20 killed in Afghanistan wedding party
AYBAK, Afghanistan, July 14 (UPI) -- A suicide bomber struck a wedding party in northern Afghanistan Saturday morning, killing about 20 people, including a well-known politician, officials said.
Ahmad Khan Samangani, an ethnic Uzbek member of Parliament, was attending a wedding party for his daughter in Samangan's provincial capital, Aybak, when the blast occurred, the BBC reported.
The attacker had posed as a guest and embraced Samangani, then detonated his explosives, a witness said.
Samangani was a commander in the mujahedin militia during Afghanistan's civil war in the 1980s.
The BBC said he was a supporter of President Hamid Karzai and a rival of Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, a civil war commander in the north and a prominent Uzbek politician.
Samangani became a member of parliament last year.
A statement from Afghan President Hamid Karzai's office blamed "enemies of Afghanistan" for the attack, and Karzai has appointed a team to investigate.
A Taliban spokesman denied the Islamist group was involved in the attack.
Meanwhile, authorities said gunmen killed the security chief for the 15th district in Kandahar city in the southern province of Kandahar Saturday.
Authorities said Misteri Rahmatullah was on his way to work when he was shot about 9 a.m., Khaama Press reported.
Afghan security forces were searching for the gunmen, provincial governor spokesman Javid Faisal said.
On Friday, Kandhar provincial police chief Gen. Abdul Razaq said, militants killed three Afghan civilians in the Shahwali-Kot district for supporting the Afghan government.
Razaq said security forces had killed three Taliban militants Friday in the Shahwali-Kot district.
Obama: Don't hold economy 'hostage'
WASHINGTON, July 14 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said Saturday Congress should enact compromise tax cut legislation and not hold "our entire economy hostage."
In his weekly radio and Internet address, the president called on the House and Senate to take action now on his proposal to extend current tax rates on the first $250,000 of all annual incomes -- while allowing rates on any income over that amount to revert to where they were before temporary tax cuts were enacted during the administration of former President George W. Bush.
"Under my plan, 97 percent of small business owners would avoid getting hit with any income tax hike whatsoever," he said. "In fact, I've cut taxes for small businesses 18 times since I've been President. And just this week, I ordered a series of new steps to help our small businesses grow and hire.
"The only place we disagree is whether we keep giving tax cuts to the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans," Obama said. "Republicans in Washington want more of those tax cuts. With the deficit we have, I don't think we can afford them."
The president told listeners Republicans in Congress and presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney argue "the best way to create prosperity is to let it trickle down from the top. They believe that if we spend trillions more on tax cuts for the wealthy, it'll somehow create jobs -- even if we have to pay for it by gutting education and training and by raising middle-class taxes."
However he said "we already tried it that way for most of the last decade, and it didn't work."
"But even if we disagree on the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, we all agree that no American should pay more taxes on the first $250,000 of their income," Obama said. "So let's at least agree to do what we all agree on. That's what compromise is all about. Let's not hold the vast majority of Americans and our entire economy hostage while we debate the merits of another tax cut for the wealthy. Let's skip the unnecessary drama, the needless delays and all the partisan posturing and let's just do the right thing for the people who sent us here to serve."
Portman faults Obama on unemployment
WASHINGTON, July 14 (UPI) -- Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, criticized U.S. President Barack Obama Saturday for "more spending, more regulation and more taxes."
"This week, 13 million Americans won't go to work, not because they're on vacation, but because they can't find jobs. As a candidate, Barack Obama promised to help these Americans find work," Portman said in the weekly Republican media address.
"We gave him the ability to turn things around. And three years later, the results are in: Unemployment is over 8 percent for the longest period since the Great Depression. And it's actually higher than that because so many Americans are so discouraged, they've stopped looking for work."
Portman, who is considered a possible running mate for Mitt Romney, said Obama has not made creating jobs a priority and instead focused on healthcare reform and, early in his administration, the stimulus package.
"Instead of focusing on growing jobs and reigniting our economy, President Obama focused on growing government and tried to remake the United States into the image of the debt-laden countries of Europe," Portman said.
At least 22 killed in Syria violence
DAMASCUS, Syria, July 14 (UPI) -- At least 22 people were killed in violence in Syria Saturday, and government forces fired from low-flying helicopters to attack from the sky, activists said.
The latest violence came as U.N. observers prepared to enter the Hama-area town of Tremseh as they investigate Thursday's mass killings of as many as 200 people, CNN reported.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a car bombing targeted a state security building in Muhrada Saturday and "a number of state security personnel were killed and wounded."
Khirbet Ghazaleh in the Daraa province was surrounded by Syrian army tanks and came under heavy shelling and machine gun fire, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria said.
Syrian state-run TV reported at least three civilians and a security officer were killed by a suicide bomber in a truck in Muhrada.
In Tremseh, U.N. observers confirmed government forces had used tanks, artillery and helicopters during Thursday's attack, violating a commitment Syria gave to Kofi Annan, the U.N.-Arab League special envoy, the BBC reported.
Annan said he was "shocked and appalled" by the killings, while U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the attack caused "serious doubt" about Syrian President Bashar Assad's commitment to the peace plan.
The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency blamed "armed terrorist groups" for the Tremseh violence and said residents called security forces after terrorist groups raided the area, CNN reported.
On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement she was "deeply saddened and outraged to learn of reports of yet another massacre committed by the Syrian regime that has claimed the lives of over 200 men, women and children in the village of Tremseh."
"Credible reports indicate that this unconscionable act was carried out by artillery, tanks, and helicopters -- indisputable evidence that the regime deliberately murdered innocent civilians," Clinton said. "Syria cannot be peaceful, stable, or democratic until Assad goes and a political transition begins. We call for an immediate ceasefire in and around Hama to allow the U.N. observer mission to enter Traymseh. Those who committed these atrocities will be identified and held accountable."
Woman allegedly lured to sex assault
TORONTO, July 14 (UPI) -- A University of Toronto student was charged Friday with using an elaborate ruse to lure a woman to a university building and then sexually assaulting her.
Muhammad Umair Jafar, 21, of Brampton, Ontario -- who appeared in court Friday -- was also charged with choking the woman to overcome her resistance and disguising with criminal intent, the Toronto Star reported.
The 19-year-old woman told investigators she believed an information session was being held in a room in the building Thursday afternoon, but it was empty when she arrived. She said a man wearing a medical mask came out of a bathroom, offered to help her and then asked her to help him with a repair he was working on.
When she was in the bathroom, she said, she was knocked down and attacked. She eventually managed to escape.
Police said they believe Jafar concocted the story about the meeting to get the woman to the building. They were trying to determine whether other women have had similar experiences.
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