Two killed, 30 others hurt in security building blast

An explosion struck near a Syrian government security building in the northern city of Aleppo on Sunday, while a harsh security crackdown prevented opposition rallies from marking one year since the first nationwide protests of the uprising against President Bashar Assad.

The Syrian state news agency said one policeman and one female civilian were killed, while 30 were injured. It was the second attack in two days on regime strongholds. Three suicide bombings in the capital Damascus on Saturday killed 27 people.

Large-scale bombings near government security buildings in Damascus and Aleppo have added a mysterious element to the anti-government revolt. After other similar attacks, U.S. officials suggested al-Qaida militants may be joining the fray.

Al-Qaida’s supporters are largely Sunni Muslim extremists. Syria’s military and political leadership is stacked heavily with members of the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

SANAA, Yemen

Government says 2,000 killed in year of turmoil

More than 2,000 people have been killed in a year of political turmoil that led to the resignation of Yemen’s longtime president, the government disclosed Sunday. The figure is much higher than human rights groups estimated.

The government released its first casualty figures on a day when crowds of protesters were marking one year since a particularly bloody day, when dozens were killed.

Yemen’s Ministry of Human Rights said the figure of at least 2,000 includes both unarmed protesters and military defectors, as well as more than 120 children. It said 22,000 people were wounded over the past year.

The London-based human rights group Amnesty International estimated earlier this year that 200 protesters had been killed in the uprising.

The government of Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down as president last month, never released casualty figures.


Authorities search for pilot after hot air balloon crash

Authorities are searching for a hot air balloon pilot from North Carolina whose balloon crashed during a thunderstorm in the South Georgia woods.

Ben Hill County Sheriff Bobby McLemore said 63-year-old Edward Ristaino of Cornelius, N.C., was taking six skydivers into the air Friday during a festival in Fitzgerald, Ga., when the storm hit. The sheriff said strong winds forced the balloon up to about 18,000 feet before it plummeted to the ground.

Authorities have not found the balloon. Ristaino had brief radio contact with authorities but has not been heard from since.

The skydivers, who Ristaino told to jump from the balloon before it crashed, were not injured. Erin Daly, whose brother was one of the skydivers, called Ristaino a hero who saved six lives.


Alternate juror disagrees with Rutgers guilty verdict

An alternate juror in the trial of a former Rutgers University student convicted in a webcam spying episode that ended in his gay roommate’s suicide said he disagrees with the verdict.

James Downey told The Record newspaper on Saturday that he wouldn’t have voted to convict Dharun Ravi on any charges related to allegations that his actions were motivated by anti-gay bias.

Prosecutors said Ravi set up his webcam in his dorm room and watched Tyler Clementi kissing another man on Sept. 19, 2010, then tweeted about it.

Downey heard all the testimony but did not participate in deliberations. The jury was unanimous in finding Ravi guilty of all 15 charges on Friday, including invasion of privacy and anti-gay intimidation.

“Whatever (Ravi) did was stupid, but I don’t think he ever had any intention of intimidating (Clementi),” Downey said.

– From news service reports