US suspects al-Qaida ties in Afghan ‘insider’ attacks
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Haqqani insurgent network, based in Pakistan and with ties to al-Qaida, is suspected of being a driving force behind a significant number of the “insider” attacks by Afghan forces that have killed or wounded more than 130 U.S. and allied troops this year, American officials said yesterday.
Until now, officials had said the attacks seemed to stem either from personal grievances against the allies or from Taliban infiltration. The Taliban has publicly claimed to be orchestrating the campaign to subvert the U.S.-Afghan alliance.
New data provided to The Associated Press this week also reveal that in addition to 35 U.S. and allied troops killed in insider attacks last year, 61 were wounded. Those included 19 in a single attack in the eastern province of Laghman on April 16, 2011, in which six American servicemen were killed. Thus far in 2012 there have been 53 killed and at least 80 wounded, the figures showed.
Haqqani involvement in the plotting would add a new dimension to that group’s insurgent activity, which has been marked largely by spectacular attacks against targets inside Kabul.
Haqqani leaders have pledged allegiance to Taliban leader Mullah Omar, but the group largely operates independently. The two groups have a shared interest in evicting foreign forces.
Terror suspects extradited to US after UK ruling
LONDON (AP) — Radical preacher Abu Hamza al-Masri and four other terror suspects who fought for years to avoid facing charges in the United States lost their grounds for appeal and were flown to the U.S. from Britain late yesterday, officials said.
The U.S. Embassy said it was pleased with the ruling earlier in the day by Britain’s High Court, and Scotland Yard said the five departed from an air force base in eastern England just before midnight on two jets bound for the U.S.
Judges John Thomas and Duncan Ouseley rejected last-ditch applications by al-Masri, Khaled al-Fawwaz, Babar Ahmad, Adel Abdul Bary and Syed Talha Ahsan, who had been battling extradition for between eight and 14 years.
Thomas said there were no grounds for any further delay, noting that it was “in the interest of justice that those accused of very serious crimes, as each of these claimants is in these proceedings, are tried as quickly as possible as is consistent with the interests of justice.”
FBI says friendly fire likely in border agent shootings
PHOENIX (AP) — The FBI said yesterday a preliminary investigation has found friendly fire likely was to blame in the shootings of two border agents along the Arizona-Mexico border, shaking up the probe into an incident that re-ignited the political debate over security on the border.
The shootings Tuesday about five miles north of the border near Bisbee left one agent dead and another wounded.
“While it is important to emphasize that the FBI’s investigation is actively continuing, there are strong preliminary indications that the death of United States Border Patrol Agent Nicholas J. Ivie and the injury to a second agent was the result of an accidental shooting incident involving only the agents,” FBI Special Agent in Charge James L. Turgal Jr. said in a statement.
Turgal didn’t elaborate on the agency’s conclusions but said the FBI is using “all necessary investigative, forensic and analytical resources in the course of this investigation.”
Ivie was shot and killed after he and two other agents responded to an alarm triggered by a sensor aimed at detecting smugglers and others entering the U.S. illegally.
Well-preserved mammoth carcass found in Siberia
MOSCOW (AP) — A teenage mammoth that once roamed the Siberian tundra in search of fodder and females might have been killed by an Ice Age man on a summer day tens of thousands of years ago, a Russian scientist said yesterday.
Prof. Alexei Tikhonov of the Zoology Institute in St. Petersburg announced the finding of the mammoth, which was excavated from the Siberian permafrost in late September near the Sopochnaya Karga cape, 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles) northeast of Moscow.
The 16-year-old mammoth has been named Jenya, after the 11-year-old Russian boy who found the animal’s limbs sticking out of the frozen mud. The mammoth was 2 meters (6 feet 6 inches) tall and weighed 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds).
“He was pretty small for his age,” Tikhonov told The Associated Press.
But what killed Jenya was not his size but a missing left tusk that made him unfit for fights with other mammoths or human hunters who were settling the Siberian marshes and swamps some 20,000-30,000 years ago, Tikhonov said.
Mayan ball court at Chichen Itza was also observatory
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican archaeologists say they have determined that the ancient Mayas built watchtower-style structures atop the ceremonial ball court at the temples of Chichen Itza to observe the equinoxes and solstices, and they said yesterday that the discovery adds to understanding of the many layers of ritual significance that the ball game had for the culture.
The structures sit atop the low walls of the court, where the Mayas played a game that consisted, as far as experts can tell, of knocking a heavy, latex ball with their elbows, knees or hips, through a stone ring set in the walls.
The bases of the structures — essentially, look-out boxes set atop the walls, each one with a small slit running through it —had been detected before, but archaeologist hadn’t been sure what they were used for. Since the ball court was built around 864 A.D., the boxes and the stairs leading to them had crumbled.
The government’s National Institute of Anthropology and History announced Thursday that the boxes had been 90-percent reconstructed, based on the stone footings that remained. Late last year and early this year, a team led by archaeologist Jose Huchim confirmed that the sun shone through the slit-like openings when the setting sun touches the horizon at the winter solstice.
The sun’s rays also formed a diagonal pattern at the equinox in the slit-like openings, which are about tall enough to stand up in.
Refinery problems keep gas prices surging in California
LOS ANGELES (AP) — California gas prices continued surging yesterday, adding another 17 cents per gallon on average, and the increases are expected to continue for at least several more days, ensuring long lines and short tempers at pumps around the state.
A week of soaring costs has led some stations to close and others to charge record prices — in some places $5 or more — as California leapfrogged Hawaii as the state with the most expensive fuel. The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded across California was nearly $4.49 on Friday, 32 cents more than a week ago and the highest statewide average in the nation, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge report.
The national average is about $3.79 a gallon, the highest ever for this time of year. However, gas prices in many other states have started decreasing, which is typical for October.
Rebecca Olson, 43, of Irvine, drove to a Costco in Tustin hoping to find lower prices than the $4.65 in her neighborhood, but the pumps were closed.
The part-time preschool teacher said her husband already spends $500 a month on gas, in part because he commutes nearly 100 miles a day to a new sales job after being unemployed for a year.
Cardinals send Braves’ Jones into retirement with disputed 6-3 win in playoff game
ATLANTA (AP) — The St. Louis Cardinals won baseball’s first wild-card playoff, taking advantage of a disputed infield fly call that led to a protest and fans littering the field with debris to beat the Atlanta Braves 6-3 Friday.
Matt Holliday homered and the defending World Series champion Cardinals benefited from three Braves errors. St. Louis advanced to play Washington in the division series starting Sunday.
Chipper Jones played his final game for the Braves, and made a crucial throwing error in the fourth inning that led to three runs.
But the first game in the majors’ new postseason round — and one-and-done matchup — will be remembered forever for a wild play in the eighth on a shallow fly to left field.