CAIRO (AP) — Government troops entered central Benghazi Wednesday after nearly 10 days of fighting Islamic extremist militias, a military spokesman said, in violence that killed dozens of people and forced hundreds of families to flee.
Mohammed Hegazi says former Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who led a campaign against Islamist militias, appeared in a military parade on Gamal Abdel-Nasser Street in the heart of Benghazi. The majority of the city is now under army control, he said, although militias dispute the claim.
Pictures posted on social networking sites showed Hifter — once an army commander before joining the opposition decades ago — wearing a rain coat and standing on an army pickup truck.
Amid the fighting, a mortar round fell on a mourning tent in the al-Majouri neighborhood, killing seven people, a medical official said, adding that a total of 11 bodies arrived at the Benghazi Medical Center as a result of Wednesday's fighting. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
Hegazi says arms and ammunition are reaching the militias from the western city of Misrata. Militias from that city along with Islamist-allied factions took control of the capital in August, forcing the elected government out.
The army relied heavily on young Benghazi men who took up arms and sealed off their neighborhoods, and led the fighting against the militias in their areas.
Hegazi said that fierce clashes are still ongoing in several pockets, but that the pro-government forces hoped to claim full control of the city in 10 days.
Libya is facing its worst violence since its 2011 civil war that toppled dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The country has two parliaments, one elected and convening in eastern city of Tobruk, and another supported by the Misrata militias and allies.
BOSTON (AP) — A child-rape suspect who committed crimes across the country after snipping off his court-ordered ankle bracelet had an "ultimate goal" of returning to Massachusetts to kill his 13-year-old accuser, state police said Wednesday, hours after he was captured in New York.
Police said Gregory Lewis, 26, of Southbridge, spent six weeks on the run after cutting off the GPS monitoring device ordered by a judge following his arraignment in August on charges that included statutory rape of a child.
Lewis is suspected of committing a string of rapes, kidnappings and robberies of female escorts in North Carolina, Colorado and Oregon.
"It was almost like he had nothing to lose. It was his last hoorah, and he was going to go out and do as much damage as he possibly could," said Detective Lt. Michael Farley, commander of the State Police Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section.
Police said Lewis told multiple people he planned to return to Massachusetts.
"He had made statements that his ultimate goal was to come back and kill the victim from his original charge," Farley said.
Lewis was captured late Tuesday in the village of Fort Edward after driving into the Hudson River while fleeing from a traffic stop.
Lewis was arraigned Wednesday in New York on a fugitive charge. A hearing will be held later to determine when Lewis will be extradited to Massachusetts, said Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan. He will be assigned a lawyer at that point, or he can hire his own.
Massachusetts State Police released a timeline of Lewis' travel, based on witness statements and other evidence. The timeline shows him fleeing Massachusetts on Sept. 15, then traveling to Connecticut. On Sept. 21, he was confirmed to be in Russell Springs, Kentucky.
According to police, Lewis kidnapped, robbed and assaulted a woman he met online at a hotel Sept. 23 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Two days later, police say, he went to his stepfather's home in Southbridge, where he tied up, handcuffed and assaulted him and left with a 9mm handgun with over 200 rounds of ammunition.
From there, he traveled to Connecticut, Colorado and Kansas, police said.
Police say he raped and robbed a female escort at a motel in Kansas City, Missouri, on Oct. 4. The next day, he assaulted a female escort at a hotel in Denver, police said.
From there, he traveled to Portland, Oregon, where he assaulted a female escort, police said. Authorities say he also raped and robbed female escorts in Salt Lake City; Westminster, Colorado; and Indianapolis. His previous last spotting was Sunday in Columbus, Ohio.
On Tuesday, a New York state trooper tried to pull over a vehicle that was missing a front license plate, but the vehicle took off and soon crashed into a river.
"He actually drove to the end of a dead-end street and didn't realize it was a dead end and drove down an embankment and into the water," Fort Edward Police Chief Justin Derway told WBZ-AM.
Restaurant owner Neal Orsini said he heard the vehicle crash and ran out to help.
Lewis emerged from his sinking vehicle and brandished a gun, said Massachusetts State Police spokesman David Procopio. He was apprehended with the help of a canine unit and without shots being fired.
Procopio said the vehicle Lewis was driving roughly matches the description of the blue Jeep Grand Cherokee that had been stolen from his family. A firearm recovered from Lewis also matches the description of the gun he is accused of stealing from a family member, Procopio said.
Associated Press writer Chris Carola in Albany, New York, contributed to this report.
