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Jan. 20, 2013 at 9:58 PM   |   0 comments

Hostage crisis death toll reaches 81

IN AMENAS, Algeria, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- The discovery of 25 charred corpses raised the death toll in the Algerian natural gas plant attack to 81, security officials said Sunday.

The security officials told Algerian media it wasn't clear whether the newly found bodies were those of hostages or of militants who stormed the facility last week, The Washington Post reported.

The death toll also includes a Romanian hostage who died of his injuries after escaping, the newspaper said.

Algerian officials Saturday confirmed the deaths of 23 other hostages and 32 militants.

An audiotape aired Sunday, a day after the four-day hostage crisis came to a bloody end suggests terrorists planned to bomb the gas plant, Algerian media said.

Algeria's Ennahar TV said the audiotape is of the al-Qaida-linked terrorist group at the In Amenas BP gas facility in the Sahara saying they would destroy the facility and "slaughter" U.S. hostages unless 100 imprisoned "comrades" were released, ABC News reported.

The recordings were made before the hostage crisis ended in a raid Saturday in which almost all the terrorists were killed, ABC News said.


Obama sworn into second term as president

WASHINGTON, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama was sworn in for his second term Sunday by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts with his younger daughter noting he "didn't mess up."

The private ceremony was held in the Blue Room of the White House with several of the Obamas' closest relatives on hand and Roberts' wife Jane among the witnesses for the official swearing-in. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will take their public oaths Monday in front of the Capitol before a crowd on the National Mall in Washington.

Unlike the president's 2009 inaugural oath, Obama spoke clearly and without stumbling over the words.

First lady Michelle Obama, and daughters Sasha and Malia stood by Obama's side during the oath.

At the conclusion, Roberts said, "Congratulations, Mr. President."

Obama said "Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice. Thank you so much."

The president then embraced his family, telling Michelle, "Thank you, sweetie" after she congratulated him. Malia appeared to tell her father, "I'm so happy, yay" and Sasha told him "Good job, Dad." And when he replied, "I did it," she responded, "You didn't mess up."

Obama then thanked everyone and exited the room with his family.


Schumer backs GOP debt ceiling concepts

WASHINGTON, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- A Democratic U.S. senator said he supported the concept behind a Republican proposal that would require Congress to pass a budget on time.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on NBC's "Meet the Press" the proposal made by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would be constructive because it would allow the president to respond more quickly to debt-ceiling limits.

"I support the concept," Schumer said. "I'd have to look at the bill."

Schumer said the political climate in Washington had evolved to the point Congress might be able to agree on legislation for a short-term fix to the debt ceiling that would open the door to a long-term solution.

"I think it should be longer because we don't want to play fiscal cliff every three months, but it's a positive step," Schumer said.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said the idea that the United States would make a statement it would never default on its debts was a positive step that the Republicans had sought for two years.


Afghan prisons accused of torture

KABUL, Afghanistan, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- Afghan prisons continue to defy a United Nations call to end the torture of detainees. a U.N. report said.

More than half of the 635 conflict-related detainees U.N. investigators interviewed said they had been tortured or treated badly, said the 139-page report, "Treatment of Conflict-Related Detainees in Afghan Custody: One Year On," by the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

The claims are exaggerated, the Afghan government said Sunday.

The report covered the year-long period of October 2011 and October 2012, and identified 14 methods of torture and ill-treatment electric shock, beatings, sexual abuse and threats of execution.

The report concentrated on detainees in facilities run by intelligence services and national and local police.

Incidents in police custody generally had gone up from 35% to 43% compared with the previous 12 month period, the report showed.

"UNAMA found a persistent lack of accountability for perpetrators of torture with few investigations and no prosecutions for those responsible," UNAMA Director of Human Rights Georgette Gagnon said.

"Without deterrents and disincentives to use torture, including a robust, independent, investigation process, criminal prosecutions and courts' consistent refusal to accept confessions gained through torture, Afghan officials have no incentive to stop torture."

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