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At least 120 people were killed in Iraq Sunday in one of its deadliest days in weeks. Fifty people died and more than 100 were wounded in a suicide attack in the northern Kurdish town of Makmur. It was the second attack to hit Iraq’s Kurdish region in five days.
As the violence escalates, Iraq’s Interior Ministry has announced a ban on news photographers and camera crews from the scene of bombing attacks. Iraqi officials say the measure is meant to protect evidence, hide victims and deny attackers information they achieved their goals. The Iraqi government has already come under wide criticism for a series of limits on news coverage inside Iraq.
In other Iraq news, U.S. forces have launched a search for three soldiers missing following an attack that killed four other troops and an Iraqi interpreter. An al-Qaeda-linked group has claimed responsibility and says it’s holding the troops captive. It was one of the deadliest operations against U.S. forces since the three-month-old crackdown on Baghdad.
U.S. military spokesperson Major General William Caldwell: "We have an ongoing effort and policy to find our three soldiers that have a duty status of whereabouts unknown. That is continuing. We’ve got about 4,000 U.S. forces that have been directly associated now with this ongoing effort, and in addition to the forces, and probably more importantly, additional assets in terms of aerial assets and intelligence assets have been redirected and focused again on finding our missing soldiers."
And in other news from Iraq, Iraq’s Parliament has approved a measure calling for an end to the building of massive security walls around Baghdad neighborhoods. The walls have drawn protests across sectarian lines as evidence of a U.S.-backed strategy of divide and rule.
Vice President Dick Cheney has issued a new warning to Iran. Speaking aboard a U.S. aircraft carrier off the United Arab Emirates, Cheney said the U.S. military presence in the Gulf region should send a strong message.
Vice President Dick Cheney: "We’ll keep the sea lanes open. We’ll stand with our friends in opposing extremism and strategic threats. We’ll disrupt attacks on our own forces. We’ll continue bringing relief to those who suffer and delivering justice to the enemies of freedom. And we’ll stand with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating this region."
Cheney spoke just one day before the U.S. and Iran announced plans to meet in Baghdad in the next few weeks. The talks would mark the highest-level publicly acknowledged contact between the two sides in years.
In Pakistan, at least 41 people have died in clashes in the city of Karachi. The fighting was set off following the suspension of a top judge by the government of President Pervez Musharraf.
In Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair is set to be questioned in Parliament this week over his talks with President Bush about bombing the Arabic television network Al Jazeera. Two men were convicted last week for leaking a record of a conversation in which President Bush reportedly says he wants to bomb the network’s Doha headquarters.
In the Occupied Territories, the Palestinian interior minister has resigned amid a new outbreak of factional violence. Two people have been killed and 10 wounded in clashes between Fatah and Hamas members.
Meanwhile, a pregnant Palestinian woman lost her unborn baby Thursday after coming under fire from Israeli troops in Nablus. Israel says it was responding to shooting from Palestinian militants. Maham Katoumi was in her eighth month of pregnancy. This is her husband, Jihad.
Jihad Katoumi: "When the shooting started, my wife went to bring the children from the other room. As she stood up, the bullets entered her body. She was thrown from the bed to the bathroom. This is what happened."
Meanwhile, a new study from two Israeli human rights groups shows Palestinians have abandoned more than 1,000 homes and nearly 2,000 businesses in the West Bank town of Hebron. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel and B’Tselem attribute most of the flights to pressure and violence from Israeli soldiers and settlers. Most residents have fled since the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada nearly seven years ago.
The Bush administration has withdrawn one of its proposals to restrict attorney access for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The Justice Department says it will no longer seek to limit attorneys to just three visits with their clients. But it wants to keep rules that would allow just one visit for prospective lawyers, deny attorneys access to secret evidence and allow military officials to read attorney-client mail.
In Texas, voters in the Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch have approved a measure barring renting homes to most undocumented immigrants. Landlords would be forced to check if renters are U.S. citizens or visa-approved immigrants before giving them a lease. Opponents plan to challenge the measure in court.
Virginia Tech held graduation ceremonies Friday, less than a month after the mass shooting that killed 32 people. Twenty-seven of the victims were honored with posthumous degrees.
Unidentified commencement official: "Today we honor all graduate students who have earned graduate degrees. Some are here with us in person. Some will attend the commencement ceremonies in the national capital region on Sunday. Some, due to personal and professional reasons, will await for the delivery of their diploma. And some are here in spirit. They are here in spirit only, but they are represented, well represented by family, friends and colleagues."
In environmental news, The Washington Post is reporting the Bush administration is trying to weaken a climate change declaration planned for next month’s gathering of world leaders at the G8 summit. U.S. negotiators are trying to delete a pledge to limit the global temperature rise and cut emissions of greenhouse gas to half 1990 levels. The administration also wants to strike language that designates the U.N. as the appropriate forum for negotiating action on climate change.
In an update to a story from Friday’s broadcast, students at Harvard University have ended their nine-day hunger strike as part of a campaign to demand a pay raise and improve working conditions for campus security guards. The students want the university to intervene in salary negotiations between the guards and their employer Allied Barton. The fast ended after guards urged the students to eat. At a gathering in Harvard Yard Saturday, security guard Paul Kane thanked the students for their campaign.
Paul Kane: "For most of my co-workers, no one has ever bothered to stand up for them. No one has ever showed the outpouring of support we have received. Your willingness to do that means so much to us. You have been an inspiration to us. You have taught us what can happen when a community stands together. We have developed a bond I hope will only strengthen over time. For the first time in a long while, my co-workers and I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you so very much for showing us the way."
Two students were hospitalized this week for low levels of sodium.
Student Kelly Lee: "For me, this has never been about the hunger strike. It’s never been about the students who are doing the hunger strike. It’s always been about the people who work here, who go home every day, who have families to take care of, who are living week to week, who need this in order to live, who deserve this."