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Pakistani Taliban Claims Responsibility for Suicide Bombing Killing at Least 80

A Pakistani soldier guards the site of a suicide bombing at a military training center in Shabqadar. Photo by A. Majeed/AFP/Getty Images.

Two suicide bomb attacks at a paramilitary academy in northwest Pakistan have claimed at least 80 lives and injured 120 people. The Pakistani Taliban claimed that the attacks were in retaliation for the death of Osama bin Laden, although it is not known if the attacks had been planned beforehand.

“This was the first revenge for Osama’s martyrdom. Wait for bigger attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” a Taliban spokesman told Agence-France Presse.

According to police on the scene, the explosion sent ball bearings and nails across the area and destroyed at least 10 vans. The heavy casualties swamped an area hospital struggling to treat the wounded.

The attacks were carried out days after cadets at the Frontier Constabulary had graduated from a yearlong training course and were preparing to go on leave. Cadets and civilians were killed in the attacks.

The facility in Shabqadar, located near the border with Afghanistan and a focal point of al Qaida and Taliban activity, had received U.S. funding to help train recruits. Extremists have killed hundreds in attacks in Pakistan in recent years.

The attack comes at an especially tense time in the relationship between the allies, with Pakistani officials reacting sharply to the suggestion that elements of the nation’s security service may have known of bin Laden’s whereabouts.

The New York Times reported Friday that Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the head of Pakistan’s army, has resisted private pressure to try to root out any ties to militants and instead appears to be pushing for more autonomy within the alliance while preserving the flow of aid money.

Louisiana Bracing for High Water in Mississippi River Flooding

Morganza_Spillway The Morganzi Spillway in Louisiana. Photo by Tobo via Flickr.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Louisiana will soon decide whether to open a major spillway that would help divert water from Baton Rouge and New Orleans but would mean flooding homes in the smaller town of Butte La Rose with as much as 15 feet of water. Some 25,000 residents are being warned to evacuate in the face of potentially dangerous water levels in the area.

After inundating parts of Memphis, Tenn., and farmland in the Midwest, the Mississippi River is expected to crest at near-historic records, pushing residents to higher ground and destroying millions of dollars worth of crops. Catfish farmers who depend on the Mississippi and its tributaries could lose an estimated $200 million this year.

Syrian Forces Move to Prevent Friday Rallies

Syrian forces are in place in several key cities in anticipation of possible demonstrations following Friday prayers. Crowds calling on President Bashar al-Assad to step down have been met with tear gas, and in some instances, live ammunition and tanks, resulting in an unknown number of deaths. Human rights groups estimate the number to be in the several hundreds.

Foreign media have been largely banned since the protests began two months ago. Witnesses said security forces had placed tanks, snipers and barricades at the likely sites of protests, but an opposition leader, Louay al-Husein, told the BBC that a member of Assad’s staff had assured him that the forces would not fire on demonstrators.

Japan Agrees to Compensation Plan for Damaged Reactor

The Japanese government has agreed to assist TEPCO, which runs the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, as it provides compensation to those affected by effects of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and subsequent evacuation near the plant’s damaged reactors. The expected payout, which first needs to pass parliament, could be in the tens of billions of dollars.

Two months after the disaster on Japan’s northeastern coast, workers at the Fukushima plant are still working to cool the reactors and residents are still barred from the area. The Red Cross estimates some 126,000 people remain in shelters as a result of the tsuanami (view a photo essay of the damage).

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