One day after suicide bombers and gunmen stormed the Inter-Continental hotel in Kabul, causing a five-hour standoff involving Afghan security forces and NATO helicopters, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said his country’s forces would proceed with a planned transfer of security responsibilities from foreign troops.
“Such incidents will not stop us for transitioning security of our country,” Karzai said, emphasizing the readiness of the Afghan army and police to assume duties from NATO forces according to a phased-out timeline.
The Tuesday night attack left 19 dead, including 11 civilians and the eight attackers. Thirteen civilians and five policemen were also wounded in the attack.
Officials are still investigating how the attackers were able to gain access to several floors of the building despite tight security. The Inter-Continental is frequented by foreigners and political leaders. One of the suicide bombers hid himself in a room and blew himself up several hours after the siege began.
(View photos of the scene).
On Wednesday, a conference to discuss transition plans began in Kabul. Conference chairman Ashraf Ghani said, “[T]he transition process will be done, and these coward enemies will not stop our plans.”
Bank of America to Pay $8.5 Billion Mortgage Settlement
Bank of America, parent company of Countrywide, agreed to pay a $8.5 billion settlement in connection with mortgage-backed securities that caused investors to lose money in the housing market collapse, a response to demands from 22 influential investors.
Bank of America CEO Brian T. Moynihan said the company would “act aggressively, and in the best interest of our shareholders, to clean up the mortgage issues largely stemming from our purchase of Countrywide.”
The move would mean second-quarter losses estimated at $8.6 billion to $9.1 billion.
The settlement needs court approval to be finalized.
Greek Parliament Approves Austerity Measures, Despite Unrest
Greece’s parliament passed a series of austerity measures Wednesday aimed at eliciting bailout funds from the European Union and International Monetary Fund — and staving off a default on the country’s debt, the effects of which would be felt around the global economy. A $17 billion installment of the bailout is expected this summer as a result.
Debate over the austerity measures has brought on protests near parliament and a general strike that has slowed public transportation, banks and other major services. On Tuesday, protesters clashed with police and were driven back by tear gas. Union groups say the new round of austerity measures, which include tax hikes and wage reductions, will further harm the country’s lower income earners. Government officials have insisted the cuts are necessary for the country’s financial survival.
Protesters Clash with Police in Cairo
Hundreds of demonstrators amassed in Egypt’s Tahrir Square in another round of anti-government protests. The latest demonstrations are not centered around one specific demand, but many protesters are frustrated that promised reforms have been slow in coming.
Some shouted slogans aimed at Gen. Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, chief of the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces. Tantawi and the council assumed leadership of the country when former President Hosni Mubarak stepped down. Parliamentary elections have been scheduled for September.
On Wednesday, the army was deployed to replace police, who used tear gas and rubber bullets in an attempt to break up demonstrations. During the anti-Mubarak protests, the army was generally seen more favorably by the public than the police.