France to Withdraw From Afghanistan, North Dakota Bracing for Floods
Following President Obama’s speech Wednesday evening, in which he announced the withdrawal of 33,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan over the course of the next 12 months, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said his country will begin pulling its 4,000 soldiers out in a phased exit. According to a statement released by his office, President Sarkozy’s announcement followed a conversation between the two leaders Wednesday.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai praised the decision, one that will implement a more rapid withdrawal than many military advisers had hoped for. The Taliban said the decision was merely “symbolic” and that it remains committed to fighting any foreign troops in the country.
Meantime, an Afghan tribunal overturned a quarter of all legislative election results from last year’s elections, claiming massive fraud. Members of parliament decried the move, saying it would put more power in the hands of President Karzai. The decision affects 62 of 249 seats, with the possibility of more under review.
Questions of legitimacy have dogged the current parliament, making it difficult to pass measures relating to the country’s budget and laws. President Karzai is also under fire for not naming a full cabinet or filling seats on the Supreme Court.
North Dakota Braces for Floods
About 12,000 residents of Minot, N.D. — roughly one-third of the city’s population — have evacuated in anticipation of record flooding as the Souris River prepares to crest early next week. The city’s dikes are already leaking, and the National Weather Service said it expects heavy rainfall in the area.
The Souris River, which crosses through the center of Minot, was measured at 1,555 feet and is expected to reach 1562.5 Monday, exceeding the previous record of 1,558 feet set in 1881.
Minot is home to an Air Force base, where members have been helping shore up the area with sandbags.
FBI Fugitive James ‘Whitey’ Bulger Captured
Former mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger was captured in Santa Monica, Calif., after 16 years on the run. Bulger was wanted in connection with 19 deaths, as well as on suspicion of extortion, money laundering and other charges. He was able to evade arrest in 1995 after an FBI agent, who later spent a decade in prison, warned him that he was about to be indicted.
Bulger, 81, wore disguises to avoid detection and was the inspiration for “The Departed,” a 2006 Martin Scorsese film. He was on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List, and $2 million dollar reward was offered for tips leading to his arrest.
A renewed push for information about his whereabouts led to his arrest, including television advertisements airing in 14 cities around the nation. They included a description of his girlfriend, Catherine Elizabeth Greig, who was also arrested.
Syrian Troops Reportedly Enter Border Village
According to human rights groups in the area, Syrian security forces have entered the town of Khirbet al-Jouz near the Turkish border. The latest raid is likely to compund a growing refugee crisis in Turkey, where residents have camped out in makeshift tempts to escape violence in the area. There were reports of tanks and snipers closing in on Khirbet al-Jouz, and several hundred people reportedly broke through a barbed wire fence in an attempt to cross the border into Turkey.
For three months, demonstrators have clashed with security forces in their bid to bring reforms as they call on President Bashar Assad to step down. Though independent numbers are not available, an estimated 1,400 people have died in the clashes and some 10,000 have been detained in the crackdown.
Turkish forces have stepped up their presence along the border as the government grapples with how to handle the unrest in neighboring Syria.