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News Wrap: U.S. drone strikes target militant training camp in Yemen

April 21, 2014 at 6:02 PM EST
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GWEN IFILL: U.S. drones were back in action over Yemen today, after a weekend of heavy strikes aimed at al-Qaida. The government of Yemen announced the attacks have killed at least 55 militants, including three senior members. The main target was a major training camp in the country’s mountainous south.

Attacks in towns just outside Baghdad killed at least 33 Iraqis and wounded nearly 80 today. In one incident, bulldozers — bulldozers had to clear burned-out wreckage after a suicide car bomber struck a police checkpoint 25 miles south of the capital. Five policemen and seven civilians were killed there.

In Syria, the government set a date to hold presidential elections: June 3. Incumbent President Bashar al-Assad is expected to win a new seven-year term, but the opposition dismissed any election as a farce. And, on Twitter, a U.S. State Department spokesman said the vote would be a parody of democracy.

The confirmed death toll in the South Korea ferry disaster has reached 86. Divers recovered more bodies from inside the sunken vessel today. Another 220 people were still listed as missing.

This report comes from Jane Dodge of Independent Television News.

JANE DODGE: The same captain, the same route. This trip was filmed a few years ago, the captain’s advice now brutally ironic.

LEE JOON-SEOK, Ferry Captain (through interpreter): As long as you follow the directions given by our crew members, I believe the ferry is safer than any other form of transport.

JANE DODGE: These passengers on the Sewol didn’t do what they were told. It saved their lives. Many more stayed below deck, as instructed, and drowned. New footage shows the captain being treated after abandoning his ship. According to the doctor who saw him, he didn’t disclose his true identity.

DR. JANG KI-JOON, Jindo Hankook University (through interpreter): I didn’t ask him directly, but I remember seeing a list stating he was a passenger. I think he said so when he was questioned. We weren’t told he was the captain. And we never thought he was.

JANE DODGE: Condemnation from the country’s president couldn’t have been stronger.

PRESIDENT PARK GEUN-HYE, South Korea (through interpreter): The conduct of the captain and some crew members is unfathomable from the viewpoint of common sense, and it was like an act of murder that cannot and shouldn’t be tolerated.

JANE DODGE: The Sewol, bought from the Japanese by a South Korean company, is 20 years old. A Korean TV channel has claimed the ferry nearly capsized last May. The ferry owner has insisted the vessel was inspected recently and passed safety checks.

But this national disaster has become a test of the president’s leadership. And parents like Im Seon Mi, whose daughter is still missing, says the rescue operation has been too slow.

IM SEON-MI, Mother of missing teenager (through interpreter): The government is just pretending to work, but it’s just for show, and the media play their game. This is a 100 percent manmade disaster. If the government had acted quicker, all the children would have been saved.

JANE DODGE: The last visible path of the Sewol disappeared underwater on Friday. In an attempt to keep it from sinking further, three inflatables have been attached to the keel. Five guide lines have benefited to the side to help divers. More than 500 are involved, each one only able to stay inside the ship for 15 minutes at a time.

The unrelenting nature of this tragedy has left even the messengers lost for words, the cover of darkness no mask for the procession of bodies that just keep coming.

GWEN IFILL: A high-ranking South Korean official was forced out today, after he took a souvenir photo at the rescue operations center. The incident infuriated the victims’ relatives.

An agreement reached last week in Geneva showed no signs of defusing tensions in Ukraine today. Instead, pro-Moscow separatists still refused to give up their occupation of government buildings in the east. Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Kiev. He’s expected to announce a technical assistance package for the Ukrainian government.

Mazda is the latest automaker to announce a major recall. The Japanese car company today pulled back more than 100,000 Tribute sport utility vehicles. Parts of their frames may be prone to corrosion that could interfere with steering. The vehicles were made from model years 2001 to 2004.

Thousands of children and their parents descended on the South Lawn of the White House today for the annual Easter egg roll. The president and first lady presided, alongside a giant bunny. And Mrs. Obama used the day to promote her healthy eating and exercise campaign.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: We love this event. This is the largest event that we do here on the South Lawn. We are going to have more than 30,000 people on the lawn today. And we’re just thrilled that this theme is focusing on an issue that is near and dear to my heart, and it’s making sure that our young people are active and healthy.

GWEN IFILL: The Obamas oversaw the 136th egg roll on the lawn. The president also gave his annual reading from the Maurice Sendak children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are.”

Wall Street started the week with modest gains. The Dow Jones industrial average picked up 40 points to close at 16,449. The Nasdaq rose 26 points to close at 4,121. And the S&P 500 added seven to finish near 1,872.