of Continue reading “Palestinians bury dead after bloodiest Gaza day since 2014”

Mass protests in Gaza ahead of U.S. Embassy event in Jerusalem

Thousands of Gaza residents headed toward the border with Israel on Monday, drawing Israeli fire in a potentially bloody showdown as Israel prepared for the festive inauguration of a new U.S. Embassy in contested Jerusalem.

At least two Palestinians were killed in the area of Monday’s march, which was to be the biggest yet in a weeks-long campaign against a decade-old blockade of the territory.

As crowds began to swell at midday, Israeli troops began firing from across the border fence. Palestinian health officials reported two people killed and at least 69 others wounded by live fire, nine seriously.

The march was also directed at the inauguration of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem later Monday. The relocation of the embassy from Tel Aviv has infuriated the Palestinians, who seek east Jerusalem as a future capital.

Monday marked the biggest showdown in recent weeks between Israel’s military and Gaza’s Continue reading “Mass protests in Gaza ahead of U.S. Embassy event in Jerusalem”

Thousands in Iran protest Trump’s decision to withdraw from nuclear deal

Thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets in cities across the country to protest U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the nuclear deal with world powers.

The protests Friday resembled other aggressive but orderly gatherings typical under President Hassan Rouhani, who has tried for a rapprochement with the West.

But while slogans of “Death to America” were few, many Iranians are sincerely angry over Trump’s decision and are siding with hard-liners who long have warned to be suspicious of the West.

Trump pulled America out of the 2015 accord on Tuesday.

Iran said it may resume uranium enrichment in a higher rate in weeks if it finds nuclear deal will not work anymore after the U.S. pullout from the deal.

Nurse charged in death of H.R. McMaster’s father

PHILADELPHIA — A nurse was charged Thursday with involuntary manslaughter, neglect and falsifying documents to make it appear she had performed required exams on President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser’s father before he died at a Philadelphia senior care facility last month

Christann Shyvin Gainey, 30, was charged in the death of H.R. McMaster Sr., who died April 13 about eight hours after falling and hitting his head at the Cathedral Village retirement community.

Surveillance video showed that Gainey failed to conduct a series of neurological evaluations of McMaster as required, the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office said. Prosecutors say she falsified documents to make it appear she had.

It wasn’t immediately known if Gainey, who worked at the facility as a contract employee, had an attorney to comment on her behalf. Phone numbers listed for her rang unanswered Thursday afternoon.

McMaster was an 84-year-old retired U.S. Continue reading “Nurse charged in death of H.R. McMaster’s father”

Israel says it struck Iranian targets in Syria after rocket barrage

The Israeli military says it attacked dozens of Iranian targets in neighboring Syria in response to an Iranian rocket barrage on Israeli positions in the Golan Heights, in the most serious military confrontation between the two bitter enemies to date.

Israel says the targets included weapons storage facilities, logistics centers, intelligence sites and logistic sites used by elite Iranian forces in Syria. It also says it destroyed several Syrian air-defense systems after coming under heavy fire. It says none of its warplanes was hit.

Israel’s defense minister says the military has struck “nearly all” of the sites in Syria.

Avigdor Lieberman says Thursday Israel responded fiercely to an unprecedented rocket attack by Iranian forces in Syria against Israel. He says no one was harmed in Israel and all the rockets were either intercepted or fell short.

Lieberman told the Herzliya Conference, an annual security gathering north of Tel Aviv, that Continue reading “Israel says it struck Iranian targets in Syria after rocket barrage”

North Korea’s Kim meets with China envoy amid warming ties

BEIJING — China says its foreign minister has met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a visit to Pyongyang, underscoring the vast improvement in relations between the neighbors.

The Foreign Ministry announced the meeting in a one-line statement on its official microblog Thursday but gave no details.

Earlier it quoted Foreign Minister Wang Yi as telling his North Korean counterpart on Wednesday that China fully backs the North’s efforts to develop its economy following the imposition of United Nations sanctions that have cut trade between them by around 90 percent.

Kim in March made his first visit to Beijing since taking power six years ago, kicking off a flurry of diplomacy followed by his meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in last week. A meeting between Kim and President Donald Trump has been proposed for this month.

China has long called for dialogue between the parties and welcomed Continue reading “North Korea’s Kim meets with China envoy amid warming ties”

ISIS claims responsibility for Kabul attacks that left 25 dead, including journalists

The Islamic State group has taken responsibility for the double suicide bombing in Kabul Monday morning that killed 25 people, including eight journalists.

The Afghan affiliate of the militant group, known as Khorasan Province, posted an urgent statement on an IS-affiliate website saying two of its martyrdom seekers carried out the double bombing on Monday targeting the headquarters of the “renegade” Afghan intelligence services in Kabul.

It says the first martyrdom seeker detonated his explosive vest, forcing members of the intelligence service to head to the area of the explosion. The statement says the second martyrdom seeker detonated his explosive vest after that.

The statement did not say that journalists were specifically targeted but exaggerated the attacks’ death toll.

U.S. Embassy has condemned Monday’s double suicide bombing.

The embassy says the U.S. “strongly condemns today’s savage bombings in Kabul. We extend our deepest condolences to the families, friends, Continue reading “ISIS claims responsibility for Kabul attacks that left 25 dead, including journalists”

ISIS claims responsibility for Kabul attacks that left 25 dead, including journalists

The Islamic State group has taken responsibility for the double suicide bombing in Kabul Monday morning that killed 25 people, including eight journalists.

