Turkish official: US Embassy bomber had previous terror conviction, took part in hunger strike
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- The suicide bomber who struck the U.S. Embassy in Ankara spent several years in prison on terrorism charges but was released on probation after being diagnosed with a hunger strike-related brain disorder, officials said Saturday.
The bomber, identified as 40-year-old leftist militant Ecevit Sanli, killed himself and a Turkish security guard on Friday, in what U.S. officials said was a terrorist attack. Sanli was armed with enough TNT to blow up a two-story building and also detonated a hand grenade, officials said.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that police believe the bomber was connected his nation's outlawed leftist militant group Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front, or DHKP-C. And on Saturday DHKP-C claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement posted on a website linked to the group. It said Sanli carried out the act of "self-sacrifice" on behalf of the group.
The group called itself "immortal" and said, "Down with imperialism and the collaborating oligarchy." But it gave no reason for attacking the U.S. Embassy. The authenticity of the website was confirmed by a government terrorism expert who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with rules that bar government employees from speaking to reporters without prior authorization.
Turkey's private NTV television, meanwhile, said police detained three people on Saturday who may be connected to the U.S. Embassy attack during operations in Ankara and Istanbul. Two of the suspects were being questioned by police in Ankara, while the third was taken into custody in Istanbul and was being brought to Ankara.
Amid gun-control debate, White House releases photo of Obama shooting clay targets
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Two days before President Barack Obama's first trip outside Washington to promote his gun-control proposals, the White House tried Saturday to settle a brewing mystery by releasing a photo to back his claim to be a skeet shooter.
Obama had set inquiring minds spinning when, in an interview with The New Republic magazine, he answered "yes" when asked if he had ever fired a gun. The admission came as a surprise to many.
"Yes, in fact, up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time," Obama said in the interview released last weekend, referring to the official presidential retreat in rural Maryland, which he last visited in October while campaigning for re-election. Asked whether the entire family participates, the president said: "Not the girls, but oftentimes guests of mine go up there."
Obama never mentioned skeet shooting prior to that interview.
The White House photo released Saturday is dated Aug. 4, 2012. The caption says Obama is shooting clay targets on the range at Camp David. Obama is seen holding a gun against his left shoulder, his left index finger on the trigger and smoke coming from the barrel. He is wearing jeans, a dark blue, short-sleeved polo shirt, sunglasses and earmuffs.
AP PHOTOS: A look at US presidents holding guns
The White House has released a photo of President Barack Obama firing a gun, two days before he is set to travel to Minnesota to discuss gun control. It shows Obama shooting at clay targets on the range at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, where he says he engages in the sport "all the time."
The image was released at a time when Obama is pushing a package of gun-control measures in response to the Newtown, Conn., school shooting. But the image of a U.S. president holding a gun is certainly nothing new. A number of men who have held the highest office in America have been pictured holding guns, from Theodore Roosevelt to George W. Bush.
Here is a gallery of images showing some of the presidents who have taken up a gun, while in or out of office:
Texans end J.J. Watt swats competition to win top defensive player honors
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Houston end J.J. Watt has won The Associated Press 2012 NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, missing a perfect ballot by one vote.
The NFL's sacks leader with 20 1-2 and a pass-blocking fiend, Watt earned 49 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league. Denver linebacker Von Miller received the other vote.
Watt, a versatile second-year player with a tremendous burst off the line, also forced four fumbles and recovered two in helping the Texans to their second straight AFC South title. With his long wingspan, he blocked a stunning 16 passes.
Watt is the first Texans player to win the award. Last year, Miller ran away with the top defensive rookie award while Watt was not in contention.
He accepted his award Saturday night at the "2nd Annual NFL Honors" awards show on CBS saluting the NFL's best players, performances and plays from the 2012 season.
Griffin III wins top offensive rookie, Arians Coach of Year, Kuechly best defensive rookie
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Washington's Robert Griffin III beat out fellow quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson to win The Associated Press 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
From a brilliant rookie class, RG3 was a strong winner Saturday night in voting by a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league.
Griffin, who underwent knee surgery last month, says, "It's truly a blessing to be up there -- to be able to stand, first and foremost."
