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News Wrap: Congolese government troops drive back attack on capital

December 30, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: The death toll reached 31 today in the Russian city of Volgograd, after the second suicide bombing in as many days. The first came Sunday at the city’s main train station.

The attacks raised new security concerns just over a month before Russia plays host to the Winter Olympics. We will hear more on the bombings and Olympic security after this news summary.

East African nations have agreed to defeat a rebel leader in South Sudan if he rejects a cease-fire. The president of Uganda delivered that message during a visit to South Sudan today. He said neighboring states gave rebel leader Riek Machar four days to respond or face a wider conflict. Meanwhile, the U.N. estimated today that up to 180,000 people have been displaced since ethnic clashes began in mid-December. At least 1,000 others have died.

New trouble erupted in Congo today. The state television station, airport and main military base in the capital city all came under attack. A government spokesman in Kinshasa said the attackers were armed with machetes, sticks and other weapons, but they were driven back by government troops.

LAMBERT MENDE OMALANGA, Democratic Republic of the Congo (through translator): The government calls the population of Kinshasa the victim of this terrorist attack because, with so few attacks and weapons, we think that their purpose was to terrorize the people on the eve of New Year’s Eve celebrations, which are very important in our culture.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The government said the attackers were followers of a self-styled evangelical prophet. The assault touched off gun battles that left at least 40 people dead.

In Western Iraq, police tore down a Sunni protest camp today after protesters agreed to end their months-long demonstration. The camp was in Ramadi in Anbar province. Sunnis erected it to protest what they see as discrimination by the Shiite-led government. Meanwhile, clashes near the Shiite site today left 10 people dead, including gunmen and three policemen.

The government of Afghanistan is rejecting a U.S. intelligence finding that many of the gains there could be lost by 2017. In Kabul today, a spokesman for President Hamid Karzai called the assessment baseless. The national intelligence estimate is the work of 16 U.S. agencies. It also says Afghanistan could descend into outright chaos if there’s no agreement to keep some U.S. troops beyond 2014.

The latest attempt to reach a Russian ship trapped in Antarctic ice was called off today, in the face of a blizzard. An Australian icebreaker had been sent in to rescue 74 people who’ve been stuck on board the Russian vessel for a week. The icebreaker was ordered to turn back due to poor visibility. The icebreaker plans to resume its mission as soon as the weather improves.

The teenager who attacked a Denver-area high school meant to claim many more victims than he did. Authorities gave that assessment of 18-year-old Karl Pierson at a news conference today. Pierson opened fire at Arapahoe County High School on December 13. He shot one student, who later died of her wounds, before killing himself. The sheriff says Pierson had a 12-gauge shotgun, three Molotov cocktails, and more than 125 rounds of ammunition.

GRAYSON ROBINSON, Arapahoe County, Colo., sheriff: His intent was to use as many of those rounds as he possibly could, and use the Molotov cocktails in the most destructive manner that he was able to do. He was bent on evil. And he was bent on causing the largest amount of harm to the largest number of people that he could.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The sheriff says Pierson got in through a door that was frequently propped open.

Six states have been chosen to develop test sites for unmanned commercial drones. The Federal Aviation Administration announced today it’s chosen Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas,and Virginia. They will host research sites and try to develop operational guidelines over the next two years. The FAA projects 7,500 commercial drones could be flying over the U.S. within five years after gaining widespread access to the air.

Wall Street was relatively quiet on this next-to-last trading day of the year. The Dow Jones industrial average rose nearly 26 points to close at 16,504. The Nasdaq fell two points to close at 4,154.