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News Wrap: Taliban fighters capture Afghan city

In our news wrap Monday, hundreds of Taliban fighters attacked and captured a provincial capital in northern Afghanistan. The fall of Kunduz is the first time since 2001 that the militant group seized a major Afghan city. Also, security officials claimed that Saudi airstrikes killed at least 38 people at a wedding party in Yemen.

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    President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin went to the United Nations today, where they laid out starkly different visions on the future of Syria. The two men addressed world leaders, disagreeing openly on whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go or stay. Later, they met privately. We will get a full report on developments at the start of this big week at the U.N. after the news summary.

    In other news, Wall Street had a bad Monday over new signs of weakness in China's economy and falling oil prices. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 313 points to close back near 16000, down about 2 percent. The Nasdaq fell 142 points, or 3 percent. And the S&P 500 dropped 49, 2.5 percent.

    As the U.S. focused on Syria at the U.N., the Taliban scored a major coup in Afghanistan. Hundreds of fighters attacked and captured the city of Kunduz, a provincial capital in the north. The Taliban militants took cell phone video of themselves after this seizure of a major Afghan city for the first time since the U.S. invasion in 2001.

  • MAN (through interpreter):

    This is our hope. We want to build a religious school, to build a bridge, a road, a Sharia-based government. This is why we came out and this is what we fought for, so that Sharia law is enforced here.


    For more on the fall of Kunduz and its significance, I spoke earlier this evening to freelance journalist Sune Engel Rasmussen in Kabul.

    Sune, welcome.

    Tell us what happened. How did the Taliban pull this off?

  • SUNE ENGEL RASMUSSEN, Freelance Journalist:

    Well, this is an attack that started around 3:00 a.m. in the morning, and the Taliban attacked the city of Kunduz from four different districts, three different directions around, surrounding the city.

    And around mid-morning, they captured the regional hospital in the city. And early in the afternoon, they'd taken the intelligence service headquarters, they had taken and released hundreds of prisoners. And they had also set fire to a U.N. building.

    So, this seems to be a very concerted effort by militant groups from not just Kunduz, but different provinces as well, and something that had been weeks, if not months, in the making.


    Why was Kunduz in such a vulnerable position?


    That's a good question, but mainly — one of the main reasons is the withdrawal of foreign troops. The German troops were the main force up there. They pulled out two years ago. And, since then, the government has had a really hard time establishing authority and getting people on their side, not least — Kunduz is a place where a lot of the opposition, militant opposition to the Taliban relies on militia leaders and former warlords, who don't necessarily have a lot of backing from their population, because they have a reputation of abusing the local population.

    And that is something that creates a fertile ground for an insurgency like the Taliban.


    So, quickly, how much a threat does this pose to the central government in Kabul?


    Well, that depends on how long the Taliban is able to hold Kunduz.

    And I'll be surprised if the government forces are not able to push them out relatively quickly. But, that said, Kunduz is a strategically important city. It's at a crossroads between the northern provinces and is a gateway to Tajikistan. And it also has highways connecting the province to Kabul and to Mazar, north of those two cities. So, it is a strategically very important province.


    Sune Engel Rasmussen, reporting for us from Kabul, we thank you.


    You're welcome.


    In Yemen, security officials charged that airstrikes led by Saudi Arabia killed at least 38 people at a wedding party today. It happened in a town near the port city of Mocha on the country's southwestern coast. The Saudis are running an air campaign against Shiite rebels in Yemen, but they denied hitting a wedding party. A spokesman said, "This is totally false news."

    Pope Francis is back in Rome after his U.S. visit, but he kept making news even as he flew home last night. Speaking to reporters in Italian, he condemned bishops who helped hide the sexual abuse of children by priests.

  • POPE FRANCIS (through interpreter):

    When a priest abuses a child, it is very bad. He crushes them with evil. And for that reason, it is almost a sacrilege. He has betrayed his vocation, the call of God. And, also, one shouldn't cover it up. The ones who covered these things up are also guilty.


    The pope also defended the consoling words he offered to U.S. bishops last week over the abuse scandal. He said he wanted to acknowledge that they had suffered, too.

    Prosecutors in Germany today opened a fraud investigation of Volkswagen's former CEO over cheating on emission tests. Martin Winterkorn resigned last week as the scandal burst to life. Separately, German government officials insisted that they had been unaware that V.W.'s data was falsified.

    Back in this country, the U.S. Senate voted to break a deadlock over funding government operations into December. That's after Republicans gave up trying to pass a bill that also denied funding for Planned Parenthood. The House is expected to follow suit this week.

    Royal Dutch/Shell is abandoning its search for oil in Alaska's Arctic waters, at least for now. The company spent $7 billion on drilling in the Chukchi Sea, but says it didn't find enough oil to make it worthwhile. Environmentalists had condemned the project, saying that a spill would devastate wildlife in the region.

    And there's hopeful news for women in the early stages of breast cancer. The National Cancer Institute reports that a gene test can determine which patients are helped more by hormone therapy. Those who skipped traditional chemotherapy, based on that test, had less than a 1 percent chance of their cancer recurring over five years.

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