- Associated Press - Thursday, January 23, 2014

Bombings rock Egyptian capital, killing 5 people and raising fears of spreading militancy

CAIRO (AP) - Three bombings hit high-profile areas around Cairo on Friday, including a suicide car bomber who struck the city’s police headquarters, killing five people in the first major attack on the Egyptian capital as insurgents step up a campaign of violence following the ouster of the Islamist president.

Nobody claimed responsibility for the attacks, but they bore the hallmarks of Islamic extremists who have increasingly targeted police and the military since the July 3 coup against Mohammed Morsi and a fierce crackdown on his supporters led by the Muslim Brotherhood.

The explosions struck as the country was on high alert ahead of the third anniversary of the Jan. 25 start of the 2011 uprising that toppled autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak. Morsi’s supporters had vowed to use the event to gain momentum in their efforts turn to a new momentum to “break the coup.”

Friday’s violence began when a suicide bomber rammed a car into cement blocks surrounding the main Egyptian police headquarters in the heart of Cairo, killing at least four people and sending billows of black smoke into the sky. The blast also tore through nearby buildings, including the renowned Museum of Islamic Art.

Egypt’s antiquities minister, Mohammed Ibrahim, said the explosion badly damaged the facade of the 19th century museum and artifacts inside, including a rare collection of Islamic art objects dating back to 1881. He said the museum, which was recently renovated in a multimillion dollar project, will have to be “rebuilt.”

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Hagel, citing trust and safety implications of nuke ‘personnel failures,’ orders force review

WASHINGTON (AP) - It began with his brief mention last fall of “troubling lapses” in the nuclear force. Weeks later Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel turned up the heat a notch by paying a rare visit to a nuclear missile base. And on Thursday he dropped his bombshell: a demand for quick answers to what ails this most sensitive of military missions.

“Personnel failures within this force threaten to jeopardize the trust the American people have placed in us to keep our nuclear weapons safe and secure,” Hagel wrote in unusually pointed language to a dozen top officials.

Hagel ordered immediate actions to define the depth of trouble inside the nuclear force, particularly the Air Force’s intercontinental ballistic missile force, which has been rocked by disclosures about security lapses, poor discipline, weak morale and other problems that raise questions about nuclear security.

It amounted to the most significant expression of high-level Pentagon concern about the nuclear force since 2008, when then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates fired the top uniformed and civilian officials in the Air Force following a series of mistakes that included a cross-country flight by a B-52 bomber that mistakenly had been armed with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.

The U.S. is reducing the size, and seeking to limit the role, of its nuclear arsenal, but it remains a central feature of national security policy. The weapons are an enormous responsibility for the military, not just to operate them properly but also to ensure they are safe and secure. Critics question whether it is worth the cost.

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No face-to-face meeting in Syrian peace talks proves disappointment

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