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Dec. 15, 2012 at 11:58 AM   |   0 comments

Conn. school shooting victims identified

NEWTOWN, Conn., Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Victims of the Connecticut grade school massacre have been positively identified by the state medical examiner, state police said.

State police spokesman Paul Vance said detectives likely will remain at the elementary school crime scene for the next couple of days and that investigators found "some very good evidence" that will help provide a fuller picture about the tragedy occurred Friday morning, CNN reported.

Police said the suspect, Adam Lanza, entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and killed 26 people -- 20 children and six adults -- then shot himself.

The body of Lanza's mother was found Friday in the home they shared. Investigators said they believe he shot her in the face and then went to Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Vance, during a morning news briefing Saturday, said the assailant "forced his way into the school."

Vance said investigators found valuable information at Lanza's home that they hope "will paint a complete picture of how and why."

Only one of the shooting victims survived, Vance said.

That person, who was shot in the foot, was in the hospital and would be interviewed by police Saturday, The New York Times reported.

"She will be instrumental in this investigation," Lieutenant Vance said.

The victims' bodies have been transported to the Office of the Chief State's Medical Examiner, where they will be examined to determine manner and cause of death, the Connecticut State Police said in release.

Lanza may have had access to at least five guns, a law enforcement official told CNN Saturday. Officials said previously three weapons were recovered from the school -- a semi-automatic .223 caliber rifle in a car in the school parking lot, and two pistols found by Lanza's body.

CNN reported a member of Lanza's family told investigators he had a form of autism.

Former classmates describe Lanza as a shy child and teenager.


U.N. mulls sending peacekeepers to Syria

DAMASCUS, Syria, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- The United Nations is considering sending between 4,000 and 10,000 peacekeeping troops to Syria, a diplomatic official said.

The official said ministers of countries whose service personnel make up the U.N. peacekeeping force met Friday to discuss options for Syria, RIA Novosti reported.

One problem, the diplomatic source said, is the number of peacekeepers in the U.N. force.

"The problem is that the U.N. has no extra resources. The U.N. has a contingent of about 115,000 peacekeepers in various countries, but in order to send [a peacekeeping mission] to Syria, [the United Nations] will have to withdraw them from somewhere," the official, who spoke anonymously, said.

Lakhdar Brahimi, U.N. and Arab League envoy to Syria, said in November a peacekeeping mission was needed in Syria, devastated by a civil conflict that began in March 2011 over protests against President Bashar Assad. The violence between government troops and opposition forces has killed at least 40,000 people, activist groups estimate.

Syrian opposition groups have opposed an international peacekeeping mission in Syria, saying its presence would delay Assad's ouster.

In Europe, meanwhile, leaders indicated they would discuss lifting a ban on arming Syrian opposition forces, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Britain and France have led the effort to ease an arms embargo that prevents weapons from being shipped directly to opposition forces. This week, most of the European Union members formally recognized the new opposition alliance, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

At a meeting Friday, British and French officials tried unsuccessfully to convince other countries that the arms embargo should be changed.

"We have been supplying [the Syrian opposition] with non-lethal equipment and the conversation now is what more should we do, what more can we do to help advise, work with, shape and support," British Prime Minister David Cameron said. "People will ask in future years ... what action did you take in order to help deal with this situation?"


Man, woman dead in Las Vegas shooting

LAS VEGAS, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Police said a man and woman are dead after an apparent murder-suicide shooting at the Excalibur Hotel in Las Vegas.

The incident occurred Friday night near the registration desk at the hotel, the Las Vegas Sun reported. The female victim, whose name was not reported, worked at the hotel's concierge desk as a vendor for travel website www.vegas.com. She was taken to University Medical Center with a gunshot wound, but was later pronounced dead.

Metro Police homicide Lt. Ray Steiber said the woman was the apparent target of an alleged male shooter who appeared to have died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Witnesses said they heard what sounded like gunshots as many people ran for the exits of the hotel and attached casino floor, the Sun reported.

Police said they were investigating the motive of the shooting.


Mandela undergoes gallstone operation

PRETORIA, South Africa, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Former South African President Nelson Mandela successfully underwent a gallstone operation Saturday, the government said.

The statement said the 94-year-old anti-apartheid leader was recovering, the BBC reported Saturday.

Mandela was admitted to a Pretoria hospital Dec. 8 for a lung infection. Tests revealed the presence of gallstones and Mandela's physicians decided to remove them after he recovered from the infection.


Four opposition leaders arrested in Moscow

MOSCOW, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Four opposition leaders were arrested Saturday during an unsanctioned rally in Moscow marking the anniversary of major opposition protests, police said.

Whistle-blower Alexei Navalny, leftist leader Sergei Udaltsov, liberal politician Ilya Yashin and political activist Ksenia Sobchak were arrested at an event in Lubyanka Square recognizing victims of political persecution in the Soviet Union, RIA Novosti reported.

Several sanctioned rallies were held at other cities across Russia, but the rally in Moscow was not approved by City Hall, which gave police the power to detain people at the square, officials said.

RIA Novosti said Udaltsov was detained during a speech he was giving; Yashin and Sobchak were stopped as they approached the rally, and Navalny was arrested after he gave a speech.

Police estimated about 500 people attended the rally, but several media outlets were reporting participants numbered in the thousands.

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