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Sept. 27, 2011 at 7:59 AM   |   Comments

Group reports Syrian troops storm 2 cities

DAMASCUS, Syria, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- Security forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad stormed the cities of Aleppo and al-Rastan, an activist group said Tuesday.

The Local Coordination Committees of Syria said security and government forces entered the Tal Refaat neighborhood of Aleppo, the country's economic center, CNN reported.

The rights group said al-Rastan was hit Tuesday by army personnel armed with "heavy machine guns mounted on tanks," injuring 20 people, seven seriously.

Since March, demonstrators have demanded democratic reforms and Assad's ouster. Some human rights groups said nearly 3,000 people have died in the government crackdown, but the figures can't be independently verified because Syria has restricted foreign journalists' access to many parts of the country.

The Syrian government said it wants to initiate reforms, but has been protecting citizens from terror groups and thugs.

At the United Nations, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem blamed "foreign incitement" for the country's ills, fueled by U.S. and European sanctions.


Blast kills, wounds several

KABUL, Afghanistan, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- At least two people died and 25 others including 15 policemen were injured Tuesday in a suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan's Helmand province, police said.

CNN reported the attacker set off his explosive-packed vehicle outside a police station in Lashkar Gah, capital of the southern province.

The BBC reported at least five people died in the blast which occurred at a bakery near the area's police headquarters.

The report quoted witnesses as saying police were buying bread when the blast hit. The report said those killed included two civilians.

Lashkar Gah was one of seven places whose security had been transferred to Afghan forces by U.S. and NATO forces under their troop withdrawal program, set to be completed by 2014.


Report: No action against Haqqanis planned

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- Pakistani army generals plan no immediate targeting of the violent Haqqani network despite U.S. pressure, military officials told CNN.

The Haqqani network, which U.S. officials say has safe haven in Pakistan, has been blamed for the recent high-profile attacks in neighboring Afghanistan including the Sept. 13 attack on the U.S. Embassy and NATO facilities in Kabul. The U.S. pressure on Pakistan to go after the Haqqanis has intensified, further straining bilateral relations.

The Pakistani generals' decision was taken at a weekend meeting called by army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, said the two military officials who spoke to CNN.

The generals felt the Pakistani army is already stretched too thin fighting militants in northwest Pakistan, they said.

"We are not in a position to undertake an operation at this point," one of them was quoted as saying.

The generals' meeting was called after Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Senate committee that Pakistan's top intelligence agency was supporting the Haqqani network and its attacks against U.S. targets in Afghanistan, including the Sept. 13 Embassy attack, the report said.


Typhoon death toll rises in Philippines

MANILA, Philippines, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- Northern Philippines and capital Manila Tuesday took the brunt of Typhoon Nesat's fury as the 403-mile wide storm killed several people and caused much damage.

Manila and surrounding areas were paralyzed as the storm, locally called Pedring, brought torrential rains and high winds after making landfall Tuesday morning on the country's main and most densely populated Luzon Island.

At least eight people were reported killed on the Island, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported, quoting authorities.

Four of those killed were in metropolitan Manila where heavy rains and flooding were reported. The other deaths were reported in central Luzon, Catanduanes and Camarines Sur, the report said.

The four killed in the Manila area were a woman and her three grandchildren in Valenzuela City in a wall collapses on their home, the Philippine Star reported.

A 36-year-old man died after being struck by a falling tree and a 9-year-old died in a house collapse, Inquirer reported.

On Monday night, a baby boy died after falling into a swollen river in east Luzon.

In Manila, authorities closed the Philippine Stock Exchange, the BBC reported. The storm also forced the closure of the U.S. Embassy.


Obama: Jobs bill would help economy now

DENVER, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama's $447 billion jobs bill would help improve the U.S. economy "right away," he said as he was to tout the program at a poor Denver school.

"That's going to make a difference right away," Obama told BET network in an interview broadcast Monday night.

"It's estimated that that would grow the economy by an extra 2 percent, put 1.9 million people back to work," he said. "Those aren't our estimates. Those are independent estimates. So that could make a difference."

He said if Congress doesn't do enough to help the economy, "then we'll get a new Congress."

But he bristled when asked about criticism he failed to address black poverty and unemployment.

Newscaster Emmett Miller spoke of a hypothetical young African-American in Chicago's South Side, whose father was gone and whose mother worked 10 hours a day for "peanuts."

There are no jobs and, "You won't even say, 'Look, I am going to help you,'" Miller said.

"Emmett, that is not -- first of all, that is not what people are saying," Obama said. "What people are saying all across the country is we are hurting and we've been hurting for a long time. And the question is how can we make sure the economy is working for every single person."

Obama planned to fly to Denver Tuesday to appear at a high school in one of the city's poorest communities to promote the jobs plan.

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