In Iraq, seven U.S. soldiers were killed when a massive roadside bomb exploded under their Bradley Fighting Vehicle killing everyone inside. The attack came in northwest Baghdad where resistance to the occupation has been particularly fierce. In a separate incident in Anbar province, two Marines were killed but the military did not release details of their deaths. It was the deadliest day for U.S. forces in Iraq since a suicide bomber struck a mess hall Dec. 21. The latest U.S. deaths came on a day that Iraq’s interim government announced it was extending martial law through Jan. 30, the date set for nationwide elections.
Meanwhile, there is still no news on the fate of a French newspaper reporter and her Iraqi interpreter who disappeared earlier this week in Baghdad. Veteran war correspondent Florence Aubenas of France’s Libération newspaper was last seen leaving her Baghdad hotel Wednesday morning. An Editor at the newspaper said Libération’s reporters no longer travel outside of the Iraqi capital because of attacks and the risk of kidnappings. Two other French journalists who were kidnapped in Iraq in August, were released two weeks ago.
It was a busy day on Capitol Hill yesterday. At hearings in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney general nominee Alberto R. Gonzales strongly defended his tenure as White House counsel, including his conclusion that the protections of the Geneva Conventions do not apply to alleged terrorists, and he suggested that the United States should consider renegotiating the international treaties to better wage its war on terrorism. We’ll have more on this in a few moments.
For only the second time since 1877, the certification of a presidential election victory was challenged in the Congress. A small group of Democrats forced House and Senate debates on Election Day problems in Ohio before letting Congress certify President Bush’s victory over Sen. John Kerry in November. The challenge came after California Senator Barbara Boxer signed a challenge mounted by House Democrats to Ohio’s 20 electoral votes, which put Bush over the top. In a moment we will play excerpts from yesterday’s debate in the House and Senate.
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan toured Indonesia’s tsunami-ravaged Aceh province today, flying by helicopter to the razed town of Meulaboh, describing it as a black hole of devastation. Annan said, “I must admit I have never seen such utter destruction, mile after mile. You wonder, where are the people?. Indonesia added more than 7,000 deaths today to the tsunami toll, taking it over 101,000 for the country.
Meanwhile, Australian journalists who witnessed a confrontation between Indonesian soldiers and Acehnese yesterday were ordered to leave the area and warned not to report on the incident. The incident occurred just 25 miles from the provincial capital Banda Aceh, the centre of the relief operation spearheaded by US and Australian forces in Aceh. Government soldiers fired into the air and beat up Acehnese they claimed were supporters of the Free Aceh Movement, known as the GAM. The incident prompted special forces Kopassus soldiers to confront The Australian’s representatives in the area. A Kopassus Commander told the journalists, “Your duties here are to observe the disaster, not the conflict between TNI (the Indonesian army) and GAM. Kopassus ordered the Australian journalist and photographer to leave. The Indonesian military has killed thousands of Acehnese in the conflict. Aceh has been under martial law and sealed off for years. The Kopassus are infamous for their extreme brutality during the occupation of East Timor.
Former South African president Nelson Mandela has revealed that his eldest son has died of AIDS. 54 year old Makgatho Mandela had been critically ill for several weeks after being admitted to a Johannesburg hospital late last year. Mandela made the announcement of his son’s death yesterday surrounded by family members. Mandela said, “”Let us give publicity to HIV/AIDS and not hide it, because the only way of making it appear like a normal illness like TB, like cancer, is always to come out and to say somebody has died because of HIV/AIDS. And people will stop regarding it as something extraordinary, as something, as an illness that is there for people who are going to go to hell and not to heaven and I hope that as time goes on, we will realize that it is important for us to talk openly about people who die from AIDS.”
One of the leading candidates in Sunday’s Palestinian presidential election has been arrested by Israeli police on the last day of the campaign. Mustafa Barghouti was campaigning in East Jerusalem, an area that Palestinians hope to make the capital of a future state. The leading democracy campaigner was attempting to enter the al-Aqsa mosque for Friday prayers. Barghouti was detained by three plain-clothed Israeli policemen as he approached the mosque. Barghouti was bundled into a car and driven off. As we went on air there is still no word on where he was taken. He had been detained last week and prevented from campaigning in East Jerusalem when he was involved in a scuffle with Israeli soldiers at a West Bank checkpoint.
ABC News is reporting that Undersecretary of State John Bolton, a leading neocon in the Bush administration who has angered several close US allies as well as its adversaries, is expected to quit the Administration. He had hoped for a promotion in Bush’s second term, perhaps to deputy secretary of state, but the word went out that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick would get the No. 2 spot under Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state designate.
A 79-year-old Mississippi man has been arrested for the notorious 1964 murders of three civil rights workers James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman. Edgar Ray Killen, a segregationist preacher linked to the Ku Klux Klan, faced trial in 1967 but was freed after the jury failed to reach a verdict. The three men were killed as they campaigned to register black voters. Mississippi officials say there will be further arrests in connection with the killings. We called Andrew Goodman’s mother, Carolyn Goodman, for her reaction to the news.