PBS NewsHour

Gunmen take hostages near U.S. embassy in Bangladesh

Gunmen have taken hostages at a bakery in the diplomatic zone near the U.S. embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the BBC reported Friday. Law enforcement are fighting to regain control.

A group of men with guns entered the Holey Artisan Bakery shortly after 9 p.m. and held customers and staff hostage, the Associated Press reported. Security officers have blocked off the area. Gunfire cracked the air, and the gunmen detonated explosives, according to the Associated Press.

Early reports said about 20 hostages had been taken, but that remains unconfirmed.

It is too soon to know who is responsible for the attacks and what motivated the gunmen, a U.S. State Department spokesman said.

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In recent months, Bangladesh has been in a state of upheaval that included a series of targeted killings where activists, atheists, bloggers and professors were hacked to death.

Throughout Bangladesh’s history, this level of violence has not been seen before, said Brad Adams, executive director for Human Rights Watch’s Asia division.

“If you work in academia, if you work in the media, if you work in the arts, you must feel like you could be targeted right now, and you have no sense of security,” Adams said.

The PBS NewsHour will continue to update this developing story as details emerge.

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Obama reveals how many civilians died in U.S. drone attacks

A U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone takes off from Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan March 9, 2016.  To match Exclusive AFGHANISTAN-DRONES/
         REUTERS/Josh Smith/File Photo

A U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone takes off from Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan March 9, 2016. To match Exclusive AFGHANISTAN-DRONES/ REUTERS/Josh Smith/File Photo

WASHINGTON — Between 64 and 116 civilians killed in drone, other strikes in Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, North Africa since President Barack Obama took office.

President Barack Obama on Friday disclosed the number of civilians killed in U.S. military and CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Africa since he took office and issued an executive order that makes protecting civilians a more integral part of planning U.S. military operations, the White House said.

An estimated 100 civilians have been inadvertently killed by 500 drone strikes since 2009, according to activists and other individuals familiar with the report who weren’t authorized to disclose the information and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The executive order will ensure that the counterterrorism strategy Obama has put in place continues to be transparent and durable in the future, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

“The president believes our counterterrorism strategy is more effective and has more credibility when we’re as transparent as possible,” Earnest said. “There are obviously limitations to transparency when it comes to matters as sensitive as this.”

The estimate is said to cover drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and Somalia. It does not cover ones in Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria where U.S. forces have conducted thousands of air attacks.

Earnest said those war zones are being excluded because the drone strikes there are carried out by the Pentagon, which already has a process for disclosing civilian casualties. He said the report meant the administration was creating a way to disclose deaths from drone strikes conducted by entities other than the military. The CIA for years has conducted such strikes as part of its drone program.

While sketchy details often emerge about individual drone strikes, the full scope of the U.S. drone program — a key tool of Obama’s counterterrorism strategy — has long been shrouded from view. Still, the new information is not likely to answer all the questions that have been raised, and human rights groups have long claimed that the administration undercounts civilian casualties.

The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, for instance, has estimated that there were anywhere from 492 to about 1,100 civilians killed by drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia since 2002.

Federico Borello, executive director of Center for Civilians in Conflict in Washington, said Thursday that he applauds Obama’s forthcoming executive order. He said he had not yet seen the final draft, but that his group probably would call on Congress to codify it into law so that future presidents cannot throw it out.

“This is something that we’ve been working on for 10 years,” he said. To have civilian protections “in the heart of military planning is a big deal.”

Reprieve, an international human rights organization based in New York, claims that the Obama administration’s previous statements about the drone program have been proven to be false by facts on the ground and the U.S. government’s own internal documents.

“But more importantly, it has to be asked what bare numbers will mean if they omit even basic details such as the names of those killed and the areas, even the countries, they live in,” Reprieve said in a statement on Thursday.

“Equally, the numbers without the definitions to back up how the administration is defining its targets is useless, especially given reports the Obama administration has shifted the goalposts on what counts as a ‘civilian’ to such an extent that any estimate may be far removed from reality.”

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How well do you know the world: Brexit fallout and soccer shock

This week, Brits were still coming to terms with their decision to leave the EU, an airport in Turkey was bombed, and a soccer commentator went berserk. Take our 5-minute quiz about these world events and more.

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News Wrap: Taliban bombing targets police trainees

Afghan security forces inspect the damage caused by a suicide bombers
         at the site of the attackon the western outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan June 30, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani   - RTX2J0K4

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JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening. I’m Judy Woodruff.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And I’m Hari Sreenivasan.

JUDY WOODRUFF: On the “NewsHour” tonight: a major shift in the military. The Pentagon lifts the ban to allow transgender people to openly serve in the armed forces.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Then: As the death toll from the Istanbul attack rises, Turkey arrests 13 people with suspected links to ISIS and identifies the bombers as foreign nationalists.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Also ahead this Thursday, I sit down with the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, to talk about the plight of millions of refugees and fears of what taking them in may lead to.