DENVER (AP) — A man whose disappearance during last week's Denver Broncos game touched off an extensive search by family and friends told police he had "his fill of football" and walked and hitchhiked about 130 miles to a city in southern Colorado.
Paul Kitterman, 53, was found safe Tuesday night in a parking lot in Pueblo after police got a tip that he was in the city. The construction worker looked tired and had trouble walking but a medical exam found him to be otherwise unharmed, Pueblo police Sgt. Franklyn Ortega said.
Kitterman told police that he had not watched television in several days and was not aware that people were looking for him.
"He said he had his fill of football and that he likes to walk and wander, and he was looking for a warmer place," Ortega said.
The tip on Kitterman's whereabouts came from a friend's ex-wife, who reported picking him up at the Salvation Army in Pueblo and dropping him off at a hotel, Ortega said. The sergeant didn't have other details about his connection to the woman.
He said police did not plan to file charges.
"He's a grown man. If that's what he wants to do, he can do it," Ortega said, adding that authorities put Kitterman up in a hotel until his family could pick him up.
Family and friends had been searching for Kitterman since he was last seen leaving his seat to meet friends at halftime of Thursday night's game against the San Diego Chargers at Sports Authority Field.
They filed a missing persons report with Denver police, scoured the sprawling stadium, called local hospitals and detox centers, and taped fliers around the city. Police had previously said they did not suspect foul play, and Kitterman's stepson noted that his stepfather did not have any known health or personal problems
The stepson, Jarod Tonneson, did not respond to a message left by The Associated Press. On a Facebook page set up to help find Kitterman, his family said they understood many people had questions about what happened but asked for privacy.
"We love all of you and we will never forget your kindness, compassion and your willingness to help find Paul," they said.
Kitterman and Tonneson went to the game with two of their friends after a day spent working and hunting at another friend's ranch in Kremmling, a small town in the mountains of northern Colorado.
Kitterman and Tonneson hurriedly made the 100-mile trip to the stadium after a friend offered tickets. It was Kitterman's first time there, and in his haste, he forgot his cellphone and took no credit cards and very little cash, Tonneson said.
Kitterman had four or five beers in the course of a four-hour span — not enough to become disoriented, his stepson said.
LONDON (AP) — Every day, boats full of tourists and commuters float by a pale patch on the wall that lines the River Thames near Britain's Houses of Parliament.
Few notice the concrete mark, or recognize it as evidence of how close London came to drowning during World War II. It is a piece of hidden history that has been uncovered by a team of professional and amateur archaeologists.
On Wednesday a group of engineers and civic dignitaries will unveil a plaque commemorating Thomas Peirson Frank, leader of a secret squad of engineers and laborers who worked night after night during World War II to repair flood defenses hit in German air raids.
As bombs fell and fires raged, teams marshaled by Frank used rubble, sandbags and finally concrete to mend breaches in the Thames wall that threatened the inundation of thousands of businesses and homes.
"It could have brought London to its knees very, very easily," said Gustav Milne, director of the Thames Discovery Program, a project that brings together experts and volunteers to explore the archaeology of London's river.
"Not just people drowning — we would have lost buildings, it would have flooded the sewers and brought up all the sewage, it would have contaminated the water supplies, cut off gas and electricity. There would have been widespread devastation and huge loss of life."
London burned during the war, but it never flooded, due in large measure to Frank, chief engineer for London County Council, and his crews.
But their story is little known — obscured first by wartime secrecy, then by gradual forgetting.
That began to change when Milne and his team noticed the large concrete patch, 9 meters (30 feet) across at its widest, in the 19th-century river wall. Chunks of the wall's granite parapet lie scattered along the muddy river foreshore nearby.
The researchers suspected the damage had been done by a Luftwaffe bomb, but the agency in charge of the river did not have any record of it.
Deep in the London Metropolitan Archives, the researchers found files revealing the truth that had been hidden from Londoners during the war and later forgotten — the river wall was hit 121 times between 1940 and 1945, 84 of them during the Blitz of September 1940 to May 1941.
The number of bomb strikes on the river was suppressed at the time so as not to alarm Londoners or alert Nazi Germany to the city's vulnerability.
London was fortunate to have Frank, a ferociously well-organized and industrious civil servant who had served in World War I and by the 1930s was warning of the city's vulnerability to floods.
When war broke out, Frank was put in charge of maintaining London's roads and utilities. He set up four depots along the river, staffed by engineers and road-repair crews, augmented by troops from the Royal Engineers.
Each time the river defenses were hit, Frank's teams were sent in, often while bombs were still falling and with little protective equipment.
