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News Wrap: Sunni extremists declare new Islamic state in Iraq and Syria

June 30, 2014 at 6:02 PM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama formally announced his choice today to run the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs. Robert McDonald is a former executive at Procter and Gamble and West Point graduate who served as a captain in the Army. The VA faces a scandal over health care delays, but the president said McDonald would help create a new culture of accountability.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Bob is an expert in making organizations better. In his career, he’s taken over struggling business units. He knows how to roll up his sleeves and gets to work, putting an end to what doesn’t work, adopting best practices that do, restructuring, introducing innovations, making operations more efficient and effective.

JUDY WOODRUFF: McDonald resigned from Procter and Gamble a year ago, as investors pressed for better returns. If he’s confirmed by the Senate, he will succeed retired Gen. Eric Shinseki, who left the VA under fire last month.

The bodies of three missing Israeli teenagers were found late today in the West Bank. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Hamas and warned of retaliation. The remains were buried in a field north of Hebron. The teens had been hitchhiking there when they disappeared two weeks ago. Their abduction sparked a major manhunt by Israel. Militants in Gaza struck back by firing rockets.

There was celebration and condemnation today after Sunni extremists declared a new Muslim state, or caliphate, in Iraq and Syria. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, also known as ISIS, made the announcement on Sunday.

Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News has our report.

MAN: This is not the first border we will break. I.S. will break other borders also.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: This was how one jihadist from ISIS announced the group’s re-branding as I.S., or Islamic State.

MAN: This Iraq is a sham, but now is all one country.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: The group’s latest videos show the symbolic bulldozing of the line between Syria and Iraq on the map, while a government building near the border is blown up for the camera, a medieval caliphate reborn for the social media age.

Your guide, a militant known as Abu Safiyya, claimed to be from Chile in South America, though he says nationality doesn’t matter.

MAN: There’s no nationality. We are Muslims. We are all one country.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: This is believed to be Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the new ruler now known as Caliph Ibrahim. His spokesman, blurred in the middle here, has declared that all other jihadist groups are under his control.

And though there were celebrations on the Syrian side of the border last night, several senior Sunni clerics have denounced the move as illegitimate. ISIS is apparently succeeding where al-Qaida failed.

But its ambition and extreme violence might turn out to be its undoing. There’s already fighting between rival Sunni militant factions along the Syrian-Iraqi border, focused here in the town of Boukamal, and this fighting begin to intensify.

JUDY WOODRUFF: There was also more fighting in the Iraqi city of Tikrit, as government forces struggled to regain control from the militants. And the Pentagon dispatched another 200 troops to protect American citizens and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. That brings the overall force there to nearly 800.

Fighting in Southern Afghanistan stretched into a second week today. Afghan forces have been battling to hold Helmand Province; 1,000 Taliban fighters attacked there 10 days ago. U.S. forces pulled out of the province in May.

Just across the border, in Pakistan, government forces launched a ground offensive against a key Taliban stronghold. It’s the second phase of an operation in North Waziristan that began with airstrikes in mid-June. The army said 15 militants were killed today in the initial advance. The offensive began after half-a-million civilians evacuated the area.

The U.S. Justice Department slapped France’s biggest bank with a record fine today $8.8 billion. BNP Paribas pleaded guilty to conspiracy and falsifying business records in a bid to circumvent U.S. economic sanctions against Cuba, Iran and Sudan. Federal prosecutors said the bank engaged in a long-term conspiracy.

On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 25 points to close at 16,826. The Nasdaq rose 10 points to close at 4,408. And the S&P 500 dropped a fraction to end at 1,960.