U.S. Authorizes Drone Strikes in Libya, McCain Visits Opposition in Benghazi
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., met with rebels and members of the Libyan opposition’s governing council in Benghazi on Friday, calling the fighters “heroes.” Sen. McCain has been a staunch supporter of U.S. involvement in Libya and had earlier likened the assault on civilians to events in Rwanda and Bosnia in the 1990s.
On Thursday, President Obama authorized the use of unmanned Predator drones in Libya to shore up the existing NATO air strikes. Ground fighting in places like Misrata has highlighted the limits of the air campaign, and rebels have called for greater aid as they fight the more heavily armed and financed forces of Moammar Gadhafi. The United States has also agreed to send non-weapons related aid in the form of equipment.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates defended the use of the drones, saying they did not exceed the limits of the U.N. Security Council resolution that authorized the air strikes to protect the civilian population.
Pakistan Says 25 Killed in U.S. Drone Strike
Pakistani officials said 25 people died in a drone strike in North Waziristan, an area with heavy al-Qaeda and Taliban activity. Officials said five women and four children who were in a home near the targeted compound were also killed.
The report comes after weeks of escalating tensions between Pakistan and the United States, who are working together in combating militants in the border region with neighboring Afghanistan.
The arrest and eventual release of CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who shot and killed two Pakistanis he said were trying to rob him, and the recent public disagreement over the use of those drone strikes have put the alliance on fragile ground. Earlier this month, Pakistan says one such strike killed 40 civilians.
Protests Continue in Syria
On Friday, witnesses reported thousands of protesters in Damascus, Daraa and elsewhere in Syria, according to the Associated Press. Friday prayers have often led into protests, with many hoping to emulate the gains made in Tunisia and Egypt’s movements that forced their leaders out of power.
In response to more than a month of demonstrations, President Bashar Assad blamed armed gangs and terrorists groups for the “insurrection,” which the government has vowed to put down. But in an unusual concession, Assad also lifted the country’s nearly 50-year-old emergency law. However, the changes in the law that allow peaceful assembly in turn require permission from the government to do so.
An estimated 200 people have died in six weeks of protests, according to witnesses and human rights organizations.
Clashes on Thai-Cambodian Border Kill 6
Six soldiers are reportedly dead after a new round of clashes along the tense Thai-Cambodia border Friday, the most serious flare-up since clashes killed eight in February near Preah Vihear, a U.N. World Heritage site. The fighting has largely centered around two disputed temples and has forced civilians out of the area.
The dispute has been tinged with nationalist sentiment and fueled by recent protests in Bangkok calling for the reclaiming of territory.