HARI SREENIVASAN: The Syrian army deployed around the city of Daraa today, after three days of mass protests and a crackdown. At the same time, riot police chased away a small crowd after the funeral of a protester who was killed on Sunday. Since Friday, seven people have died at the hands of security forces in that city. One was an 11-year-old boy who was tear-gassed.
In Bahrain, the Sunni king, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, accused foreign elements of fomenting Shiite protests and trying to subvert his kingdom. He said those detractors had been foiled with the help of troops from Saudi Arabia. The protesters staged weeks of rallies, demanding a constitutional monarchy, until last week, when the king used force to end the protests.
The U.S. Army has apologized for graphic photos that show U.S. troops posing and even smiling alongside dead Afghans. A military statement called the pictures repugnant. The German magazine “Der Spiegel” published three of the images online yesterday and in print today. They stem from the deaths of three unarmed Afghans last year. Five U.S. soldiers are charged with murder and conspiracy.
Thousands of young people in the Ivory Coast heeded calls today to join the army and defend President Laurent Gbagbo. Volunteers gathered in Abidjan, cheering and pledging allegiance to Gbagbo. He has refused to step down, despite losing his reelection bid last fall.
At the same time, opposition forces continued advancing in the west. They are loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized president.
Election workers in Haiti have begun counting ballots from Sunday’s presidential balloting. The election is between Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady and senator, and Michel Martelly, a popular singer who has never held public office. The voting was mostly orderly, although some people stood in line at polling stations for up to three hours. Initial results are not expected until March 31.
In business news, wireless provider AT&T announced plans to buy T-Mobile for $39 billion. The combined company would become the largest U.S. carrier, with nearly 130 million customers. The deal could close in about a year, pending approval from federal regulators.
The AT&T deal helped give Wall Street a boost. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 178 points to close above 12,036. The Nasdaq rose 48 points to close at 2,692.
The Republican presidential field for 2012 moved closer today to having its first major contender. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced he’s officially begun exploring the race. He said it’s time for the people to take back the government. Other major Republican hopefuls are still mulling the race.
Former Secretary of State Warren Christopher died Friday at his home in Los Angeles. He’d suffered kidney and bladder cancer. Christopher led the State Department under President Clinton from 1993 through 1996. He oversaw completion of free trade agreements with Canada and Mexico.
Before that, he was deputy secretary of state under President Carter and negotiated the release of 52 American hostages in Iran in 1981. Warren Christopher was 85 years old.
Those are some of the day’s major stories.