Brussels police conduct more raids linked to deadly bombings
BRUSSELS (AP) — Heavily armed police swept into Brussels neighborhoods Friday in operations linked to this week’s bombings as well as a suspected new plot in France, detaining three people and shooting two of them in the leg. One man was carrying a suspicious bag while accompanied by a young girl.
As Easter weekend began, jittery Europeans faced uncertainly about how many violent extremists remain at large, and where and when they might strike again.
On Friday afternoon, two blasts and gunfire rang out in the Schaerbeek district of Belgium’s capital, where police earlier found explosives and bomb-making material in an apartment used by the suicide attackers who killed 31 people and wounded 270 in assaults on the Brussels airport and subway.
Authorities, meanwhile, confirmed one of the attackers at the airport was the bomb-maker who made explosive vests used in last year’s carnage in Paris — the most definitive link yet between the two attacks, both of which have been claimed by the Islamic State group.
On the third and final day of national mourning, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry laid a wreath at the airport for the victims of Tuesday’s bombings — a ceremony that was skipped by Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel because of the police operations.
US teen describes surviving Boston and Belgium attacks
GHENT, Belgium (AP) — An American teenager wounded in the Brussels Airport attack is lucky to be alive. And he knows it.
Mason Wells, his face covered in bandages, was in a hospital in the Belgian city of Ghent on Friday, where he told The Associated Press about surviving his second terror attack. Three years ago, the 19-year-old from Sandy, Utah, was just a block away from the pressure-cooker bomb that exploded while he was watching his mother run the Boston Marathon.
“I don’t know if I was born under a lucky star,” he said. “I was definitely fortunate to have escaped with the injuries that I’ve escaped with at the airport, being very close to the bombs.”
Wells, who is on a two-year Mormon mission to Belgium, talked to reporters via a video link from his hospital room, where he lay with a pillow propped behind his head and a light blue towel wrapped around his shoulders.
The former high school football and lacrosse player spoke from behind a mask of bandages, with only his eyes, mouth and left ear uncovered by the gauze dressings and mesh netting that held them in place.
Trump risks turning off women with Cruz attacks
OSHKOSH, Wisconsin (AP) — Donald Trump’s latest rude comments about Ted Cruz’s wife are raising new alarms among Republicans about the party front-runner’s ability to win over women, especially in a potential fall presidential match-up with Hillary Clinton.
Trump is under fire for jabs at Heidi Cruz, as the rivals engage in an increasingly bitter, personal battle for the GOP presidential nomination. Hostilities reached a new high Friday when Cruz accused Trump and “his henchmen” of stoking false rumors that he’d cheated on his wife.
“We don’t want a president who traffics in sleaze and slime,” the Texas senator told reporters in Wisconsin. “We don’t want a president who seems to have a real issue with strong women.”
Trump’s history of sexist comments, from his “Apprentice” television program to racy interviews with radio host Howard Stern, have long been seen by Republicans as a potential vulnerability, especially in a general election match-up with Clinton, who would be the country’s first female president.
The issue took off in the first GOP debate when Fox News’ Megyn Kelly asked Trump about calling women “fat pig,” ”dog” and other names. Her question sparked a continuing quarrel between Trump and the network.
US moving to increase troops in Iraq; IS leader killed
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon said Friday it was moving to increase the number of American troops in Iraq amid new strikes this week that killed the Islamic State’s finance minister and other senior leaders. Still, top U.S. defense officials say the deaths won’t “break the back” of the extremist group, which is in a fierce fight for an ancient city in Syria and claimed responsibility for bombing a soccer stadium in Iraq.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the U.S. progress in eliminating members of the IS “cabinet” was hampering its ability to conduct and inspire attacks against the West. The announcement came as the battle to retake the Syrian city of Palmyra entered its third day and Iraqi forces continued their march to recapture Mosul. A suicide bombing in a soccer stadium south of Baghdad, killing nearly 30 people, underscored the difficult fight ahead.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Pentagon reporters that recommendations on ways to increase U.S. support for Iraq’s ground fight against IS will be discussed with President Barack Obama soon.
“The secretary and I both believe that there will be an increase in U.S. forces in Iraq in coming weeks, but that decision hasn’t been made,” Dunford said. He did not say how big that increase might be.
He and Carter said accelerating the campaign against the Islamic State will include more assistance like the artillery fire and targeting help that U.S. Marines provided earlier this week to Iraqi forces advancing on Mosul. But they said American forces remain well behind the front lines.
Sanders holds second large Seattle rally before caucuses
SEATTLE (AP) — Thousands of people streamed into a Seattle sports stadium Friday to hear Bernie Sanders speak at the presidential candidate’s second large rally here in less than a week as he tries to energize voters before Washington’s Democratic caucuses.
Sanders’ brand of Democratic socialism may take some explaining in some parts of the United States, but not in Seattle, where people lined up for hours before doors opened to Safeco Field.
