Syria amps up raids ahead of U.N. monitors
DAMASCUS, Syria, April 16 (UPI) -- Syrian forces raided the city of Hama Monday after shelling the rebel city of Homs and attacking other towns before U.N. truce monitors started their mission.
The raid of Hama's Karm Horani neighborhood amid a "random-detention campaign," along with sniper fire that killed at least two civilians, coincided with "intense and indiscriminate gunfire" Monday by regime forces stationed at military checkpoints in the Damascus suburbs, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria said in a Web posting monitored by United Press International.
The attacks, on the fifth day of a shaky cease-fire, escalated fighting that raged Sunday, with tank shells, mortar rounds and other explosive projectiles pummeling key opposition hotbeds, including war-ravaged Homs, recently under siege by the Syrian army; Idlib, previously targeted for hosting the opposition Free Syrian Army; and Daraa, where fighting was exacerbated by water-supply cutoffs by Syrian forces, opposition groups said.
"The army is shelling with mortars and tanks, and small rockets," Homs activist Waleed al-Fares told the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph by Skype.
Fares said the Homs attack was a warning to residents not to talk to the U.N. truce monitors when they arrive -- in line with similar allegations made ahead of the arrival of Arab League observers in December 2011.
Syria said through state television its actions were defensive maneuvers against "armed terrorist groups" that broke the truce.
Four probes begin in Secret Service scandal
WASHINGTON, April 16 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama said he would be angry if an alleged prostitution scandal involving U.S. Secret Service agents proved true, as four investigations began.
"If it turns out that some of the allegations that have been made in the press are confirmed, then of course I'll be angry, because my attitude with respect to the Secret Service personnel is no different than what I expect out of my delegation that's sitting here," Obama said in Cartagena, Colombia, at the end of the Summit of the Americas before flying to Washington.
"We're representing the people of the United States," he said, "and when we travel to another country, I expect us to observe the highest standards because we're not just representing ourselves, we're here on behalf of our people.
"And that means that we conduct ourselves with the utmost dignity and probity. And obviously what's been reported doesn't match up with those standards," he said.
Two congressional committees, the Secret Service itself and the U.S. Defense Department began or said they would begin investigations into allegations 11 agents and officers, including two supervisors, brought prostitutes to their hotel rooms in Cartagena last week while preparing for Obama's visit.
The U.S. military said over the weekend five military personnel may have been involved as well.
The Secret Service put the agents and officers on administrative leave and immediately replaced them with other service members, the agency said.
Father, 2 daughters among tornado victims
WOODWARD, Okla., April 16 (UPI) -- An Oklahoma father and his two young daughters were among five people killed in one of an estimated 130 U.S. tornadoes during the weekend, officials said.
The bodies of Frank Hobbie and his daughters, ages 5 and 7, were found Sunday at the Hidden Valley Mobile Home Park in Woodward, Okla., where 89 homes and 13 businesses were destroyed.
Amy Elliot of the Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office said the other two people killed, a man identified as Derrin Juul and a 10-year-old girl presumed to be his daughter, were in a car sent rolling by the tornado, CNN reported.
The network reported the twister that hit Woodward was one about 130 believed to have been created by a massive storm system that hit 10 Midwest and Plains states. At least 29 other people were injured.
It wasn't until Monday morning that the National Weather Service lifted the last tornado watches in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Iowa and Illinois.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, who declared a state of emergency in a dozen counties, said the number of casualties could have been worse.
"It's remarkable that we didn't have more loss of life in Woodward," she said Sunday.
Officials in Iowa said the town of Thurman was pounded.
"About 75 percent of the homes are damaged or destroyed," said Mike Crecelius, Fremont County's emergency management director.
Mass killer Breivik pleads not guilty
OSLO, Norway, April 16 (UPI) -- Confessed killer Anders Breivik pleaded not guilty Monday to charges he committed acts of terrorism last July in which 77 people died in the Oslo, Norway, area.
Breivik gave a right-wing salute when his handcuffs were removed and refused to stand when the judge entered the Oslo District Court hearing room, The Wall Street Journal reported.
"I admit to the actions, but not the guilt. I claim self-defense," Breivik said.
Breivik admitted killing eight people in a bombing in downtown Oslo and 69 people during a shooting spree at Utoya Island, about 224 miles northwest of Oslo.
Breivik, 33, was expected to be questioned Tuesday after opening remarks are made by the prosecution and the defense, the Journal said.
His plea was expected because Breivik previously admitted his actions, but claimed they were justified because he was waging war against multi-culturalism and what he said was a Muslim invasion of Europe.
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