Friday’s Headlines: Taliban Releases Video of U.S. Soldier; Vatican Reviews Security for Pope
On Christmas morning, the Taliban released a video that appears to show a soldier captured almost six months ago in Afghanistan. Pfc. Bowe Robert Bergdahl, 23, disappeared June 30 from his combat post in the Paktika province, near the border with Pakistan.
In the video, Berghdal wears sunglasses and army fatigues. He gives his name, rank, birth date, blood type, unit and mother’s maiden name then gives a statement attacking the war in Afghanistan and U.S. relations with Muslims. It remains unclear when the video footage was shot.
U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, a spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, said that Bergdahl was clearly compelled to read the statement, according to news reports
“To release this video on Christmas Day is an affront to the deeply concerned family and friends of Bowe Bergdahl, demonstrating contempt for religious traditions and the teachings of Islam,” Smith said.
At the end of the video, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid warns that more American troops could be captured and demands a limited number of prisoners be exchanged for Bergdahl.
It’s the second video of Bergdahl insurgents have released. They also released one on July 19, just a few weeks after he was captured.
After a woman lunged at the pope during Christmas Eve Mass, causing him and an 87-year-old French cardinal to fall, the Vatican said that she tried the same thing last year. Last year’s attempt happened after Midnight Mass, but 25-year-old Susanna Maiolo, a Swiss and Italian citizen with a history of mental problems, was stopped by security before reaching the Holy Father.
In Thursday’s attack, the cardinal broke his femur, but Pope Benedict XVI proceeded with mass. This video of the incident emerged Friday:
On Friday, the pope delivered his traditional “Urbi et Orbi” message “to the city and the world” and offered Christmas Day greetings in a plethora of languages at Saint Peter’s Basilica, the New York Times reported.
The Vatican said it would review its security procedures after the Christmas Eve incident.
“People want to see him up close, and he’s pleased to see them closely too,” Vatican spokesman The Rev. Federico Lombardi told the AP. “A zero risk doesn’t seem realistic in a situation in which there’s a direct rapport with the people.”
********** The U.S. government [announced Thursday](http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/25/business/25fannie.html?scp=2&sq=fannie%20mae&st=cse) it would offer unlimited financial support to mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for three years, allowing them to exceed the current $400 billion cap on aid. The [decision means](http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/24/AR2009122401588.html?hpid=topnews) that the government can continue to run the companies, which were put into conservatorship last year during the mortgage crisis. *********** In China, prominent political dissident Liu Xiaobo was [sentenced](http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKTRE5BO02920091225?sp=true) to 11 years in prison Friday on a subversion charge for campaigning for political freedoms. His sentence brought a swift rebuke from U.S. officials and human rights groups.
Liu, 53, helped organize a petition that called for political reforms and was known for his involvement in the 1989 pro-democracy protests that were crushed by Chinese troops. We’ll have more about Liu and the larger issues surrounding the sentencing on Friday’s NewsHour. ************** A Pakistani court remanded the [five Americans](http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jRbBtJwtmaUqypNdQ1YDYRZnmC6w) arrested last week in the northeastern town of Sarghoda. The decision will allow Pakistan to keep the men in custody for another 10 days while police complete an investigation. The men, all from the Northern Virginia area, [are suspected](http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/terrorism/july-dec09/pakistan_12-10.html) of plotting terror attacks. They were arrested earlier this month at the home of a leader of the banned militant group Jaish-e-Muhammad (Army of the Prophet Mohammad),after traveling from the U.S. to Pakistan in November. Haseeb Shah, a police official in Sargodha, [told Voice of America](http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/asia/25dec09-pakistan-terror-80106472.html) that investigators may ask for another extension at the next court hearing.