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News Wrap: U.S. Probes Deadly Friendly Fire Drone Attack in Afghanistan

April 12, 2011 at 4:31 PM EST
In other news Tuesday, the U.S. is investigating a drone attack that reportedly killed a U.S. Marine and a Navy medic in Helmand province. Military officials said the troops were mistaken for militants. Meanwhile, Libyan rebels and Moammar Gadhafi's forces battled for control of two key towns.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: The U.S. military is now investigating a drone attack  that apparently killed two U.S. troops in Afghanistan. It happened last week in Helmand Province. An unmanned Predator fired a missile at a U.S. Marine and a Navy medic. Military officials said the two men were mistaken for militants as they tried to reach other Marines who were under fire.

Fresh fighting raged on two fronts in Libya today. Moammar Gadhafi’s troops bombarded the city of Misrata again. Residents reported a dozen people were killed. And rebels outside Ajdabiya braced for new attacks, as Gadhafi’s forces fired rockets there. The city is the gateway to much of eastern Libya.

Meanwhile, France and Britain complained NATO airstrikes are not doing enough to protect Libyan civilians. The French foreign minister made the claim in Luxembourg, and a top NATO commander answered in Brussels.

ALAIN JUPPE, French foreign minister (through translator): NATO absolutely wanted to lead this operation. Well, voila, this is where we are. So, I trust them to assemble the necessary means. It is unacceptable that Misrata can continue to be bombed by Gadhafi’s troops.

BRIG. GEN. MARK VAN UHM, NATO Chief of Allied Operations: When you look what we have done in a very high operational tempo over the last few days, taking out numerous tanks, taking out armored personnel carriers, destroying ammunition storages, I think, with the assets we have, we’re doing a great job.

HARI SREENIVASAN: NATO took control of operations in Libya from the U.S., France and Britain on March 31.

In northeastern Syria, government forces staged attacks on two villages. Neighboring villagers said they could hear heavy gunfire for much of the day. The towns are outside the city of Banias, now sealed off by the army. In Washington, a White House spokesman accused the Syrian government of outrageous acts of repression.

Five top generals in Ivory Coast swore allegiance today to President Alassane Ouattara. He was finally able to assume power on Monday, when his rival, Laurent Gbagbo, was arrested. Gbagbo had refused to leave office, despite losing last year’s election. Sporadic gunfire continued in Ivory Coast today, even as Ouattara urged all fighters to disarm.

Japan has raised the severity level of its nuclear crisis to the highest rating possible. The announcement today did not signal any worsening in the situation. Instead, Japan’s government acknowledged what international nuclear officials had already concluded.

We have a report narrated by Tom Clarke of Independent Television News.

TOM CLARKE: Radioactive steam and cooling water still leak from Fukushima. Radiation levels have fallen, but they still needed a remote-control helicopter to record this video.

It’s been a month since the tsunami, filmed here as it struck the plant. But the water went weeks ago, and the nuclear emergency remains. So, Japan has upgraded the disaster to the highest level, joining a club only Chernobyl belonged to before.

Aware of the implications, the Japanese prime minister called for calm.

NAOTO KAN, Japanese prime minister (through translator): We cannot leave this country sinking. What we need to do now is to recover this country with all our might in such a way that we will not feel ashamed for the victims and for the children who will carry the future of this country.

TOM CLARKE: Driving the point home, Mr. Kan’s Cabinet secretary tucked enthusiastically into a tomato. It was grown in Fukushima, and, look, no radiation.

But his engineers from the plant conceded today they simply don’t know how long Fukushima will leak, hence the upgrade in disaster level.

JUNICHI MATSUMOTO, Tokyo Electric Power Company (through translator): If the radiation leak is not stopped completely, then it is likely that the total cumulative radiation could eventually exceed Chernobyl.

TOM CLARKE: It’s thought the Chernobyl disaster released 10 times more radiation than Fukushima, but the amount that has leaked so far does meet the International Atomic Energy Agency’s definition of a level-seven emergency, a major release with widespread health and environmental effects.

For Fukushima residents growing accustomed to life in the fallout zone, the change in emergency level isn’t helping.

YOICHI SANBONGI, former nuclear plan worker (through translator): If they’re going to announce something like that, they should do it in a way that’s not so alarming to people. If they say it’s level seven and the same as Chernobyl, and then a video of Chernobyl starts playing, then, of course, people will be uneasy.

TOM CLARKE: As the cleanup continues, Fukushima’s managers and the Japanese authorities have been criticized for confusion over the disaster. It’s the IAEA that defines evacuation zones and levels of emergency, but it has no powers to intervene in a crisis.

Without any international oversight, Japan will have to keep managing on its own.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The Chernobyl disaster erupted 25 years ago this month in Ukraine. To this day, everything within 19 miles of the ruined nuclear plant is off-limits to human habitation.

The news from Japan sent markets falling across Asia and Europe, and it carried over to Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 117 points to close at 12,263. The Nasdaq fell 26 points to close at 2,744.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.