Italian quake death toll reaches 228
L'AQUILA, Italy, April 7 (UPI) -- The death toll caused by a huge earthquake that struck L'Aquila in Italy's Abruzzo region reached 228 by Tuesday evening, officials said.
Times Online reported the latest death toll included at least one person killed when a 5.6-magnitude aftershock occurred. Smaller aftershocks throughout the day hampered rescuers' efforts to find more bodies.
Rescue personnel said the initial 6.2-magnitude earthquake Monday also injured 1,500 and left 17,000 homeless, the Italian news service ANSA reported.
While hope of finding survivors dimmed, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said efforts would continue for two more days "until it is certain that there is no one else alive," Times Online said.
About 100 people have been pulled alive from the rubble, including 98-year-old Maria D'Antuono of Tempera, near L'Aquila, who said she spent the 30 hours trapped beneath the rubble of her house crocheting.
D'Antuono drew cheers when pulled to safety, ANSA said.
The elderly woman, who was given some crackers before being taken to a hospital, asked for a comb to tidy herself up, the news agency said.
Berlusconi declared a state of emergency for the quake-affected area about 70 miles northeast of Rome.
Officials urged residents to not return home as aftershocks rumbled. Thousands of people have sought shelter in tents while others slept in cars, nearby inns or homes of relatives, CNN said.
Since the initial quake, nearly 300 aftershocks had been felt, the strongest recorded at 5.6 on the Richter scale, ANSA said.
ANSA also reported Berlusconi appeared to have changed his mind Tuesday and said Italy may accept assistance from the United States.
Fujimori convicted for role in massacres
LIMA, April 7 (UPI) -- The Peruvian Supreme Court Tuesday found former President Alberto Fujimori guilty for his role in the massacre of 25 people in 1991 and 1992.
The three-judge panel sentenced the former president to 25 years in prison, The Washington Post reported.
Fujimori, who served from 1990 to 2000, was found guilty in connection with two separate massacres carried out by military intelligence officers as part of counterinsurgency operations against Maoist Shining Path rebels, Human Rights Watch said in a release.
Fujimori was also convicted of the kidnappings of journalist Gustavo Gorriti and businessman Samuel Dyer in 1992.
Human Rights watch said the slayings were carried out by the Colina unit, a specialized squad of intelligence officers, which its says was not a rogue operation but a formal structure within the Peruvian Army whose members received orders from the highest levels of the military, which were completely under Fujimori's control.
"After years of evading justice, Fujimori is finally being held to account for some of his crimes," said Maria McFarland of Human Rights Watch.
Fujimori argued he never ordered the slayings, but the judges found he authorized the creation of the Colina unit, the Post said.
Obama, Maliki optimistic for Iraq's future
BAGHDAD, April 7 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said he was convinced that U.S.-Iraqi resolve and commitment for the future will be greater than any obstacle encountered.
"Overall, violence continues to be down," Obama said in a joint appearance with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad before heading back to the United States. "There's been movement on important political questions. But we have been reminded that there's more work to do."
Obama and Maliki spoke after the president met with U.S. Army Gen. Ray Odierno and addressed about 1,500 U.S. troops stationed near Baghdad on a surprise stop in the Iraqi capital.
Obama said he told Maliki the United States was "strongly committed to an Iraq that is sovereign and stable and self-reliant" and was committed "to a strategy that ensures an orderly, responsible transition from U.S. and coalition security forces to Iraqi security forces."
U.S. commanders know they must be "flexible but focused" on training and equipping Iraqi security forces for their eventual takeover of security duties. In February, Obama announced a drawdown schedule that called for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops by 2011.
Obama said he also indicated United States supported "political steps to be taken to resolve differences (among) various factions within Iraq" that would ensure a peaceful and prosperous future.
Maliki, through a translator, said, "We assured the president that all the progress that was made in the security area will continue so we will be able to continue our building effort, our progress in Iraq. The partnerships that were created and the agreements that were signed will be the base for the cooperation to improve our relationship."
24 indicted in San Diego for mortgage scam
SAN DIEGO, April 7 (UPI) -- An indictment unsealed in San Diego Tuesday charges 24 people with taking part in widespread mortgage fraud conspiracy.
The U.S. Justice Department said the racketeering charges involve 220 properties that had sales prices totaling more than $100 million. The alleged conspiracy ran from January 2005 to at least April 2008, authorities said.
The two dozen suspects allegedly committed wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering, the U.S. attorney's office said.
The lead defendants accused of being of running the illegal enterprise are Darnell Bell, a member of the Lincoln Park street gang who goes by the nickname D-Bell, Michael Ivy, Stanley Gentry and Billie Bishop, the federal prosecutors said.
The indictment alleges the defendants schemed to defraud mortgage lenders and to obtain money and property by false and fraudulent means. They allegedly used multiple real estate businesses, including the Ivy House Inc., the Real Estate Center of Southern California and the Real Estate Center of La Mesa, to facilitate the fraudulent purchase of real estate.