In our news wrap Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that a political feud in Afghanistan is jeopardizing peace efforts. He met with President Ashraf Ghani and rival Abdullah Abdullah earlier this week but failed to break their impasse over forming a government. Also, in Kabul, at least 25 people died when Islamic State gunmen raided a Sikh temple in a siege that lasted for hours.
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In the day's other news: The family of one-time FBI agent Robert Levinson says U.S. officials now believe that he died in custody in Iran. Levinson disappeared there in 2007 on an unauthorized mission for the CIA.
Iran never acknowledged holding him. But The New York Times and others are reporting new intelligence shows he died in the last few years. President Trump said this evening that no one has told him that Levinson is dead.
The Trump administration escalated a war of words with China today over the coronavirus pandemic. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo again accused Beijing of concealing vital information. He also charged that Chinese officials are spreading claims that the U.S. is behind the pandemic.
Separately, Pompeo warned that a political feud in Afghanistan is jeopardizing peace efforts. He met in Kabul this week with President Ashraf Ghani and with rival Abdullah Abdullah, but he failed to break their impasse over forming a government. He said today it was frustrating.
Secretary Mike Pompeo:
Commitments, things that they would live up to, and so far, they have not executed on that. I went there to talk to them about how we could assist them in delivering on that. I will be honest. It was very frustrating.
Pompeo has threatened to cut $1 billion in U.S. aid to Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon ordered a halt to all travel and troop movement abroad, due to the coronavirus pandemic. But it said the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan will continue.
In Kabul, at least 25 people died when Islamic State gunmen raided a Sikh temple. The siege lasted for hours, until Afghan security forces killed the attackers. Later, relatives returned to the site to mourn their loved ones.
Harender Singh (through translator):
The attackers arrived to the upstairs floor and started killing the women. My nephew shouted and said to me, "Uncle, please go downstairs."
And when I wanted to go downstairs, they shot my nephew in the head. I lost many friends and my wife and daughter.
The Sikhs are a tiny minority in Afghanistan and have long been targeted by Islamist militants.
Saudi Arabia is being accused of torture and other crimes against civilians in Yemen. Human Rights Watch reports that Saudi military forces and their Yemeni allies have committed a long series of abuses. The Saudis are backing the Yemeni government against Shiite rebels who are allied with Iran.
Prosecutors in Turkey filed an indictment today against 20 Saudi citizens in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Washington Post columnist was killed at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in 2018. The Saudis have refused to extradite any of the suspects.
Back in this country, a federal judge in North Dakota ordered a full environmental review of the Dakota Access pipeline three years after it began carrying oil. Construction of the pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation set off months of protests in 2016 and 2017. The tribe wants the line shut down.
And the National Recording Registry has new inductees, including Dr. Dre's rap album, "The Chronic," and "YMCA" by The Village People. The Library of Congress named 25 honorees today, including — and the others include Tina Turner's "Private Dancer," Glen Campbell's "Wichita Lineman," and songs from "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood."