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News Wrap: Afghan Military Pilot Kills 9 Americans at Kabul Airport

April 27, 2011 at 5:33 PM EDT
In other news Wednesday, an Afghan military pilot shot and killed eight U.S. troops and an American contractor after an argument at the Kabul airport. Also, Obama administration officials confirmed CIA Chief Leon Panetta will succeed Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Gen. David Petraeus will head the CIA.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: An Afghan military pilot shot and killed nine Americans today outside Kabul before being killed. Eight of the dead were U.S. troops. Afghan officials said the pilot got into an argument with the Americans at the Kabul airport. It was the latest in a string of similar incidents this year.

The Taliban claimed the man was an insurgent. The Afghan Defense Ministry denied that and said he was a 20-year veteran of the military. 

President Obama plans a major reshuffling of his national security team tomorrow. Administration officials confirmed today that Ryan Crocker, the former ambassador to Iraq, will be the new ambassador to Afghanistan. In addition, the president will nominate CIA Director Leon Panetta to be defense secretary. Panetta will replace Robert Gates, now expected to step down on June 30.

The overall commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. David Petraeus, will take over at the CIA. And Marine Lt. Gen. John Allen is expected to replace Petraeus in Afghanistan.

More Syrian tanks and troops entered the southern city of Daraa today, as a crackdown intensified. This video posted online appeared to show a convoy of army transports carrying military vehicles toward Daraa. The city has been at the heart of the Syrian uprising. There were also reports of tanks deploying near Damascus and in the coastal city of Banias.

The besieged city of Misrata in western Libya had a day of relative calm, after NATO airstrikes beat back Moammar Gadhafi’s troops. The lull enabled a much-needed mercy vessel to reach the city’s port.

We have a report from Alex Thomson of Independent Television News.

ALEX THOMSON: A 38-hour voyage that should take 20 — delayed by heavy shelling, the Red Star ferry chartered from Albania finally docks in Misrata, smoke rising still from yesterday’s bombardment. The rebels are nothing if not organized — a car and a driver laid on and straight to the hospital. They want world to see.

Outside, in a car park, a tent is a hospital ward. The latest injured fighters, this man being patched up with a bullet in the buttock and another in the chest.

What you’re witnessing here is the care and meticulousness necessary to move just one patient from this intensive care unit out to the vehicles and beyond to the ship and away to the relative safety of Benghazi and Europe after that. And that illustrates just the gravity of the nature of the injuries which we’re dealing with here on the one hand, but also, it shows you just how vital that boat link in and out of the port of Misrata remains.

The transit camp for migrant workers out near the port, desperate to escape the fighting, is now all but empty. Nine hundred more left with the Red Star today but then they came back to squeeze on another 50. And that still leaves of course hundreds disappointed, out in the open in an area which only yesterday was shelled and two people were killed.

MAN: We are dying here. We don’t know — we are innocent. We are innocent here. These people try to kill us.

ALEX THOMSON: Down at the dockside we caught up with the chosen few who made it. But there will be other boats in coming days.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In Yemen today, security forces opened fire on a huge crowd in the capital, Sanaa. A doctor at the scene reported 12 protesters were killed. An estimated 100,000 people had rallied, demanding the ouster of longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The protest came even though Yemeni opposition leaders have agreed to a plan for Saleh to give up power.

The Palestinians have reached initial agreement on uniting their rival governments. Officials of Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza announced the plan today. It calls for forming a single caretaker government until new elections can be held a year from now. Israel again rejected any government that includes Hamas, which opposes the existence of a Jewish state.

Officials across the middle of the United States reported at least 11 more deaths today, after the latest wave of severe weather. Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes cut an enormous swathe from the Deep South, up through Kentucky and Tennessee and reaching all the way into Michigan and New York state.

MAN: That’s a tornado cloud right there, dude. Look at it.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Cries of alarm, like that one, echoed again overnight with reports of another 50 tornadoes sighted across five states. Winds near hurricane-force, if not outright twisters, took down tall trees in northeast Georgia, smashing them into homes.

WOMAN: Probably three or four minutes and that’s when I heard the roof shake and saw daylight.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And all the while, the rain kept falling. Many in the region awoke to scenes of widespread flooding. The Black River in southeastern Missouri was already overflowing and threatening to do even worse.

Volunteers in Evansville, Ind., and elsewhere spent the day filling sandbags, trying to keep the creeping water at bay.
The governor of Kentucky said his state faces a double whammy.

GOV. STEVE BESHEAR, D-Ky.: This will be the first time in a while that the Ohio and the Mississippi are flooding at the same time.

HARI SREENIVASAN: That threat had the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers pondering a plan to blow holes in the Birds Point levee in Missouri. It could relieve the flood dangers upstream at Cairo, Ill., near the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi.

Meanwhile, the effects of violent weather also extended well north, dropping golf-ball-sized hail on Michigan and sweeping heavy rains and winds across upstate New York.

The U.S. Supreme Court considered today when lawmakers should recuse themselves from voting on official business. A city councilman in Reno, Nev., had voted on a casino project, even though his campaign manager served as a consultant for it. An ethics commission censured the councilman, but the state Supreme Court ruled the ethics law violated his free speech rights.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.