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News Wrap: Obama issues hundreds of commutations on his last day

In our news wrap Thursday, President Obama shortened the prison sentences of 330 federal inmates convicted of drug crimes on his last fill day in office. That's the most ever in a single day. Also, the Pentagon says it targeted Islamic State militants who were actively planning attacks in Europe, striking ISIS campaigns in Libya in an overnight bombing raid.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    In the day's other news: President Obama issued a final round of commutations on his last full day in office. He shortened the prison sentences of 330 federal inmates convicted of drug crimes, the most ever commutations in a single day. The White House said he's now cut the sentences of 1,715 people during his time in office. That's more than any other American president. He also freed 568 inmates who had been serving life terms in prison.

    The Obama administration has punctuated its fight against the Islamic State with a major airstrike in Libya. The Pentagon says that it targeted militants who were actively planning attacks in Europe. The raid last night hit ISIS camps 30 miles south of the Libyan city of Sirte, and it killed 80 fighters. Two B-2 stealth bombers flew for 30 hours, from Missouri to Libya and back, and they dropped roughly 100 guided bombs. The planes had not seen combat since 2011.

  • PETER COOK, Pentagon Press Secretary:

    This was a decision made by commanders based on the specific mission requirements here, the capabilities of the B-2 specifically, not on in terms of its payload but also its ability to loiter. There were specific reasons why the commanders felt this was the appropriate platform to use.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The Pentagon says that initial assessments are that the strike was successful, but it's unclear whether any high-profile ISIS leaders were killed.

    The death toll from yesterday's suicide bombing in Mali has risen to 77. The bombers struck government forces and former rebels who've been trying to enforce a 2015 peace treaty. Surveillance footage captured the blast as the vehicle breached a compound where fighters had gathered for a meeting. A group linked to al-Qaida claimed responsibility.

    A political crisis intensified in the African nation of Gambia today, with the defeated president refusing to step aside. Troops from neighboring states entered the small West African nation to force him out, after the new president took the oath of office.

    Paraic O'Brien of Independent Television News has our report.

  • PARAIC O’BRIEN:

    A nation holds it breath in the run-up to a defining inauguration, the swearing-in of a political outsider, a reformer, on a promise to make a country great.

    This afternoon, the elected president of the Gambia, Adama Barrow, took the oath.

  • ADAMA BARROW, President-Elect, Gambia:

    I, Adama Barrow, do swear.

  • PARAIC O’BRIEN:

    The ceremony though took place at the Gambian Embassy in neighboring Senegal.

    The man beaten in elections last year, Yahya Jammeh, is digging his heels in, holed up in the presidential palace, in power for 22 years, once said he'd rule Gambia for a billion years, Allah permitting.

    In a show of regional unity, troops from the Economic Community of West African States on the move into Gambia, the aim to pressurize Jammeh to relinquish power. These pictures taken today reportedly show ECOWAS forces in Senegal heading for the Gambian border, ultimate destination, the capital.

    This is a decisive moment for the region, an early intervention by a coalition of West African countries dealing with a West African problem, the inauguration, a decisive moment for Gambians themselves.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Later, the West African military force halted its advance into Gambia until midday tomorrow, to give mediation a last chance.

    Disaster struck in the capital of Iran this morning, when a 17-story building caught fire and collapsed. The mayor of Tehran said that at least 20 firefighters were killed. The casualty figures fluctuated as rescuers searched the wreckage for survivors and bodies. State TV showed the moment the historic building crumbled, with firefighters still inside.

    One official said the fire was caused by an electrical short-circuit.

    In Central Italy, rescuers spent this day desperately digging into a luxury mountain hotel that was shattered by an avalanche. They found two survivors and two bodies, but up to 30 people could have been inside. Aerial views showed the four-story hotel buried up the roof, and its sides smashed in.

    Crew used heavy vehicles to clear paths through snow as deep as 16 feet.

  • MAN (through interpreter):

    I want to say that we are all holding our breath for what has happened last night with the avalanche. We saw the videos of rescuers reaching the hotel. These videos bear testimony to the sense of duty of the rescuers, but also to the very hard conditions they are operating in.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The avalanche followed a series of strong earthquakes in the area, but it's unclear if the quakes caused the disaster.

    Mexico announced late today that it has extradited the accused drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman to the U.S. He allegedly founded and led the Sinaloa cartel. Guzman was captured in Mexico in early 2014. He escaped and was finally recaptured a year ago.

    Back in this country, the Republican National Committee has elected a new chair, Ronna Romney McDaniel. She's a niece of Mitt Romney, the party's presidential nominee four years ago, and the choice of president-elect Trump. She takes over for Reince Priebus, who's becoming Mr. Trump's White House chief of staff.

    And on Wall Street, stocks slipped again, as yields on bonds rose. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 72 points to close at 19732. The Nasdaq fell 15, and the S&P 500 slipped eight.

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