SAMANTHA POWER, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations: Some of the fears are warranted. You know, people are wondering, could ISIL potentially, you know, sneak through? And we have to answer those fears.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All that and more on tonight’s “PBS NewsHour.”


JUDY WOODRUFF: From the Pentagon today, a sweeping declaration: Transgender people are no longer barred from serving openly in the military.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter defended the decision on both moral and practical grounds.

ASHTON CARTER, U.S. Defense Secretary: We have reason to be proud today of what this will mean for our military, because it’s the right thing to do, and it’s another step in ensuring that we continue to recruit and retain the most qualified people. And good people are the key to the best military in the world.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We will explore the effects of today’s announcement right after the news summary.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In the day’s other news: Taliban attackers in Afghanistan killed 37 people and wounded 40 in a double suicide bombing. They struck in Paghman district, about 12 miles to the west of Kabul. The first bomber targeted two buses carrying police trainees. The second blew himself up when people rushed in to help the victims.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Two more people have died as a result of their wounds from Tuesday’s airport bombings in Istanbul, Turkey. That pushes the total to 44 dead, with dozens more hospitalized.

Police also said today that the three suicide bombers were from Russia and two of the former Soviet republics. We will have a full report later in the program.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Meanwhile, airstrikes in Iraq devastated two Islamic State convoys trying to escape Fallujah this week. Aerial video from Iraq’s Defense Ministry showed vehicles as they came under attack by Iraqi helicopters and U.S. coalition warplanes. The attacks began Tuesday night. Iraqi forces have now recaptured most of Fallujah from ISIS.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.N. Children’s Fund reports the war with ISIS in Iraq has taken a terrible toll on children. One in five, or more than 3.5 million kids, are classified at serious risk of death, injury, sexual abuse or being forced to fight.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In Britain, more fallout today from the Brexit vote. Former London Mayor Boris Johnson dropped out of the race to be prime minister. His support melted away after a key conservative party ally, Michael Gove, announced his own candidacy. Johnson had been a leader of the campaign to quit the European Union. He says his focus now will be on making the transition.

BORIS JOHNSON, Former Mayor of London: My role will be to give every possible support to the next conservative administration to make sure that we properly fulfill the mandate of the people that was delivered at the referendum and to champion the agenda I believe in.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Current Prime Minister David Cameron is stepping down after losing the fight to keep Britain in the European Union.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A new Palestinian stabbing attack today left a 13-year-old Israeli girl dead, who was also an American citizen. Israeli police say a man broke into the girl’s home in a West Bank settlement and knifed her as she slept. He also wounded a guard, before being fatally shot. Another Palestinian was killed later after he stabbed and wounded two Israelis in the coastal city of Netanya.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Back in this country, the Navy blamed weak leadership and bad judgment for Iran’s capture of 10 U.S. sailors last January. Their two boats mistakenly entered Iranian waters, and they spent 15 hours in Iranian captivity, before being released. The Navy says several violated military rules by cooperating with their captors.

JUDY WOODRUFF: U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch is fending off questions about a meeting with former President Bill Clinton. Their paths crossed Monday at an airport in Phoenix at a time when the FBI is investigating Hillary Clinton’s e-mail practices as secretary of state.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest defended Lynch today without specifically saying if the meeting was proper.

JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary: She certainly understands that investigations should be conducted free of political interference and consistent with the facts. Investigators should be guided by the facts and by evidence, and that’s ultimately what should support their conclusions.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The attorney general says she and the former questioned president discussed families and friends, but none of the issues involving his wife, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

HARI SREENIVASAN: House Speaker Paul Ryan is promising a vote next week on barring terror suspects from buying guns. His announcement today follows last week’s sit-in by House Democrats. Republicans say their bill will block gun sales tied to the terror watch list if prosecutors show probable cause. Democrats in the Senate blocked a similar bill last week.

JUDY WOODRUFF: On Wall Street today, a third straight rally. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 235 points to close at 17930. The Nasdaq rose 63 points, and the S&P 500 added 28.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And there’s word the ozone hole over the South Pole is getting smaller. U.S. and British researchers say the hole is now about one-fifth smaller than in the year 2000. Their report in the journal “Science” credits a 1987 treaty on phasing out chemicals that deplete ozone. The gas shields the Earth from ultraviolet radiation.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Still to come on the “NewsHour”: the military lifts its ban on transgender service members; new insights into the identities of the Istanbul Airport bombers; the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. on shaping public perception of refugees; a Detroit company that’s tied its own fate to the city; and much more.

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