A suicide bomber attacked a CIA base in Afghanistan Wednesday killing eight Americans. Most, if not all, of the dead were CIA employees or contractors. Several others were seriously wounded in the attack. The Washington Post described the suicide bombing as one of the deadliest attacks on the CIA in the agency’s history. The CIA base was located in the eastern Afghan province of Khost, which borders North Waziristan, the Pakistani tribal area. It is unclear how the assailant gained access to the heavily guarded base. The Taliban, which claimed responsibility for the bombing, said one of its members who was working for the Afghan army carried out the attack. The CIA has been at the forefront of US counterterrorism operations in South Asia, launching drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The main CIA station in Afghanistan is based at the US embassy in Kabul, but most of its staff work at secret bases and military outposts.
In a separate incident in Afghanistan, four Canadian troops and a Canadian journalist were killed Wednesday. They died when their armored vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in southern Kandahar province. The journalist was identified as thirty-four-year-old Calgary Herald reporter Michelle Lang. She was on on her fist assignment in Afghanistan and had only been in the country since December 11. She’s the first Canadian journalist to die in the Afghan war and is believed to be the first Calgary Herald reporter ever killed on the job in the paper’s 126-year history.
Calgary Herald Editor Lorne Motley: “She was the person that you could always look to to be an example and to take things and make them special, because she was a special person. And we really feel for her family and her fiancé and her friends, obviously, whether they’re in the newsroom or elsewhere.”
In other news from Afghanistan, Al Jazeera reports at least eight Afghan civilians have been killed in an air raid by foreign forces in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province. Meanwhile, protests were held in several Afghan cities Wednesday over reports that international forces killed ten civilians, including many schoolboys, in an attack earlier in the week. NATO officials have denied civilians were killed, but Afghan investigators said nearly all those killed were school-age boys. In a statement released yesterday, President Hamid Karzai’s office said that a unit of international forces descended from a plane Sunday night into Ghazi Khan village and took ten people from three homes. Karzai’s office said all of the people detained were shot dead.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has temporarily shut down Parliament until March, after the close of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The move shuts down all parliamentary committees, including a probe into whether Canadian troops turned over Afghan prisoners to Afghan authorities to be tortured. Liberal House leader Ralph Goodale accused Harper of padlocking Parliament and shutting down democracy. Goodale said, “Three times in three years and twice within one year, the Prime Minister takes this extraordinary step to muzzle Parliament. This time it’s a cover-up of what the Conservatives knew, and when they knew it, about torture in Afghanistan.”
Four Nigerian farmers have won the right to take oil giant Shell to court in The Hague. A Dutch court said on Wednesday it has jurisdiction to hear the case. The Nigerian farmers claim oil leaking out of a Shell pipeline polluted their farm lands and fish ponds. Geert Ritsema of the environmental organization Friends of the Earth welcomed the decision.
Geert Ritsema: “We think this is a breakthrough, because it’s now acknowledged by a Dutch court that the actions of Shell outside of the Netherlands can be — they can be held liable for these actions, and they can be held responsible. And that is the most important victory of today”
The four Nigerian farmers who filed the suit against Shell are expected to testify soon about the oil company’s presence in Nigeria.
Eighty-six international activists and journalists have reportedly entered Gaza carrying humanitarian aid, but the Egyptian government is continuing to block more than 1,200 other other activists with the Gaza Freedom March from crossing the border. Organizers said Egypt’s position has prevented more aid from entering Gaza. Meanwhile, in Cairo, plainclothes Egyptian police officers beat members of the Gaza Freedom March as they staged a demonstration to demand the right to enter Gaza. Protesters were reportedly beaten with blows to the head and forcefully kicked. Other activists were detained in hotels. One Belgian protester named Maude said Egyptian security forces were tightly controlling their actions in Cairo.
Maude: “There was a lot of events in the street, in the street during the last few days. And now there is a big manifestation, but it’s not possible for us to join our group, because the police is making a circle and we can’t enter in. It’s not possible now.”
In business news, the Treasury Department has announced a third bailout for GMAC, the financing arm of General Motors. The Treasury will inject $3.8 billion into the company, and the US government will boost its stake in the firm to 56 percent. The money comes on top of $12.5 billion that the US Treasury had previously invested in GMAC to keep it afloat as the lender of choice for car buyers and dealers at GM and Chrysler.
In other business news, the city of Memphis, Tennessee has filed a lawsuit against Wells Fargo for singling out black homeowners for high-interest subprime mortgages. The lawsuit alleges “unlawful, irresponsible, unfair, deceptive and discriminatory mortgage lending in Memphis and Shelby County.” Similar lawsuits have already been filed against Wells Fargo by the city of Baltimore and the state of Illinois.
A new British government report has found that rising temperatures in Kenya could put an extra four million people at risk of malaria. Climate change has already caused a seven-fold increase in cases of malaria on the slopes of Mount Kenya. The Guardian reports climate change has raised average temperatures in the Central Highlands region of Kenya, allowing the disease to creep into higher altitude areas where the population has little or no immunity.
And the federal Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday it has major concerns about New York State’s plan to allow hydraulic drilling for natural gas in upstate New York in the Marcellus Shale watershed. The EPA said it was particularly concerned about how the drilling will affect the regional water supply and air quality. The EPA’s comments come one week after New York City environmental officials demanded that the state reverse its decision to allow natural gas drilling upstate because chemicals used in the drilling process could contaminate the city’s water supply.