News Wrap: Al-Qaida Confirms Bin Laden’s Death, Warns of New Attacks
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Al-Qaida issued its own confirmation of Osama bin Laden’s death in a statement posted on militant websites today. The terror network warned of new attacks to avenge bin Laden. It said Americans’ “blood will be mingled with their tears.”
The website’s statement promised a final audio message from bin Laden will be issued soon. It said he made the recording a week before his death.
Bin Laden apparently hoped to stage attacks on American cities at major holidays. The Associated Press reported today he had a kind of wish list, but no specific plans. It cited officials who have seen intelligence material seized at his compound in Pakistan. And a Pakistani intelligence official said one of bin Laden’s wives has told interrogators she lived at the compound for five years. She said she never left the top two floors of the house.
Anti-American protests broke out in parts of Pakistan today over the killing of bin Laden. Hundreds of members of radical Islamic parties demonstrated in several cities and burned American flags. The protesters held posters of bin Laden and warned of what’s to come.
ABDULLAH SITTAR CHISHTI, protester (through translator): America is celebrating the killing of Osama bin Laden, but it will be a temporary celebration. After the martyrdom of Osama, billions, trillions of Osamas will be born.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Also today, Pakistani intelligence officials said a U.S. drone aircraft strike killed at least 15 people. They said a barrage of missiles hit a vehicle in North Waziristan, near the border with Afghanistan. It was the first reported drone attack since the U.S. raid that killed bin Laden.
NATO has announced the death of another soldier in Afghanistan. It happened in a roadside bombing in the south, but there were no other details — 114 coalition troops have been killed since the beginning of the year.
This Friday brought a new wave of bloodshed in the uprising across Syria. Security forces opened fire on huge crowds of protesters, killing at least 30. The demonstrators were demanding the end of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
We have a report narrated by Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News.
JONATHAN MILLER: In this, the latest day of defiance, activists claim thousands demonstrated in 63 towns and cities across Syria. Some even waved Turkish flags, thanking their neighbor for its tough stance against Assad.
It’s by far the biggest, most widespread day of protest so far. Daraa, hearthstone of the revolt, from which some tanks and troops withdrew yesterday, remains ringed with steel. Unable to enter Daraa, thousands of protesters converged on Tafas, eight miles northwest. Government tanks surround Banias, as well as Al-Rastan and Homs, where soldiers fired randomly into crowds.
After Friday prayers, spontaneous protests erupted in Damascus’ Old City and the suburbs of Barzeh, Al-Midan, and Saqba. There was a huge demonstration in the city of Hama, which was also met with gunfire, other protests reported in Aleppo, Syria’s second city, in Qamishli in the Kurdish northeast, as well as in Dayr Az Zawr and Abu Kamal.
In Damascus, as they poured out of Friday prayers, they chanted, “He who kills his own people is a traitor,” and they welcomed martyrdom in the face of Bashar al-Assad’s bloody repression.
International media are banned from Syria. Every day, activists post amateur video on the Internet. It can’t be authenticated, these tanks apparently filmed today just outside Homs. There were snipers on rooftops, Homs the site of the bloodiest clashes, 15 protesters reportedly killed.
Activists claim some soldiers opened fire on state security men to protect demonstrators, reportedly killing several. The watching world has condemned the bloodshed, but is apparently powerless to stop it. In Syria itself, the thirst for freedom is now greater than the fear this police state has instilled.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Human rights groups estimate that more than 580 Syrian civilians and 100 soldiers have been killed since the uprising began seven weeks ago.
In Yemen, hundreds of thousands of people turned out again to demand that President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down. He has refused to resign, despite three months of protests. Demonstrators on both sides filled the streets of the capital city, Sanaa, but the opposition crowd far exceeded the president’s supporters.
Police in Memphis, Tennessee, went door-to-door today, urging people to leave their homes in the face of rising floodwaters. About 1,000 homes were involved. Officials warned the rising Mississippi River and its tributaries could leave them underwater in the next few days. The Coast Guard also closed a five-mile stretch of the Mississippi to barge traffic. Flooding in the Mississippi Delta has already broken high-water records in place since the 1930s.
The theater marquees on Broadway will dim tonight in honor of Playwright/Director Arthur Laurents. He died Thursday at his home in New York City. In 1957, Laurents wrote the book for “West Side Story.” The classic musical gave “Romeo and Juliet” a new spin about rival New York street gangs. Two years later, he wrote “Gypsy,” based on the life of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee. Laurents also directed on Broadway and wrote the screenplay for “The Way We Were” in 1973.
Arthur Laurents was 93 years old.
Those are some of the day’s major stories.