Bruce Arians became the first interim coach to win NFL Coach of the Year honors. Arians, now the head coach in Arizona, replaced Chuck Pagano in September when the Colts' coach was diagnosed with leukemia. Arians went 9-3 before Pagano returned, and Indianapolis made the playoffs at 10-6.
Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly, the league's leader in tackles with 164, won the top defensive rookie award.
Bruce Arians becomes first interim coach to win top honors
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Bruce Arians has become the first interim coach to win the top NFL award from The Associated Press, taking the 2012 Coach of the Year honors for his work with the Indianapolis Colts.
Arians now is head coach in Arizona.
Arians took charge of the Colts in late September after head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia. The Colts, 2-14 the previous season, went 9-3 under Arians and made the playoffs.
Pagano coached the final game of the regular season and a wild-card playoff match.
Arians earned 36 1-2 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the NFL. Pagano finished second with 5 1-2, while Pete Carroll of Seattle received five and Leslie Frazier of Minnesota got three.
Tackling machine LB Kuechly wins top defensive rookie honors
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Linebacker Luke Kuechly, Carolina's tackling machine, has won the Associated Press 2012 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
Kuechly, a first-round pick from Boston College, led the league with 164 tackles. He began the season on the outside but moved to middle linebacker five games into the season and the Panthers went from 24th in the league in overall defense to 10th.
He earned 28 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league. That easily outdistanced Seattle LB Bobby Wagner with 11.
Green Bay cornerback Casey Hayward got six votes, while St. Louis CB Janoris Jenkins got three. Tampa Bay LB Lavonte David got the other two votes.
He is the second Panther to win the award; DE Julius Peppers got it in 2002.
Robert Griffin III beats out Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson for top offensive rookie award
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins has won The Associated Press 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award, beating out two other sensational first-year quarterbacks.
Griffin, whose thrill-a-minute combination of running and passing skills led Washington to its first NFC East title in 13 years, pulled away from Andrew Luck of the Colts and Russell Wilson of the Seahawks in a lopsided vote announced Saturday.
RG3 earned 29 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league. Luck was next with 11 and Wilson got 10.
All three led their teams to the playoffs.
Griffin, who severely injured his right knee in a wild-card round loss to the Seahawks, set the NFL record for best passer rating by a rookie QB.
Class of 2013: Bill Parcells, Warren Sapp, Cris Carter among 7 picks to Football Hall of Fame
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Bill Parcells was a winner everywhere he coached. Time and time again, he took over struggling franchises and showed them what it takes to be a success, including a pair of Super Bowl titles with the New York Giants.
Parcells pulled off another victory Saturday -- election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Getting in on his fourth try, Parcells led an induction class that also included mouthy defensive lineman Warren Sapp, prolific receiver Cris Carter and a pair of stalwarts from the trenches, offensive linemen Jonathan Ogden and Larry Allen.
The class of 2013 also included a pair of senior selections, Curley Culp and Dave Robinson. The announcement was made in New Orleans, site of Sunday's Super Bowl.
Almost as noteworthy were the finalists who didn't get in, including running back Jerome Bettis and owners Art Modell and Edward DeBartolo Jr. Players and coaches from the Baltimore Ravens, who will face the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl, spent all week lobbying for Modell, their former owner who died last year, to claim a place in the hall.
Report: Missing NYC woman found dead in Turkey; 9 arrested in the case
ISTANBUL (AP) -- A New York City woman who went missing while vacationing alone in Istanbul was found dead on Saturday, and police detained nine people for questioning in connection with the case, Turkey's state-run news agency said.
Sarai Sierra, a 33-year-old mother of two, was last heard from on Jan. 21, the day she was to fly home. Her disappearance attracted a lot of interest in Turkey, where the disappearance of tourists is rare, and Istanbul police had set up a special unit to find her.
The state-run Anadolu Agency said the body of a woman was discovered Saturday evening near the remnants of ancient city walls and that police later identified it as Sierra's.
The agency did not say what caused her death. But the private NTV television reported that she was stabbed to death, while a private news agency, Dogan, said she had a head wound, suggesting she may have been hit with an object.
Police reached by The Associated Press refused to comment on the case.