This city elected a socialist, Kshama Sawant, to the City Council in 2013 and was among the first to phase in a $15 hourly minimum wage, mandate sick leave for most companies and offer paid parental leave for city workers — issues that mirror Sanders’ platform.
Gurdev Singh, 58, of Seattle, said he supports the Vermont senator because “Bernie is a person who is uniting America, not dividing it.”
Singh, who owns several gas stations and a Subway restaurant, was part of a group holding a sign that said “Sikhs for Bernie” outside the stadium where the Seattle Mariners baseball team plays.
Dogs may be the best line of defense against subway attacks
NEW YORK (AP) — Even in an era of high-tech crime-fighting, the best line of defense against a Brussels-style attack on airports and subways has four legs and a tail.
Dogs, with their exquisitely sensitive noses, have been trained in recent years to pick up the scent of explosives on people moving through crowded concourses, and so far they have proved a better early warning system than anything engineers have come up with.
“They outperform both men and machines,” said James Waters, chief of the New York City Police Department’s counterterrorism unit, which just this week graduated its latest squad of dogs capable of following the vapor from explosives such as the terrorist bomb-making material of the moment, TATP.
But experts say there are not enough of these “vapor wake” dogs to go around. Only about 130 have gotten the patented training nationwide since its development about a decade ago. And only one dog is in Europe, according to the chief trainer.
For security reasons, NYPD won’t say how many of these dogs it has to cover the nation’s largest subway system, with more than 400 stations and millions of riders.
Denver student withdraws her art after police criticism
DENVER (AP) — It’s a provocative image, for sure, and Denver’s police unions complained when they saw the student’s artwork honored in the school system’s annual best-of-city show: It depicts an officer wearing a KKK hood and pointing a gun at a black child, who has his hands up while wearing a white hoodie. In the background, a version of the American flag is ripped open to reveal a Confederate banner.
The Denver school district’s communications chief, Nancy Mitchell, said the girl immediately asked to take her painting out of the award show when she shared the criticism with her.
“She’s passionate about her art, but didn’t want to make trouble,” Mitchell said.
Trouble followed nonetheless — even though authorities insisted that the girl was not pressured to remove her work — as her act of apparent self-censorship brought much more attention to the controversy.
To hear her out, Denver’s mayor, police chief and school superintendent arranged a private meeting Friday with the 10th grader and her mother and father, who were provided with a Spanish-language translator for the encounter in the principal’s office of her arts-magnet school. They emerged insisting that the teenager has not been pressured to withdraw her work, but neither have they named her, saying she did not want to speak publicly.
For first time, drone delivers package to residential area
RENO, Nev. (AP) — A drone has successfully delivered a package to a residential location in a small Nevada town in what its maker and the governor of the state said Friday was the first fully autonomous urban drone delivery in the U.S.
Flirtey CEO Matt Sweeney said the six-rotor drone flew about a half-mile along a pre-programmed delivery route on March 10 and lowered the package outside a vacant residence in an uninhabited area of Hawthorne, southeast of Reno.
The route was established using GPS. A pilot and visual observers were on standby during the flight but weren’t needed, Sweeney said.
He said the package included bottled water, food and a first-aid kit.
“Conducting the first drone delivery in an urban setting is a major achievement, taking us closer to the day that drones make regular deliveries to your front doorstep,” Sweeney said.
Rolling Stones deliver historic free concert in Cuba
HAVANA (AP) — Rock legends the Rolling Stones strutted and sang before hundreds of thousands of jubilant Cubans in Havana on Friday, delivering a historic concert in a country that once forced fans to listen to their favorite music behind closed doors.
“Hello Havana! Good evening to my Cuban people,” lead singer Mick Jagger shouted in excellent Spanish as he launched into the band’s classic “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”
Coming two days after Barack Obama finished the first trip to Cuba by a U.S. president in nearly 90 years, Friday night’s free rock concert, called the biggest in the country’s history, cemented the communist-run island’s opening to the world.
“After today I can die,” said night watchman Joaquin Ortiz. The 62-year-old said he’s been a huge rock fan since he was a teenager in the 1960s, when Cuba’s communist government frowned on U.S. and British bands and he had to hide his Beatles and Stones albums in covers borrowed from albums of appropriately revolutionary Cuban groups. “This is like my last wish, seeing the Rolling Stones.”
Small groups of people had slept overnight outside the Ciudad Deportiva, or Sports City, where a massive stage had been set up for the concert. Tens of thousands more people streamed toward the outdoor sports complex throughout the day.
The Latest: North Carolina halfway to 100 against Indiana
The Latest on the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, with games Friday night in Philadelphia and Chicago (all times Eastern):
North Carolina is more than halfway to 100.
The Tar Heels size has been impossible for Indiana to deal with and North Carolina opened up a 52-41 lead at halftime in Philadelphia.
North Carolina matched a season high for points in the first half. The Tar Heels had four turnovers in their last six possessions to give the Hoosiers some life. The lead was as much as 16.