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News Wrap: U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Syrian Leaders Over Humans Rights Abuses

May 18, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: The U.S. today imposed sanctions on Syrian President Bashar Assad for the first time for human rights abuses. Six other top Syrian officials were also included. Human rights groups estimate more than 850 people have been killed by Syria’s crackdown on protesters. The U.S. move came as Assad acknowledged police have made mistakes in handling the unrest. He said they are getting new training.

In Pakistan, 100 militants attacked a key security checkpoint and triggered a three-hour gun battle. At least 17 people were killed. It happened near Peshawar, along the border of the Khyber Pass tribal region, where Taliban and other militants take refuge.

Meanwhile, in Washington, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said it is still not clear who in Pakistan might have known Osama bin Laden was holed up there.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ROBERT GATES: I have seen no evidence at all that the senior leadership knew. In fact, I have seen some evidence to the contrary. But — and we have no evidence yet with respect to anybody else. My supposition is, somebody knew.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Gates advised against any attempt to cut off U.S. aid to Pakistan.

At least a dozen people were killed in Afghanistan today after angry crowds fought with police. The protesters carried four bodies through the streets and chanted anti-American slogans. They said the victims were civilians killed by NATO troops in a raid overnight. NATO said the dead were insurgents who tried to fire on alliance troops.

The government of Libya has freed four foreign journalists after holding them for six weeks. They included two Americans, James Foley of GlobalPost, and Clare Morgana Gillis, a freelance reporter. A British freelancer and a Spanish photographer were also freed. The Libyan regime said all four entered the country illegally. Each received a one-year suspended sentence.

Wall Street rallied today, boosted by a rebound in commodity prices. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 80 points to close at 12,560. The Nasdaq rose more than 31 points to close at 2,815.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.