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News Wrap: Three Americans Among Casualties of Algeria Hostage Stand-Off

January 21, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: There was word today that three Americans died in the hostage standoff in Algeria that finally ended over the weekend. A U.S. official told the Associated Press that seven other Americans escaped. It started Wednesday when Islamist militants linked to al-Qaida attacked a natural gas complex near the Libyan border.

Algerian special forces then launched a series of operations to retake the site. Today, the prime minister gave his first official death toll.

PRIME MINISTER ABDELMALEK SELLAL, Algeria: Thirty-seven victims, foreign hostages, may God rest their souls, and an Algerian, these 37 victims are from eight countries, eight nationalities. Of these 37 victims, seven until now have not been identified.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The prime minister also confirmed two Canadians were among the 32 attackers.

In neighboring Mali, French and Malian forces took back control of a key town from Islamist rebels linked to al-Qaida. A ground force recaptured Diabaly after the French military unleashed a barrage of airstrikes. The rebels also fled from the town farther north. France intervened last week to halt the advance of the Islamists. West African nations have begun sending troops as well.

This was election eve in Israel, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared likely to keep power, but not by much. Today, he urged voters to come home to his conservative coalition. Polls suggested he could lose seats to an even more conservative challenger. Millionaire Naftali Bennett and his far-right Jewish Home Party have gained momentum. He opposes new peace initiatives with the Palestinians.

The U.S. House will vote Wednesday on raising the national debt ceiling. Republican leaders announced today the extension lets the government continue borrowing money until May 19. The current debt ceiling, $16.4 trillion, could be reached as early as mid-February. The House bill doesn’t specify a new dollar amount. It does mandate that Congress approve budgets, or lawmakers won’t be paid.

Major League Baseball lost two Hall of Famers over the weekend. Saint Louis Cardinals great Stan Musial, “Stan the Man,” died Saturday at his home just outside the city. He played 22 years, helping the Cards win three World Series titles in the 1940s. He was widely regarded as one of game’s greatest hitters ever. Stan Musial was 92 years old.

Also Saturday, former Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver passed away during a Caribbean cruise. Weaver won the World Series in 1970, and took his teams to three others. Along the way, he gained fame for his fiery, in-your-face confrontations with umpires. He was ejected from games 91 times over 17 seasons. Earl Weaver was 82 years old.