"They were working in their own clothes ... in black toxic gunge," Milne said. "They didn't even have overalls provided, much less Wellington boots."
The workers were part of a civilian army — along with nurses, air raid wardens, volunteer firefighters, police and more — that kept the city running during the onslaught.
"It was a noncombatants' war and they were all fighting on the same side, to save London," Milne said.
Frank was knighted in 1942 for his work — though details of his job were kept under wraps — and later became president of the Institution of Civil Engineers. He died in 1951.
Clive Cockerton of the Institution of Civil Engineers said Frank "is very much an unsung hero. He was recognized, but within a very small circle because it was secret."
Milne said the pilot who dropped the bomb was likely aiming for Parliament. He probably didn't realize that a hole in the river wall could have inflicted far worse damage. The Germans seem not to have realized that "water is a weapon," he added.
"They never sussed that all they had to do was knock out the parapet and they could flood all of London."
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve plans to keep a key interest rate at a record low to support a U.S. job market that's improving but still isn't fully healthy and to help boost unusually low inflation. As expected, it's also ending a bond purchase program that was intended to keep long-term rates low.
The nation's preparedness effort to fight outbreaks of Ebola and other infectious diseases has been under-funded and lacking in political will and commitment.
"We don't really have a pharmaceutical response for Ebola," said retired Air Force Col. Randall Larsen, the former executive director of the Congressional Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction. "But could you imagine if there were 20,000 sick people in 10 cities and we did not have a pharmaceutical response? We would be completely overwhelmed."
Emergency preparedness programs ramped up significantly in the U.S. after the Sept. 11 attacks and the 2001 anthrax scare, said Dr. Gerald Parker, a former principal deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. Health and Human Services preparedness office. Those efforts included research and development of vaccines and anti-viral drugs.
"It was recognized that there would be a dual benefit from research on vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics to counter bioterror threats and emerging infectious diseases," said Parker, now a vice president at Texas A&M Health Science Center.
But a combination of budgetary constraints and politics has delayed many of those plans.
Larsen said the setbacks are partly the result of an inefficient, fragmented federal system, which leaves no single agency in charge.
Both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations had a senior position in the White House to lead response efforts to biological attacks and natural pandemics. The Obama administration eliminated the position.
President Barack Obama appointed Democratic operative Ron Klain as Ebola response coordinator on Oct. 17. But there are currently about two dozen presidentially appointed officials who have some emergency response responsibility for infectious disease outbreaks, Larsen said.
Budget cuts also have slowed progress at the local level.
Since 2002, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has given states and territories more than $10 billion to help public health care systems ramp up when faced with a major disease outbreak. The CDC program has been cut more than 30 percent since reaching $897 million in fiscal year 2007, which led to thousands of layoffs by state and local health departments, according to the National Association of County and City Health Officials.
All 50 states and several major cities receive additional annual money through HHS's Hospital Preparedness Program, which helps private hospitals develop plans to better handle surging emergency room volume. The program has handed out a total of $5 billion since 2002, but annual funding has fallen by about 50 percent since it peaked in 2003 at $515 million as Congress lost enthusiasm for funding biodefense.
Over that same period, state-level budget cuts and the congressional sequester have forced many states to eliminate emergency preparedness positions.
"I do believe we are lot more prepared than we were a decade ago, but we still have work to do," Parker said.
In the meantime, a flurry of Ebola-related work is further straining resources, even when such efforts turn out to be false alarms — or worse, based on rumor.
Members of West Virginia's Kanawha-Charleston Health Department were recently called to Yeager Airport to investigate four passengers on a plane from Atlanta — three who started their journey in Dallas, one who started out in Houston. "Someone on the plane overheard a conversation that a passenger or passengers were coming from a Dallas hospital. No one in the meeting had any idea if these people were ill," according to a summary report.
The four passengers were isolated, interviewed and subjected to a complete screening evaluation by staff equipped with gloves, respirator and protective gowns. Other staffers collected contact information from all other passengers.
It was determined that none of the four from Texas met any CDC Ebola travel criteria, and were not symptomatic. All passengers and crew were cleared to depart the airport.
The incident cost taxpayers more than $2,350 in staff time — 60 man-hours, according to records.
"That's a real drain on the system every time these things happen," said Dr. Rahul Gupta, the health department's executive director. "If you have to spend that kind of money three or four times a week, it builds up."
AP national investigative reporters Garance Burke, Jeff Donn and David B. Caruso also contributed to this story.
The AP National Investigative Team can be reached at email@example.com