Wednesday’s Headlines: U.S. Soldiers Killed; Illinois Primaries; AIG Bonuses

BY Tom LeGro  February 3, 2010 at 9:10 AM EST

A roadside bomb killed three U.S. soldiers and three students from a girls’ school in northwest Pakistan on Wednesday, and in Iraq a bomb planted on a motorcycle killed at least 20 Shiite pilgrims.

The American soldiers were in Lower Dir, an area known as a Taliban stronghold but which the Pakistani military had declared cleared of the militants, two Pakistani government officials said. The Pakistani army launched a major operation in Lower Dir and the nearby Swat Valley last year.

The blast also killed a Pakistani soldier who was traveling with the Americans. Two more U.S. soldiers were wounded, along with more than 70 other people, mostly students, officials said. The Koto Girls High School was flattened.

American soldiers are not formally stationed in Pakistan, which does not permit U.S. troops to conduct military operations on its soil. The soldiers were in the region as part of a U.S. mission to train members of the paramilitary Frontier Corps, Pakistan’s army and the U.S. Embassy said. The statement added that the soldiers were there to attend the inauguration of a school that had been renovated with American assistance.

In Iraq, security officials said that in addition to the scores of deaths, around 90 people were wounded in the blast, which took place Wednesday morning near the outskirts of the holy city of Karbala.

The attack was the latest in a string of bombings this week that have targeted pilgrims making their way to an important Shiite religious observance in Karbala. On Monday, a suicide bomber north of Baghdad killed 54 Shiite pilgrims, including a dozen children. The pilgrimage ends Friday.

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In Illinois, two Democrats and two Republicans were virtually tied early Wednesday in their party primaries in the race to decide who will run for the governor’s office. And although incumbent Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn declared victory, challenger Dan Hynes vowed to fight until every vote was counted. About 5,000 votes separated the two.

On the GOP side, state Sens. Bill Brady of Bloomington and Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale were separated by less than 1,500 votes. Ballot counting is scheduled to resume Wednesday morning.

Illinois voters did, however, set the stage for a November election for the U.S. Senate seat President Barack Obama held before moving to the White House. Democrats nominated state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, while Republicans picked five-term U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk.

Chicago Tonight, WBEZ’s City Room and the Chicago Tribune’s Election Center all have comprehensive and updated coverage.

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Insurance giant AIG, which owes the U.S. government $124 billion from its record setting $182 billion bailout, plans Wednesday to pay another round of employee bonuses, worth about $100 million, the Washington Post reports.

The payments will go to employees at the company’s Financial Products division who agreed recently to accept 10 to 20 percent less money than AIG had initially promised them two years ago, according to the Post.

Appearing on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Wednesday, President Obama’s “pay czar,” Kenneth Feinberg, said the bonuses were outrageous and that he is using whatever leverage he has to get that money returned to U.S. taxpayers.

The payments are, however, contractual obligations entered into years ago. Feinberg also pointed out that AIG executives have pledged to repay $39 million out of $45 million in previous bonuses to the U.S. Treasury.