Syrian Protesters Continue Calls for Regime Change

AFP/Getty Images (file)(HOMS, Syria) -- Thousands of Syrian protesters reportedly launched a sit-in Monday in the third-largest city of Homs, after clashes killed over a dozen people in the past day. They came after President Bashar al-Assad's unprecedented offer of reform, saying he would open the way to political parties and lift the 50-year emergency law.

Analysts say protesters are undeterred, calling for regime change even while others in Syria fear any alternative to President Assad.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Brits Worry Irish Terrorists May Target Prince William, Kate Middleton

Indigo/Getty Images(LONDON) -- The wedding next week of Prince William and Kate Middleton presents a tempting target for a small group of resurgent Irish terrorists responsible for more than 40 significant terror attacks over the last year, senior British security officials tell ABC News.

While there is no specific threat of any organized plot against the wedding, officials say there is "concrete intelligence" that one Irish group, calling itself the Real IRA, has been trying to move its operations beyond Northern Ireland to London.

"It is fair to assume that people are worried about an attack on the mainland," said Mark Hamilton, chief superintendent of the police service in Northern Ireland.

The British officials in charge of countering domestic terrorism, MI-5, have recently increased surveillance of suspected Irish terror leaders, shifted resources from al Qaeda to the Irish groups and raised the threat level of Irish-related terrorism from moderate to substantial.

"There is a massive effort by the intelligence services and the police to track these people down," said superintendent Hamilton.

Largely unnoticed outside of the United Kingdom, splinter groups of Irish Republican militants have increasingly ignored the peace agreement reach 13 years ago this week that was meant to end IRA violence.

"I think these people would have no compunction at all about carry out an attack, if they could, on an event like the royal wedding," said Professor Martyn Frampton, a history lecturer at Queen Mary, University of London, and the author of a new report, "The return of the Militants: Violent Dissident Republicanism."

"Attacks on the mainland, particularly here in London, I think, remain the holy grail for these organizations," said Frampton in an interview broadcast Monday on ABC’s Good Morning America.

"They would say it is an opportunity to target the British establishment," Frampton added.

Security officials say there are several splinter Irish groups that continue to target police officers and other targets that symbolize their perceived enemy: British rule of Northern Ireland.

Security officials in England and Ireland tell ABC News they believe there are about 600 members of the real IRA and related splinter groups including the Continuity Irish Revolutionary Army.

The groups have demonstrated an ability to gather powerful weapons and have displayed a surprising skill in making new kinds of bombs, officials told ABC News.

Most troubling, officials say, is the use of rocket or mortar launchers capable of sending an explosive device of 40 pounds over security walls more than 300 yards in the distance.

Police have seized large quantities of high explosive and weapons in recent raids, according to police superintendent Hamilton.

"When people have that type of weaponry in communities, then the intention clearly is to cause devastation to somebody," he said.

Most recently, a 25-year-old Catholic police officer in Northern Ireland, Ronan Kerr, was killed by a booby-trap bomb hidden in his car in the village of Omagh, outside Belfast.

That device, ABC News has learned, appears to have been composed of just a few ounces of powerful plastic explosive placed in an aerosol can affixed under the officer's car.

The Irish terrorists have a long record of attempting attacks on the royal family.

Prince William's parents, Prince Charles and the late Lady Diana, were targeted by an IRA bomb in 1983, before they were married, as they attended a London concert of the Duran Duran group.

In 1979, an IRA bomb killed Lord Mountbatten, the Queen's cousin and a mentor to Prince Charles.

The resurgent groups, while smaller in number and enjoying substantially less popular support, has similar ambitions, said Professor Paul Bew, a professor of politics at Queen's University in Belfast and a recognized expert on Irish dissident violence.

"It must be the ambition to repeat some of the dramatic explosions that happened, for example, in London during the IRA campaign," Bew told ABC News.

"They are a much less potent force, but they can do it," he said. "And therefore everybody has to take on board the fact that there is something new in play here."

And Bew says because the group, in fact, has less popular support, they may feel more emboldened in their targeting.

