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State Department issues worldwide travel alert

The U.S. Department of State issued a worldwide travel alert in response to the attack in Australia that left two hostages dead.
By Amy R. Connolly   |   Dec. 20, 2014 at 2:19 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of State issued a worldwide travel alert in response to the attack in Sydney this week, warning "terrorist groups and those inspired by them can pose unpredictable threats in public venues."

The attack on Monday that left two hostages dead should serve as a reminder that United States citizens must be extra vigilant during holiday travel abroad, the State Department said. Intelligence officials said there are no specific threats against Americans traveling abroad, but are concerned about similar attacks.

"An analysis of past attacks and threat reporting strongly suggests a focus by terrorists not only on the targeting of U.S. government facilities but also on hotels, shopping areas, places of worship, and schools, among other targets, during or coinciding with this holiday period," the State Department said.

A gunman took 17 people hostage at a Sydney cafe on Monday. Two hostages and the gunman died.

The alert will remain in place until March 19.

© 2014 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.

Theater shooter's parents plead against death penalty

The parents of the Colorado man accused in the movie-thearter shooting that left 12 dead asked for his life to be spared. They said James Holmes is mentally ill and "not a monster."
By Amy R. Connolly   |   Dec. 20, 2014 at 12:18 PM
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DENVER, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- The parents of the man accused of opening fire in a movie theater and killing 12 people begged the court to spare his life because he is mentally ill.

Robert and Arlene Holmes asked prosecutors to agree to a plea deal that would give James Holmes life in prison. They said a trial would cause "additional trauma" for everyone involved.

"We have read postings on the Internet that have likened him to a monster. He is not a monster. He is a human being gripped by a severe mental illness," the couple said in a letter to prosecutors. "We believe that the death penalty is morally wrong, especially when the condemned is mentally ill."

Holmes, 27, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity after the 2012 attack at a theater in Aurora, located outside Denver. Investigators said Holmes donned riot gear after entering the movie theater, tossed two gas canisters inside and opened fire. In addition to the 12 killed, 58 others were injured.

Jury selection is scheduled to being Jan. 20.

© 2014 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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