At least 25 civilians have been killed in a NATO airstrike in southern Afghanistan. Nine women and three infants are among the dead. Afghan police say the attack came after insurgents opened fire from civilian homes. International aid groups including the Red Cross have recently accused the U.S.-led NATO force of ignoring measures to prevent civilian deaths.
In Iraq at least 17 people were killed and more than 60 wounded in a suicide truck bombing in the northern town of Sulaiman Bek. The town mayor was among the dead. Meanwhile, the Pentagon has announced the death of 14 U.S. troops. Most were killed in roadside bombings around Baghdad. The Pentagon continues to accuse Iran of supplying the bombs.
Major General Rick Lynch: “There has not been a change. It is still a relatively steady state. That flow from Iran into Iraq is still happening, and now we have insurgents on the ground. That gives us latitude to connect operations that we could not connect before because we did not have the forces available.”
In other Iraq news, thousands of people took to the streets of Najaf in a show of unity following last week’s attack on the Askariya mosque in Samarra. Demonstrators waved Iraqi flags and Shia banners with slogans including “Death to al-Qaeda.” Marchers also called for an end to the U.S.-led crackdown on Baghdad.
In the Occupied Territories, tensions are on the rise between the ruling factions Fatah and Hamas. On Thursday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas released video he says proves Hamas militants tried to carry out a plot on his life. The video shows men in Hamas uniforms placing a device inside a tunnel. Abbas says the device was a bomb and the tunnel near a road he takes to his Gaza residence, now under Hamas control. Hamas military commander Abu Ubaidah denied the accusation.
Abu Ubaidah: “Qassam Brigades have never considered Mahmoud Abbas as a target, and we have never considered any of the politicians as targets. Our people have not forgotten the attempted assassinations and the RPGs fired onto the house of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and onto the house of former foreign minister and fighter Mahmoud al-Zahar, and the assassination of political leader Dr. Mahmoud al-Ajwa, whose killers are known to Mahmoud Abbas, who fled to Ramallah now and are under his care.”
Abbas dissolved the democratically elected Hamas-led Parliament after Hamas forces seized control of Gaza last week. Meanwhile, Hamas officials are denouncing Abbas for agreeing to a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Egypt.
Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum: “At this time, we are in Hamas against this type of meeting because the main issues or the main concern of the Arab and Islamic world is to end the occupation, to tell the world about the faults and terrorism from the situation which was committed against our Palestinians.”
Fatah says it sees Hamas as an occupation force in Gaza and will negotiate on behalf of the Palestinian government. Palestinian negotiator Yasser Abed Rabbo said Fatah will carry out talks on forming a Palestinian state.
Yasser Abed Rabbo: “We think the success of this summit will depend on the decision of the Israeli side to proceed with the political negotiations in order to reach an agreement on all issues related to the final status, so that we will be able to establish a Palestinian independent state on the borders of 1967 with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
Meanwhile, Israel is tightening its hold over Gaza. Foreign nationals and a small number of Palestinians have been allowed to leave, but the entry of goods and supplies has come mostly to a halt. An unidentified Palestinian American said he is leaving an uncertain situation.
Unidentified Palestinian American: “The situation now, nobody knows what’s going to happen next. Inside Gaza the situation now has calmed down. There is no violence, no firing. But what’s coming next, nobody knows.”
The Bush administration is denying a report it’s nearing a decision to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Anonymous officials told the Associated Press the White House is near agreement on a plan that would transfer prisoners to several Pentagon facilities across the United States. One of the proposed sites said to be under discussion is the U.S. military base at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Newly released documents show Vice President Dick Cheney has refused to follow laws on how the executive handles classified information and tried to shut down the oversight office that asked him to comply. On Thursday, Congressmember Henry Waxman disclosed Cheney tried to shut down the National Archives’ Information Security Oversight Office in 2004. Cheney has argued the vice president’s office shouldn’t be considered within the executive branch because it also performs a legislative role. Waxman says Cheney is trying to operate with “unprecedented secrecy.”
In New Orleans, a new study shows the city death rate has risen nearly 50 percent since Hurricane Katrina. The study is the first to track the mortality rate of both evacuees and remaining residents. Researchers attribute the increase to the lack of healthcare for low-income residents regardless of whether they left or stayed in New Orleans.
Immigration officials have announced they won’t deport the wife of a missing U.S. soldier in Iraq who has been facing deportation. Yaderlin Jimenez entered the U.S. from the Dominican Republic without a visa in 2001. Her husband, Army Specialist Alex Jimenez, is one of the soldiers who disappeared following an attack from insurgents last month. U.S. forces found his ID tag last week. Authorities began investigating after he made a formal request for a green card and legal residence for his wife. The Department of Homeland Security says it will stop deportation proceedings for now but will not grant Yaderlin Jimenez a green card.
National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell has announced he’s shutting down a multi-billion-dollar satellite program that would have been used for spying. McConnell says the system has grown too expensive. Few details have been released, but officials say it was developed by the weapons giant Lockheed Martin.
On Capitol Hill, the House has voted to reverse the Bush administration’s ban on any aid to groups that perform or promote abortions overseas. The House attached the measure to a bill that pays for State Department operations next year. President Bush is expected to issue a veto.
The CIA is preparing to declassify hundreds of documents that detail some of its most infamous and illegal operations. The records are believed to cover the period from the 1950s to the 1970s. They include details on domestic spying, infiltrating leftist groups, drug tests on U.S. citizens and assassination plots against foreign leaders. In advance of the release, the National Security Archive has published a new set of documents revealing the Ford administration was concerned about the documents’ eventual disclosure. In a memo to Ford, then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said a 1974 article by the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh on the CIA’s infiltration of antiwar groups was “just the tip of the iceberg.” Kissinger also warned that “blood will flow” if several other operations were exposed, including the Kennedy administration’s attempts to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro. Kissinger says former Attorney General Robert Kennedy personally managed the assassination plot. Announcing the release on Thursday, CIA Director Michael Hayden said: “Most of it is unflattering, but it is CIA’s history.”