At least thirteen people have been killed in a pair of US drone attacks in Pakistan. The strikes reportedly hit a militant training camp in Pakistan’s tribal region of North Waziristan.
The US has now carried out at least five strikes inside Pakistan since last week’s bombing of a CIA base in Afghanistan. On Wednesday, the group al-Qaeda in Afghanistan said the CIA bombing had been carried out in retaliation for deadly US drone attacks in Pakistan that have killed militant leaders.
In other news from Afghanistan, the outgoing head of the UN mission is warning the US not to let its military escalation sideline Afghanistan’s civilian and humanitarian needs. In a farewell address to the UN Security Council, Kai Eide said he is concerned Afghanistan’s civilian needs will go unaddressed.
Kai Eide: “I am worried about negative trends. I am worried about growing impatience in the public opinion of donor countries and troop-contributing countries. I am worried about increasing frustration in the Afghan public over what they see as expectations that have not been met. And I am worried about the difficulties of the international and Afghan forces in putting the insurgency on the defensive.”
A federal grand jury has indicted the suspect in the failed Christmas Day jetliner attack. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab faces six criminal charges, including attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. Earlier today, the Yemeni government said Abdulmutallab had previously met with militant cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who’s also been linked to the Fort Hood shootings that killed thirteen people in November.
A newly disclosed Pentagon report says the number of freed Guantanamo Bay prisoners engaging in militant activity upon their release is on the rise. On Wednesday, the Pentagon says one in five Guantanamo prisoners has returned to fight, up from one in seven reported last April. As with prior claims, the Pentagon report offers few details and prevents independent verification. The report also fails to say how many of the former prisoners were believed to have gone on to militant activity as a result of their torture at Guantanamo. The most deadly act by a former Guantanamo prisoner was carried out by Kuwaiti national Abdallah al-Ajmi, who killed thirteen people in Iraq in 2008. Al-Ajmi’s attorney has said he was radicalized and left mentally unstable after four years of torture at Guantanamo.
In Honduras, the chief national prosecutor is seeking to charge top military leaders over their role in the ouster of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya last June. On Wednesday, the prosecutor, Luis Alberto Rubi, asked the Supreme Court to approve arrest warrants charging military commanders with abuse of power. Zelaya was forced out of Honduras at gunpoint and replaced by a coup regime. The case would mark the first legal action against the military since Zelaya’s ouster. The Supreme Court is unlikely to approve the warrants, having issued several rulings backing the coup. The Honduran president-elect, Porfirio Lobo, has also called for amnesty for all coup leaders.
In Cuba, a jailed US contractor remains behind bars on suspicion of being an American spy. The contractor was arrested last month after handing out equipment to Cuban opposition groups. The contractor’s company, Development Alternatives, is working under a State Department contract for so-called “democracy enhancement” in Cuba. On Wednesday, the head of the Cuban National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon, said the contractor is still under investigation.
Ricardo Alarcon: “There are agents, torturers, spies that work for private companies and hired. This man was working on a contract from a company that hires people to work for the North American secret service, and we are investigating him. He is, I can assure you, in much better shape than the victims of these agents all over the world.”
An anti-whaling vessel has been badly damaged in a collision with a Japanese whaling ship in the Southern Ocean. The Ady Gil lost its entire bow in its run-in with the whaling ship. The Japanese government says the activists sailed too close to the ship and deliberately crossed into its path. But Sea Shepherd, the group behind the boat, said they were deliberately rammed. The group says it will continue to protest whaling ships in the high seas.
A humanitarian aid convoy carrying food and medical supplies has arrived in the Gaza Strip nearly a month after it embarked from Britain. Members of the Viva Palestina convoy began passing through Egypt’s Rafah border crossing into Gaza on Wednesday. They are expected to spend the next forty-eight hours distributing the aid supplies. The convoy was delayed by more than a week following a dispute with the Egyptian government. As it entered Rafah, convoy leader and British parliamentarian George Galloway criticized the delay.
George Galloway: “We are very sorry that we are late. We would like to apologize to our friends in Palestine for arriving late. But the whole world knows why we were late.”
Back in the United States, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has announced he will run for the Senate seat vacated by the outgoing Democratic senator Christopher Dodd. The move came hours after Dodd confirmed he won’t seek re-election in this year’s mid-term elections.
In media news, the Fox News correspondent Brit Hume has ignited a new controversy over his comments on the marital troubles of the professional golfer Tiger Woods. On Sunday, Hume said Woods should convert to Christianity to repair his personal life.
Brit Hume: “The Tiger Woods that emerges once the news value dies out of this scandal, the extent to which he can recover, it seems to me, depends on his faith. He’s said to be a Buddhist. I don’t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. So my message to Tiger would be, 'Tiger, turn your faith — turn to the Christian faith, and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.'”
And in Japan, the only person known to have survived both US atomic attacks during World War II has died. Tsutomu Yamaguchi was ninety-three years old. Yamaguchi was in Hiroshima when the US dropped the first atomic bomb on August 6th, 1945. He suffered several wounds but returned to his hometown of Nagasaki, which was bombed three days later. In his elder years, Yamaguchi became a vocal proponent of nuclear abolition.