GWEN IFILL: In other news, a somber milestone was reached in the war in Afghanistan today. With the deaths of four American soldiers in a bombing in the south, 2009 became the deadliest year for international troops since the war began eight years ago. At least 295 foreign soldiers have died this year, one more than in all of 2008.
In southern Afghanistan, at least 41 people were killed when a string of five car bombs exploded in Kandahar. The bombs went off simultaneously in the center of the city. More than 60 people were wounded.
In the latest political developments in Afghanistan, the first preliminary results from last week’s presidential election trickled in. With only 10 percent of the ballots tallied, President Hamid Karzai has about 41 percent of the votes. His main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, is close behind with nearly 39 percent. If neither candidate wins an outright majority, they’ll be forced into a runoff.
The Taliban in Pakistan confirmed for the first time their leader is dead. Two Taliban commanders told the Associated Press Baitullah Mehsud died on Sunday of wounds suffered in a U.S. missile strike on August 5th. Pakistani and U.S. officials had said for weeks Mehsud was likely killed in that strike. The two Taliban aides also confirmed an earlier announcement that Hakimullah Mehsud now leads the Pakistani Taliban.
In Iraq, a group with links to al-Qaida claimed responsibility for last week’s deadly suicide truck bombings in Baghdad. The blasts targeted government buildings and killed more than 100 people, wounding hundreds more. A statement from the group, which calls itself the Islamic State of Iraq, said they intended to kill Iraqi officials and expose, quote, “the weakness of their government.”
The prime minister of Britain made his first public comments today on the release of the Lockerbie bomber. Scottish officials let Abdel Baset al-Megrahi return to Libya last week on what they called “compassionate grounds.” He’s dying of cancer. Gordon Brown condemned the hero’s welcome Megrahi was given at the airport in Tripoli, but he insisted he had no input in Scotland’s decision to free him.
GORDON BROWN, prime minister, Britain: I have to tell you that I was both angry and I was repulsed by the reception that a convicted bomber, guilty of a huge terrorist crime, received on his return to Libya. When I met Colonel Gaddafi over the summer, I made it absolutely clear to him that we had no role in making the decision about Megrahi’s future.
GWEN IFILL: Scotland’s decision to release Megrahi has come under heavy criticism from U.S. officials and from relatives of the 270 victims of the 1988 Pan Am 103 bombing.
On Wall Street today, stocks held on to their recent gains with encouraging reports on consumer confidence and housing. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 30 points to close at 9,539, and the Nasdaq rose 6 points to close at 2,024.