"They would not be constrained by a view which said' that's going too far,'" said Bew. "They're more of a wild car, they're more unpredictable."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Belarus Struggles to Make Sense of April Terror Attack

VIKTOR DRACHEV/AFP/Getty Images(MINSK, Belarus) -- The crowd outside the Oktoberskaya metro station in Minsk silently studies the makeshift tribute to those slain in last week's terror attack.

Handwritten prayers, poems and photos of Jesus are tucked amongst the many floral tributes.  The photographs of 12 of the victims -- seven men and five women -- are surrounded by mounds of flowers and scores of candles; their photos resemble snapshots from high school yearbooks of varying ages.

But they are in fact obituary images from those killed in the April 11 attack that has now left 13 dead and more than 200 wounded.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, the man that has ruled the country for 17 years since the breakup of the Soviet Union, has declared the case solved.

Five men, spotted in surveillance video from the many cameras that constantly watch the city, have been recognized and caught.

They immediately professed their guilt, not only to the recent attack on Minsk's transport system but also previous attacks in 2008 that had previously been unresolved.

"There is no doubt they did it," states a man at a cafe in Minsk.  He, like others who question this authoritarian government, prefers not to be identified.

"But the question," he adds, "is who told them to do it."  He shrugs when asked how it is possible that they were caught so quickly.

Like many, he hints that the government itself could have been behind it.

"Idiots" is what President Lukashenko calls those who think the bombing was a government plot to discredit the opposition and distract Belarusians from a rapidly deteriorating economy.

Authorities are still trying to determine the motive.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Libya Fighting May Be at a Stalemate

ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images(TRIPOLI, Libya) -- Fighting between rebel forces and troops loyal to Moammar Gadhafi continued in Libya Sunday, but experts say ultimate control of the country appears to be at a stalemate, with neither side able to launch a strong enough military operation to eliminate the opposition.

Observers say the approaching heat of summer in the desert will make it harder for rebel forces to take and hold cities in Western Libya that are separated by vast distances.  However, the rebels claim they're soon going to be receiving new supplies of weapons.  It’s believed that most of the weapons, including light arms and heavier items such as anti-tank weapons, will be coming from Qatar.

In related news, The New York Times reported this weekend that the U.S. and other Western nations have been trying to find a country that would accept Gadhafi if he agreed to step down.  Others say chances the Libyan leader will make such a deal are remote, because he has already proclaimed that he will die in Libya.

Further complicating the issue: the international court in The Hague would like Gadhafi to face charges related to the violence in his country over the past few months, as well as his involvement in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


House Speaker John Boehner Travels to Iraq

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(BAGHDAD) -- Speaker of the House John Boehner led a six-member congressional delegation on a visit to Iraq over the weekend and met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who informed the U.S. representatives that Iraqi security forces are ready to take over protecting the country.

The Ohio Republican and his delegation also met with U.S. Ambassador James Jeffrey and a number of senior military leaders.  Joining Boehner on the visit were Republican Representatives Mac Thornberry of Texas, Mike Conaway of Texas, Tom Rooney of Florida, Joe Heck of Nevada and Oklahoma Democrat Dan Boren.

Boehner issued a statement on the visit, praising the military success against the insurgency and calling for continued support for the remaining 46,000 U.S. forces and their civilian counterparts to ensure they have the resources and support they need to complete their mission.

The House Speaker said his delegation’s visit to discuss the successful progress in Iraq would not have been possible “were it not for the courage and sacrifices made by our troops and diplomats, as well as their families.  We give thanks for all that they have done, and continue to do, to advance freedom abroad and strengthen our security at home.”

U.S. forces are scheduled to leave Iraq by the end of the year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Prince Harry Promoted to Captain in Air Corps

JSN Photography/WireImage(LONDON) -- Amid the frenzy of preparations for the upcoming royal wedding, the U.K.'s younger prince had a moment of glory of his own this weekend when it was announced he has been promoted to captain in the Air Corps.

