In our news wrap Monday, an aid convoy with food and medicine finally got through to a Syrian town that was starving death. Also, gunmen burst into a shopping mall in Iraq, killing at least 18 and wounding 40 others. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack.
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Gunmen burst into a shopping mall in Iraq today, killing at least 18 people and wounding 40 others. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack in Baghdad. It began with a car bomb and suicide blast at the Jawhara Mall. That touched off a 90-minute gun battle before security forces gained control. To the north, another suicide attack killed two dozen people. Ten more were killed in other bombings.
Food and medicine finally got through today to a Syrian town that's slowly starving to death. An aid convoy was allowed in under an agreement with pro-government forces who have blockaded the place.
Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News has the story.
At last. This morning, Red Crescent trucks headed towards the besieged town of Madaya, carrying tinned food, rice, lentils, and other supplies, all desperately needed.
The people waited. They haven't had a food delivery like this for three months. Five more died of hunger or hunger-related diseases yesterday. Aid workers went in first. Food is a weapon of war in Syria. And the U.N. and Red Crescent have carefully negotiated with both government and rebels. Anything can go wrong at the last minute. And this is just a stopgap.
MAN (through interpreter):
People are very happy today because the food has arrived, but they're worried and upset because they're still under siege. The town isn't yet open to the world, so the human disaster we have witnessed could happen again in two weeks' time.
Under the agreement, emergency aid is being delivered from the Syrian capital, Damascus, both to Madaya, which is held by rebels, while besieged by Syrian government forces and Hezbollah, and to the Shia villages in the north, near Idlib, Foua and Kefraya, which are besieged by the rebel group Ahrar Al Sham.
The rebels surround the villages, and although there isn't the same level of hunger there as in Madaya, the people, who are mostly government supporters, are trapped, unable to leave. As darkness fell this evening, the convoys finally got permission from all sides to enter Madaya. The World Food Program hopes to provide enough to feed 40,000 people in the area for one month. That's just a tenth of the number of Syrians who urgently need food aid this winter.
The United Nations says that 4.5 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian aid.
Germany's leaders today condemned retaliatory violence against immigrants. Six Pakistanis and a Syrian were assaulted Sunday in Cologne, as tensions flared over New Year's Eve attacks, mostly carried out by migrants. Meanwhile, Turkey said that it plans to offer work permits to Syrian refugees so that fewer of them will try to get to Europe.
In Pakistan, new efforts began to revive long-stalled peace talks in neighboring Afghanistan. Representatives from Afghanistan, China, the U.S. and Pakistan met late into the night in Islamabad. The four nations didn't invite the Taliban to the session, but Pakistani officials said it's vital to bring the militants into the fold.
SARTAJ AZIZ, Foreign Affairs Adviser, Pakistani Prime Minister :
The primary objective of the reconciliation process is to create conditions to bring the Taliban groups to the negotiating table and offer them incentives that can persuade them to move away from using violence as a tool for pursuing political goals.
The Taliban said today that it will not agree to any direct talks with Afghanistan without first talking to the United States.
Back in this country, on Wall Street, stocks managed small gains, despite oil prices falling to just over $31 a barrel. That is the lowest in 12 years. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 52 points to close near 16400. The Nasdaq fell five points, and the S&P 500 added a point.
And the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has announced that it's retiring all of its touring elephants in May. That's a year-and-a-half earlier than originally planned, and it comes as more cities are banning events involving elephant acts. The pachyderms will go to live at the company's conservation center in Florida.