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News Wrap: U.S. airstrike may have killed Somali militant leader

September 2, 2014 at 6:19 PM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Turning now to today’s other news.

The U.S. military was waiting for confirmation that it had killed the leader of an al-Qaida group in Somalia. Airstrikes overnight hit a vehicle carrying Ahmed Abdi Godane. They also struck a base of his Al-Shabab militia.

A Pentagon spokesman said warplanes and drones carried out the attacks against Godane about 100 miles south of Mogadishu.

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, Pentagon Press Secretary: He is the recognized appointed leader of the Al-Shabab network in Somalia. So, if he was killed, this is a very significant blow to their network and to their organization, and we believe to their ability to continue to conduct terrorist attacks.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Al-Shabab leader was the alleged mastermind of the attack on a Kenyan shopping mall that killed 67 people one year ago.

Another al-Qaida affiliate, in Syria, has named its conditions for releasing 45 U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji. The al-Nusra Front rebels abducted the peacekeepers last Thursday on the Golan Heights. Today, the group demanded to be taken off the U.N.’s terror list. It also called for compensation for the deaths of three fighters.

In Saudi Arabia, authorities say they have rounded up 88 people on suspicion of planning terrorist attacks. The Saudi Interior Ministry announced today that some of the suspects have links to the Islamic State or to al-Qaida groups. Officials said many of them may have been planning assassinations inside Saudi Arabia and abroad.

European Union diplomats laid out plans today for expanding sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine. And, as they did so, Russian President Vladimir Putin stirred new outrage when he was quoted as saying, “If I want to, I can take Kiev in two weeks.”  The Kremlin complained that Putin was taken out of context.

Meanwhile, fighting continued in Eastern Ukraine, and the United Nations reported a new exodus from the region.

ADRIAN EDWARDS, Spokesman, UN High Commissioner for Refugees:  The number of people displaced inside Ukraine has more than doubled in the past month. As of 1st September, UNHCR estimates that 260,000 people were displaced, compared to 117,000 in early August.

Most of the displaced are from Eastern Ukraine, the remaining in the Donetsk, Kharkiv and Kiev regions. UNHCR believes the actual number of people displaced is much higher.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Talks to reach some kind of an accord among Ukraine, Russia and the pro-Russian rebels have adjourned until Friday, when a cease-fire discussion may be back on the table.

President Obama headed for the Baltic region of Europe today, with tensions running high over Russian intentions in Ukraine. He will stop in Estonia before attending a NATO summit in Wales later in the week. Ahead of his arrival, the president of Estonia called for permanent NATO bases in his country, as a safeguard against the Russians.

In Nigeria, Boko Haram militants seized most of a northeastern town overnight after battling government forces. There was word of heavy casualties, and up to 5,000 people were forced to flee. The town, Bama, is just 45 miles away from the capital of Borno state, where the militants abducted more than 200 schoolgirls last April.

Pakistan’s parliament rallied today behind the country’s embattled prime minister, Nawaz Sharif. The body convened after a weekend of violent protests by thousands of people. But a string of Pakistani lawmakers voiced their support for Sharif.

CHAUDHRY NISAR ALI KHAN, Interior Minister, Pakistan (through interpreter): Today, when the entire parliament and the entire nation is standing on one side and an armed mob is on the other, I think no one should have any doubts about who the nation will support. The nation is with their elected representatives.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Outside the parliament building, thousands of demonstrators camped on the lawn, but there were no reports of any new violence. The parliament session could last all week.

Back in the U.S., the oil field services giant Halliburton will pay more than $1 billion to settle claims from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The company was cement contractor on the well site that exploded in 2010 and caused the largest spill in U.S. history. BP operated the well. It’s already reached a $9 billion settlement.

On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 31 points to close at 17,067. The Nasdaq rose almost 18 points to close at 4,598. And the S&P 500 slipped one point, to 2,002.