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News Wrap: Five Soldiers Wounded in Afghan Attack at NATO Base

July 4, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
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HARI SREENIVASAN: NATO officials today reported a man wearing an Afghan army uniform opened fire on American troops. The shootings happened on Tuesday in Afghanistan’s eastern Wardak Province. An investigation is under way. The troops were targeted outside a NATO base. Five U.S. service members were wounded before the attacker fled the scene. The number of insider attacks against foreign forces is up this year.

In the West African country of Mali, some of the country’s most prized artifacts and relics are in the process of being destroyed by Muslim extremists. The city of Timbuktu is one of the hardest hit, where ancient tombs have already been torn down.

Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News narrates this report.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: They used pickaxes and hoes and even chisels, Islamist militants destroying the tombs of ancient Muslim saints in one of the world’s most fabled cities.

And when asked why, they cried, “Only God is great” and claimed that all Timbuktu’s monuments to the dead were un-Islamic and would be destroyed. These are the men of Ansar Din, which means defenders of the faith. And they now control much of northern Mali, including Timbuktu.

They are in a loose alliance with these fighters from al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, Arabs from Algeria and Mauritania now exploiting the power vacuum in Mali after the government there was toppled in a coup back in March.

Yesterday, the Islamists hacked down this door to a 15th century mosque, horrifying locals who believed it would only open on the day the world ends. In May, this, one of Timbuktu’s best known monuments, was attacked, an image of the genie protecting the city.

This militant explained that he broke it down himself to prove that the only protection comes from God. The city once rivaled Oxford as a seat of learning. Eight of its 16 main Sufi shrines have reportedly been destroyed, apparently in revenge for UNESCO declaring them endangered only last week.

This community leader has warned that Timbuktu is on the verge of losing its soul. Northern Mali could be the next al-Qaida central, funded by hostage-taking and cocaine smuggling.

The capital, Bamako, 600 miles south, seems powerless. The coup against this, the presidential palace, was led by a lowly captain. And there’s no credible government to negotiate with the rebel north. These attacks on Africa’s heritage won’t provoke military intervention, but African states may intervene eventually, fearing an area the size of France is now al-Qaida’s front line.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Earlier this week, the U.N. strongly condemned the destruction and called for an immediate end to these repugnant acts.

Unemployment in Ireland hit an 18-year high in June. The 14.9 percent rate reflects the country’s struggle to boost economic growth even as it cuts back on pensions and public sector jobs. Ireland received a bailout loan from the European Union and International Monetary Fund in 2010.

In the U.S. presidential campaign, for the first time, Republican Mitt Romney called the requirement that all Americans buy health insurance a tax. That contradicted how one of Romney’s advisers characterized his views earlier this week when he said Romney viewed it as a penalty, fee or fine, but not a tax. Romney made the comments in an interview with CBS News.

President Obama’s campaign responded, saying Romney was contradicting his own campaign team and himself, since he backed a health care mandate and referred to it as a tax when he was governor of Massachusetts.

Oscar Pistorius is set to make history as the first amputee track athlete to ever compete at the Olympic Games. The 25-year-old double amputee has been named to South Africa’s Olympic team. Pistorius, who runs on carbon fiber prosthetic legs, will compete at the London Games in the individual 400 meters and the 4-by-400-meter relay. He was born with a congenital defect, and had both of his legs amputated below the knee when he was just 11 months old.