The Afghan affiliate of the militant group, known as Khorasan Province, posted an urgent statement on an IS-affiliate website saying two of its martyrdom seekers carried out the double bombing on Monday targeting the headquarters of the “renegade” Afghan intelligence services in Kabul.

It says the first martyrdom seeker detonated his explosive vest, forcing members of the intelligence service to head to the area of the explosion. The statement says the second martyrdom seeker detonated his explosive vest after that.

The statement did not say that journalists were specifically targeted but exaggerated the attacks’ death toll.

U.S. Embassy has condemned Monday’s double suicide bombing.

The embassy says the U.S. “strongly condemns today’s savage bombings in Kabul. We extend our deepest condolences to the families, friends, Continue reading “ISIS claims responsibility for Kabul attacks that left 25 dead, including journalists”

California rejects border duties for troops

SAN DIEGO — California has rejected the federal government’s initial plans for National Guard troops to the border because the work is considered too closely tied to immigration enforcement, two U.S. officials told The Associated Press.

The state informed federal officials it will not allow its troops to fix and repair vehicles, operate remotely-controlled surveillance cameras to report suspicious activity to the Border Patrol, operate radios and provide "mission support," which can include clerical work, buying gas and handling payroll, according to officials with knowledge of the talks who spoke condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

California Gov. Jerry Brown elicited rare and effusive praise from President Donald Trump last week after he pledged 400 troops to the Guard’s third large-scale border mission since 2006.

The governor’s commitment allowed Trump to boast support from all four border-state governors and helped put the president Continue reading “California rejects border duties for troops”

WHO says 500 patients showed symptoms of gas attack in Syria

The U.N. health agency says reports from its partners indicate some 500 patients showed signs of exposure to toxic chemicals following shelling on the Syrian town of Douma over the weekend.

The World Health Organization says patients at health facilities showed “signs of severe irritation of mucous membranes, respiratory failure and disruption to central nervous systems of those exposed.”

A WHO statement Wednesday did not confirm outright that a chemical weapons attack had taken place.

WHO also cited reports about the deaths of more than 70 people who sheltered in basements, saying 43 of those people who died had shown “symptoms consistent with exposure to highly toxic chemicals.”

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Tuesday it would send “shortly” a fact-finding mission to Douma.

Russia vetoes U.S. resolution on Syria chemical attack probes

Russia has vetoed a U.S.-drafted U.N. resolution that would have condemned last weekend’s suspected gas attack near Damascus and established a new body to determine responsibility for Syrian chemical weapons attacks.

The vote Tuesday afternoon in the 15-member Security Council was 12 in favor, Bolivia joining Russia in voting "no," and China abstaining.

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said the United States "went the extra mile" to get Russian support for the resolution to ensure that a new investigative body would be impartial, independent and professional — things she said would not be guaranteed by a rival Russian resolution.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused the United States of wanting the resolution to fail "to justify the use of force against Syria."

He said the resolution was trying to recreate the old expert body, whose extension Moscow blocked in November. He called that body "a puppet in the hands of anti-Damascus forces."

Russia to expel same number of envoys as West

Russia’s foreign minister says Moscow will expel the same number of diplomats from the nations that have expelled Russian diplomats over the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy in Britain.

Sergey Lavrov said U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman has been summoned to the Foreign Ministry on Thursday, where he was given notice that Russia is responding quid pro quo to the U.S. decision to order 60 Russian diplomats out.

Lavrov said Moscow will also retaliate to the U.S. decision to shut the Russian consulate in Seattle by closing the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg.

Lavrov said the same approach will be applied to other nations that expelled Russian diplomats this week.

Two dozen countries, including the U.S., many EU nations and NATO, have ordered more than 150 Russian diplomats out this week in a show of solidarity with Britain.

Kim Jong Un to meet South Korean President on April 27

South Korean officials say North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in at a border village on April 27.

The third summit ever between the Koreas could prove significant in the global diplomatic push to resolve the standoff over the North’s nuclear program.

The announcement was made after a high-level meeting Thursday between the countries at the border village of Panmunjom. Few other details were released.

The Koreas will hold another preparatory meeting April 4 to discuss protocol, security and media coverage issues.

The current talks follow a surprise meeting this week between Kim and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Kim may also meet with President Donald Trump.

Report: Austin bombing suspect is dead

The Austin American-Statesman is citing a high-ranking law enforcement official who says the suspect in this month’s bombing in the Texas capital blew killed himself with an explosive device as the authorities closed in on him.

The Associated Press wasn’t immediately able to confirm the report.

The newspaper cites the official as saying that law enforcement identified the suspect in the past 24 hours based largely on information, including security video, gleaned after the suspect allegedly sent an explosive device from an Austin-area FedEx store.

Austin has been targeted by four package bombings since March 2 that killed two people and wounded four others. A fifth parcel bomb detonated at a FedEx distribution center near San Antonio early Tuesday.

Russia to add more Americans to ‘black list’ in response to sanctions

Russia’s government will add more Americans to its “black list” in response to new sanctions against Russians accused of election meddling.

Tensions with Moscow are growing before Russia’s presidential election Sunday, after a nerve agent attack in Britain on a Russian ex-spy.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted Friday by news agency RIA Novosti as saying that Russia is preparing sanctions against “a new group of American actors” and possible “additional steps.”

He said Russia would target the same number of people as the U.S. but didn’t say what the sanctions would involve.

Ryabkov said he doesn’t want to definitively close the door to dialogue and accused the U.S. of threatening global stability.

The Trump administration announced sanctions Thursday on 19 Russians and five companies accused of meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.