JOHN YANG: Americans took time out today to celebrate Thanksgiving with feasts, parades and football. In New York, the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade went smoothly, amidst tight security. Thousands of heavily-armed officers were in the streets, and police blocked intersections with dump trucks filled with sand. Meanwhile in Washington, president Obama, in a recorded video message, called for unity.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Thanksgiving reminds us that no matter our differences, we’re still one people, part of something bigger than ourselves. We are communities that move forward together. We are neighbors who look out for one another, especially those among us with the least. We are always, simply, Americans.
JOHN YANG: Overseas, U. S. forces helping Iraqi troops fighting in ISIS-held Mosul enjoyed a welcome respite. Soldiers gathered to play football and eat holiday dinners just south of the frontlines.
The Islamic state also carried out a massive suicide bombing south of Baghdad today, killing at least 56 people, though some reports put the toll as high as 100. 20 of the dead were Iranian Shiite pilgrims. Another 45 people were injured. I’m joined now via skype by special correspondent Jane Ferguson, who’s reporting for us from northern Iraq. Jane, what can you tell us about what happened today?
JANE FERGUSON: John, among those killed in today’s bombing were many Iranian Shiite pilgrims on their way back to Baghdad for a religious occasion in the holy city of Karbala about 70 miles south of the capital.
The suicide bomber detonated a huge truck bomb at a busy gas and restaurant where several buses of pilgrims were. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack. The group regularly target Shiites who they view as not true Muslims. Meanwhile, it’s Shiites militias who have cut off the final root between ISIS held Mosul city and the rest of the so-called caliphate. To the west of Mosul, Militia is known as batter brigade have taken control of a crucial road in and out of Mosul which effectively cuts off ISIS militants in Mosul city stopping them from resupplying or retreating.
The Militias have made an unprecedented deal with Iraqi Kurdish fighters called Peshmerga to cooperate in cutting off Mosul. In the east of the city, Iraqi troops have been battling ISIS since the launch of an offensive to retake the city over six weeks ago. They have been engaged in street to street fighting as the militants have dug in to the heavily populated city.
It’s a tough fight and progress is slow. They expect it will be another two or three months before they can take the city. Over 5,000 US Troops are in Iraq, advising and supporting the Iraqi military, in its campaign against ISIS rocket fire, artillery, surveillance and special forms. John?
JOHN YANG: Jane Ferguson in Erbil, Iraq, thanks. At least 67 workers died in southeast china today when scaffolding collapsed at a power plant construction site. It happened in the city of Fengcheng, and is one of the country’s deadliest work safety accidents in more than two years. Cement slabs and metal beams crushed all but three of the 70 workers when a support platform gave way.
An investigation into what caused the collapse is underway. In Syria, rebels in the besieged city of Aleppo have agreed to a UN plan to allow aid deliveries and evacuate the wounded. But UN officials said they’re still waiting for approval from the Syrian government. The UN’s humanitarian adviser said they’re poised to act once they get the go-ahead. He spoke today in Geneva.
JAN EGELAND, UN Humanitarian Task Force: The trucks are ready, the humanitarian workers are ready, greatest humanitarian workers will be able to go with hundreds of truckloads of medical equipment, food and all of the other things needed in eastern Aleppo.
JOHN YANG: Eastern Aleppo has been under siege since July. Much-needed food and medical supplies haven’t been able to reach the area since then. Separately, a US service member died when an improvised explosive device detonated in northern Syria. A sixth child has now died from injuries suffered in a school bus crash in Chattanooga, Tennessee earlier this week. Police say, Johnthony Walker strayed from his route and was speeding on a curvy road when his bus ran into a tree.
He faces six counts of vehicular homicide. Five children remain hospitalized. The bus company has had 346 crashes over the past two years alone. Hurricane Otto gained speed and intensity today. It slammed into Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast as a category 2 storm. The unusually strong, late- season hurricane packed winds up to 110 miles an hour.
Officials evacuated more than 10,000 people, including many who crowded onto buses bound for shelters. Otto is expected to weaken to a tropical storm later today.