According the St. James's Palace, Harry, who is third in line to the throne, will now be known as Capt. Harry Wales.  The 26-year-old was formerly a lieutenant and trainee Apache helicopter pilot.

The prince also received his Apache badge on Thursday, which marks the completion of an eight-month course that includes night flying and ground school training.

This puts him one step closer to becoming an Army Air Corps pilot, as now he is able to fly the aircraft without an instructor and has progressed to a further weapons handling course.

Harry became an army officer in April 2006, after a 44-week training course at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, southwest of London, where he was known as Officer Cadet Wales.

By the time he reached the rank of lieutenant in 2008, he had served for 10 weeks in Afghanistan as an air controller.

The prince is the first member of the British royal family to serve in a war zone since his uncle, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, flew helicopters during the Falklands War in 1982.

In addition to his new military rank, Harry's other major responsibility will be taking on best man duties at his brother Prince William's wedding to Kate Middleton in London on April 29.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


U.S. to Partner with Japan in Rebuilding Effort

Win McNamee/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Japan Sunday, where she announced plans for the U.S. to help Japan with the rebuilding effort of the country, as Japan seeks to rebound following the devastation left by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake on March 11.

Secretary Clinton met with Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto on Sunday, and following their meeting, Clinton expressed admiration for how Japanese officials have handled the crisis and reassured the Japanese people that they had the support of the U.S.

“We pledge once again our steadfast support for you and for your future recovery,” Secretary Clinton said. “We are very confident that Japan will demonstrate the resilience that we have seen during this crisis in the months ahead as you resume the very strong position that you hold in the world today."

Secretary Clinton and Minister Matsumoto announced that the effort to rebuild Japan will be a public-private partnership between the two nations. Also in Japan on Sunday, was U.S. Chamber of Commerce president Tom Donohue, who said that he and other U.S. officials intend to encourage American businesses to continue doing business in Japan.

“We will tell them that the people and businesses of Japan have acted in an extraordinary fashion to help and support each other, that Japan is open for business, and that American companies have every reason to stay fully engaged in this important economy,” said Donohue.

According to a translated statement released by the U.S. Department of State, Minister Matsumoto expressed his gratitude the U.S. and also called on other countries to join in the rebuilding effort.

“Japan will formulate its reconstruction plan,” Matsumoto said. “And, based upon the plan, the -- we would like to have cooperation from the U.S. and other countries in the world, so that we can proceed rapidly in the direction of reconstruction.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


More Injured as Yemen Protests Continue

GAMAL NOMAN/AFP/Getty Images(SANA’A, Yemen) -- Dozens of people were injured in Yemen Sunday, as protestors kept up their call for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to leave office.

A large number of demonstrators engaged in anti-government protests in Sana’a and other parts of the country Sunday, resulting in several clashes between security forces and protestors.

Dozens were reportedly injured when security forces used tear gas on some protestors, while other demonstrators were injured after security forces opened fire on one group, according to published reports.

Several people have been killed in the protests which began in January

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Cuba Marks Failed Bay of Pigs Invasion

ABC News(HAVANA) -- Hundreds of thousands of Cubans turned out for a military parade through the capital of Havana on Saturday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the failed CIA-led invasion at the Bay of Pigs.

The 1961 mission, aimed at overthrowing Fidel Castro, was unsuccessful after the Cuban leader urged his military and common citizens to fight against American-backed forces.

Many Cubans regard the day as a major victory over the United States.

Parades on Saturday showcased the socialist state's military hardware, flanked by thousands of marching young Cuban men and women who waved red handkerchiefs.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Libyan Rebels: Gadhafi's Forces Using Cluster Bombs

MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images(MISRATA, Libya) -- Rebels and forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi engaged in heavy fighting in the Libyan cities of Adjabiya, Brega and Misrata on Saturday.

In one battle in Misrata, rebels accused pro-government forces of using cluster bombs, devices banned in most countries because of their indiscriminate danger. The devices explode not with one blast, but rather several smaller explosions capable of widespread destruction.

Libyan authories deny the use of such weapons.

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