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News Wrap: Bank of America Announces 3,500 Layoffs

August 19, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
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KWAME HOLMAN: Bank of America, the nation’s largest bank, will cut 3,500 jobs by the end of September. That’s one percent of the company’s work force, and it follows a string of other cuts announced earlier this year. The Wall Street Journal reported more layoffs could follow, possibly reaching 10,000.

The entire banking industry has been contracting amid new regulations and the fallout from the financial meltdown in 2008. A suicide bomber struck a Sunni mosque in Pakistan today, killing nearly 50 people. The attack occurred in a village in the Khyber tribal region. Some 85 people were wounded. The attacker exploded the bomb as hundreds of worshipers, including anti-Taliban tribal leaders, gathered for Friday prayers during the holy month of Ramadan.

AMJAD IQBAL, Eyewitness (through translator): As joint prayers finished and some people were still busy with prayers, suddenly, a blast took place. So many people were killed and so many were wounded. Then we had to start moving the dead and wounded people to Hayat Hospital here in Peshawar. The wounded are inside the emergency ward.

KWAME HOLMAN: There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

In Afghanistan, Taliban militants stormed a British charity’s compound in Kabul, triggering a gun battle that lasted all day. At least eight people were killed.

We have a report narrated by Paul Davies of Independent Television News.

PAUL DAVIES: It was a coordinated attack on a symbolic target. Suicide bombers created this devastation. A car full of explosives detonated outside the British Council. A second suicide bomber had somehow infiltrated the building.

Between them, they created the breach, so other insurgents could enter. What followed was an eight-hour gun battle inside the compound walls between the heavily armed Taliban fighters and coalition forces.

These are British soldiers who were called in to help. But it was a unit of special forces from New Zealand who played the key role, entering the compound and ending the attack. They paid a price. One member of the special forces was killed, along with all the insurgents and at least eight Afghan police officers. All British staff were safely evacuated.

SIR WILLIAM PATEY, British ambassador to Afghanistan: But I’m pleased to say that the British Council staff who were in the compound, who essentially were in the safe room for most of the day, and we were in contact with them, have been extracted safely. They are now in the embassy, obviously shaken, but well, uninjured.

PAUL DAVIES: But this incident again demonstrates the Taliban’s ability to strike in the capital.

Their latest target, the offices of the British Council, are in a part of the city that’s supposedly well-guarded. But it is close to the Intercontinental Hotel, which was the target of a Taliban attack two months ago, where 12 people died. The British Embassy is also close by. Last year, there were car bombs here targeting NATO and government officials, killing 22 people.

The Taliban say they chose a British target today to mark the 92nd anniversary of Afghanistan’s independence from Britain.

KWAME HOLMAN: Elsewhere, a NATO soldier died in a roadside bombing in southern Afghanistan today.

Syrian troops fired on protesters again in a fresh round of mass demonstrations, killing at least 20 people. The anti-government protests were held across the country in repeated calls for President Bashar al-Assad and his regime to go. The military deployed tanks, troops and armored personnel carriers in multiple cities. Just yesterday, Assad had assured the U.N. that military and police operations against the protesters had stopped.

There also was new violence in Israel and Gaza. The Israeli military staged new airstrikes into Gaza and Hamas militants launched rockets into southern Israel. The escalation followed yesterday’s attacks by gunmen that killed eight Israelis. But both sides cited the need to defend themselves.

LT. COL. AVITAL LEIBOVICH, Israeli Defense Forces: We in the IDF will not tolerate this kind of continued violence, and we will do the utmost, with the restraint we have, in order to counter this kind of terrorism.

NABIL SHAATH, senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas: Nonviolence is the way forward to reaching, eventually, a solution that ends Israeli occupation. But, in the meanwhile, we cannot possibly in any way accept the Israeli retaliation policy against our civilians in Gaza, which amounts to collective punishment and a war crime.

KWAME HOLMAN: Separately, Egyptian officials lodged a protest with Israel after five Egyptian security guards were killed along the border. They apparently got caught in fire from Israeli forces chasing the gunmen in Thursday’s attack.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.