US drops idea of keeping US troops in Iraq past year-end deadline
BAGHDAD (AP) - The U.S. is abandoning plans to keep U.S. troops in Iraq past a year-end withdrawal deadline, The Associated Press has learned. The decision to pull out fully by January will effectively end more than eight years of U.S. involvement in the Iraq war, despite ongoing concerns about its security forces and the potential for instability.
The decision ends months of hand-wringing by U.S. officials over whether to stick to a Dec. 31 withdrawal deadline that was set in 2008 or negotiate a new security agreement to ensure that gains made and more than 4,400 American military lives lost since March 2003 do not go to waste.
In recent months, Washington has been discussing with Iraqi leaders the possibility of several thousand American troops remaining to continue training Iraqi security forces. A Pentagon spokesman said Saturday that no final decision has been reached about the U.S. training relationship with the Iraqi government.
But a senior Obama administration official in Washington confirmed Saturday that all American troops will leave Iraq except for about 160 active-duty soldiers attached to the U.S. Embassy.
A senior U.S. military official confirmed the departure and said the withdrawal could allow future but limited U.S. military training missions in Iraq if requested.
Poor decisions, bad luck and soured relationships shadowed California salon shooting suspect
SEAL BEACH, Calif. (AP) - The bitter father charged with gunning down his ex-wife and eight others at a beauty salon should have had an idyllic Southern California childhood: He spent his formative years just blocks from the beach with his beloved grandparents, fished from the pier with friends and surfed along the wide, sandy beaches of his hometown.
But poor decisions, bad luck and soured relationships shadowed Scott Dekraai over the years as he transformed into an angry adult whose life spiraled ever more out of control until, police say, a bitter custody battle over his 8-year-old son triggered his spasm of violence Wednesday.
For years, family members and friends watched Dekraai struggle with rage and mental health problems.
"He was the cutest little kid you'd ever want to see and if you look at his high school pictures, he was a handsome young man," said Max Hinmon, his step-uncle. "But now he's a very emotionless person. He can be very charming and he'll smile at you and you'll think he's the nicest person in the world. But he's got an extreme dark side to him. He'll fly off the handle at any little thing."
Dekraai, 41, showed no emotion Friday at his first court appearance hours after prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty. He postponed entering pleas on eight counts of murder and one count of attempted murder in the rampage at Salon Meritage.
Syrian security forces fire on funeral march, assassinate activist as they push crackdown
BEIRUT (AP) - Syrian security forces trying to suppress the resilient anti-government uprising killed five people Saturday, including one person who was attending a funeral procession for a teenager shot dead in protests a day earlier, activists said.
Another of the dead was an activist for the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights who was assassinated while in hiding in a besieged eastern city, the group said.
The uprising against President Bashar Assad's regime began in mid-March amid the wave of anti-government protests in the Arab world that have toppled autocrats in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Assad retaliated with a military crackdown that, according to the U.N., has killed more than 3,000 people.
The funeral targeted Saturday was for 14-year-old Ibrahim al-Shayban, one of 11 people shot dead by Syrian troops on Friday. His funeral was held in the Damascus suburb of Midan. The shooting killed one person and wounded five, said the London-based Observatory and another opposition group, the Local Coordination Committees.
An amateur video posted online showed scores of mourners at the funeral chanting, "Oh Syrian, raise your hand, we don't want Bashar." Others carried a banner that read "We will not let you down, Ibrahim. We will keep the pledge and punish those who killed you."
Campaign reports disclose fundraising among GOP candidates ahead of 1st primaries
WASHINGTON (AP) - With just over a year left in the race for the White House, campaign finance reports released Saturday offered the first detailed look at the haves and the have-nots among the Republican presidential candidates.
Two of the top Republican contenders, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, brought in more than $14 million and $17 million respectively. Meanwhile, candidates like former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and businessman Herman Cain raised significantly less.
The financial reports show how flush some GOP candidates are with cash - and how nearly broke others are - heading into the final weeks before contests in key primary states. Reports on two of the biggest money-raisers so far - Romney and President Barack Obama - reveal millions in contributions from party devotees and small donors alike.
Reports filed late Friday offered a mixed financial picture of the field, with Obama raising more than $70 million between his campaign and the Democratic Party. At the same time, GOP candidates raised a combined $52.6 million, more than the $42 million Obama brought in through his campaign alone.
Other candidates are saddled with debt, such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann.