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Syria Reports 120 Security Troops Killed by Armed Groups

June 6, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: The government of Syria reported today that armed groups have killed 120 security troops in a northern town. State TV said it was an ambush, but human rights groups said soldiers have killed at least 42 civilians in that town since a crackdown began there on Saturday.

Separately, Israeli troops killed nearly two dozen Syrians on Sunday when pro-Palestinian protesters charged the Israeli frontier in the Golan Heights. The area was quiet today as Syrian police kept protesters away.

In Iraq, U.S. troops suffered their worst loss in more than two years. Five Americans were killed near Sadr City in Eastern Baghdad when rockets hit their compound at a joint U.S.-Iraqi base. They had worked as advisers to Iraqi security police. The remaining 46,000 American troops in Iraq are scheduled to leave by year’s end.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned today against withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan too quickly. The pullout is currently set to begin in July. Gates visited eastern Afghanistan to thank the troops for their service one final time before he retires at the end of this month. He said they need time to finish the job they have begun.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ROBERT GATES: We are still on track and, frankly, making a lot of progress in breaking the momentum of the Taliban, denying them control of populated areas, degrading their capabilities, enhancing the capabilities of the Afghan national security forces, and going after Taliban — going after al-Qaida. But my view is we have got to keep the pressure on. We’re not quite there yet.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Gates’ comments came amid reports that President Obama’s advisers are considering whether to speed up the U.S. withdrawal. Separately, NATO reported three soldiers were killed in Afghan fighting in the last 24 hours. Two more died in a helicopter crash.

Missiles fired by U.S. drone aircraft killed at least 16 people in Pakistan today. Pakistani intelligence officials said the targets were suspected militant hideouts near the Afghan border. The U.S. has carried out more than 30 drone strikes in the region so far this year. But the pace is well below that of 2010.

The former head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, pleaded not guilty today to charges he tried to rape a hotel maid. He appeared before a state court judge in New York City for a 10-minute hearing. Then he returned to the townhome where he’s been living under house arrest
Former Pa. Sen. Rick Santorum has officially entered the 2012 presidential race. He announced his bid for the Republican nomination today in Somerset, Pa. Santorum said the American people want a president they can believe in, the kind they thought they elected in 2008.

RICK SANTORUM, (R) presidential candidate: President Obama took that leap of — took that faith that the American public gave him and wrecked our economy and centralized power in Washington, D.C., and robbed people of their freedom.

I’m ready to do what has to be done for the next generation, with the courage to fight for freedom, with the courage to fight for America.

That’s why I’m announcing today that I’m running for president of the United States.


HARI SREENIVASAN: Santorum served two terms in the Senate, but lost his 2006 reelection bid. With his announcement today, the Republican presidential field stands at seven declared candidates.

Portugal has become the latest European nation to change governments as fallout from the spreading debt crisis. The ruling Socialists lost power to the center-right opposition in Sunday’s elections. The Socialist regime had agreed to painful austerity measures in return for an international bailout.

And, in Greece, more than 60,000 people marched in Athens on Sunday, opposing further cuts in public spending. The prime minister said today he might call for a referendum on the issue.

Concerns about the U.S. economy kept Wall Street on edge again today. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 61 points to close near 12,090. The Nasdaq fell 30 points to close at 2,702.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.