A month and a half after the death of Osama bin Laden in a raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a statement attributed to al-Qaida said his deputy, Egyptian-born Ayman al-Zawahri, 59, has succeeded him as head of the organization. The group’s statement, which was posted on an Islamist website, said al-Zawahri would lead the fight against the U.S. and Israel.
Al-Zawahri said in a video euology earlier this month that “[t]he sheikh has departed, may God have mercy on him, to his God as a martyr and we must continue on his path of jihad to expel the invaders from the land of Muslims and to purify it from injustice.”
The BBC analyzes the succession:
The BBC’s Middle East correspondent, Jon Leyne, says priorities for al-Qaeda’s new leader may include attempting to to mount a big attack to show the organisation is still in business.
In addition, he says, Zawahiri will want to turn the wave of unrest in the Middle East to al-Qaeda’s advantage - perhaps building more of a power base in Yemen and working to intensify the instability there.
You can read a series of statements his statements, dating back to 1998, here.
Al-Zawahri, who was formally trained as an eye surgeon, was seen by many as the automatic successor to bin Laden. Analysts say he is effective as an organizer but is less charismatic than bin Laden.
Large Protests in Greece Fuel Political Uncertainty
After riots broke out in Athens, with protesters decrying austerity measures being considered by members of parliament, Prime Minister George Papandreou is looking to reshuffle his cabinet and shore up his Socialist Party, which has seen growing division over the issue in recent days.
Papandreou was expected to call an emergency session on Thursday.
The austerity measures being considered would need to be in place by the end of June in order for Greece to receive an aid package to address the country’s steep debt from the International Monetary Fund and European Union. The measures have been controversial within the government and have spurred the demonstrations, which police used tear gas to contain on Wednesday.
Reports: Town on Pakistan Border Stormed by Militants
Pakistani officials say an estimated 200 heavily armed militants crossed the border from Afghanistan and raided the town of Mamoond, injuring local residents. The attack comes weeks after a similar raid in the Upper Dir region of Pakistan, which killed 25 Pakistani troops.
The border area is a sore point for both countries, as well as NATO forces in the area, and Pakistan’s northwest tribal areas pose a difficulty for rooting out insurgents.
Blast Targets Police Headquarters in Nigeria
An explosion at the police headquarters in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, created a thick plume of black smoke and destroyed nearby parked cars, according to witnesses. A police spokesman said two people were killed in the attack.
The body of a suicide bomber is also said to have been recovered. Though there have been several recent bombings, the use of suicide bombers remains relatively rare.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but a militant Islamist organization known as Boko Haram has launched several recent attacks on government and police facilities.
Violence in Vancouver After Stanley Cup Loss
Fans took to the streets of Vancouver, British Columbia, Wednesday night, rioting and looting following the Canucks’ 4-0 loss to the Boston Bruins in the Stanely Cup finals. Vehicles — including several police cars — were set on fire and shop windows smashed in as disappointed and drunken fans gathered in Vancouver’s streets. There were no reports of serious injuries.
Vancouver’s mayor, Gregor Robertson, said “Vancouver is a world-class city and it is embarrassing and shameful to see the type of violence and disorder we’ve seen tonight.”
Video from the scene shows cars being destroyed in the street and rioters being arrested.
Employers added only 54,000 jobs in May, according just-released numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and unemployment rose to 9.1 percent. The jobs numbers are the worst in eight months and contrasted with an average rate of 220,000 new jobs over the past few months.
Local governments, which have been especially hard hit by the economic downtown, continued to shed jobs, and private employers slowed their hiring from the pace of spring. High gas prices, a crippled housing market, natural disasters (both in the United States and Japan) and hits to manufacturing were all cited for the weak hiring.
The numbers demonstrate the slow pace of recovery from a financial crisis and recession, and there may be little imminent relief, according to the Wall Street Journal:
After all the money spent fighting the financial crisis, the government has few tools left to stimulate the economy. The Federal Reserve, which sees unemployment around 7.8% at the end of 2012, is expected to keep interest rates close to zero this year to lift the economy. But the central bank is unlikely to expand its balance sheet further as concerns of stoking inflation outweigh the potential benefits for stocks.
Pakistani Troops Fight Militants Near Afghan Border
Pakistan’s military is battling an influx of insurgents near the Afghan border after several days of fighting left an estimated 63 dead, including 25 soldiers, 35 militants and several civilians. An estimated 400 militants crossed into Pakistan from Afghanistan’s Kunar Province, targeting military assets and schools in villages in the Upper Dir region.
Pakistan’s government called for “stern action by the Afghan army, U.S. and NATO/ISAF forces in the area against militants and their hideouts in Afghanistan and against organizational support for the militants.” Afghanistan and Pakistan share a 1,600-mile border, much of it remote terrain and difficult to seal.
Mass Funeral Held in Yemen for Victims of Latest Violence
Amid rising tensions between the government, tribal leaders and protesters in Yemen, ten of thousands gathered Friday in Sanaa for a mass funeral to commemorate 50 people killed in the latest round of fighting. Both the capital and Taiz in the south have been targets of a stepped-up government crackdown. As fears of civil war grow, opponents are calling on President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power for more than three decades, to step down.
Reports Friday also said that shells might have hit Saleh’s compound and that he may be slightly wounded, according to an official quoted by the Associated Press.
16 Reported Dead in Iraq Mosque Attack
Iraqi officials said at least 16 people were killed and dozens wounded in an attack on a mosque in Tikrit, which is 80 miles from Baghdad, including members of the police force and a member of the provincial council. The bomb struck worshippers at a Sunni mosque who were attending Friday prayers. No group has yet claimed responsibility. It is also not clear if the explosion was the work of a suicide bomber or if there was a bomb planted in the building itself.
The attack came one day after another bomb killed six people in Ramadi.
North Korea Vows ‘Retaliatory Military Actions’ Against South Korea
North Korea has stepped up its rhetoric in response to reports that members of the South Korean military used photos of Kim Jong Il and his son, Kim Jong Un, for target practice. North Korea said South Korean troops had “staged such rowdyism as setting up a target and daring fire at it, a thrice-cursed criminal act.”
North Korea also rejected recent discussion of talks, attacking South Korean President Lee Myung bak, whom they have called “human scum.” President Lee has taken a tougher approach to dealing with North Korea than recent presidents, who have been more leery of confronting the regime.
Tensions have been especially high on the Korean Peninsula following the shelling of Yeonpyeong island in November, an attack that angered South Koreans and escalated military preparations.
By News Desk
At least 41 people were killed early Wednesday in Yemen’s capital Sanaa in the latest round of clashes between the government forces of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and tribal fighters.
According to the Associated Press, street fighting broke out overnight:
Fighting raged until 5 a.m., and witnesses said Presidential Guard units shelled the headquarters of an army brigade responsible for guarding sensitive government institutions. Army officers who have defected to the opposition say the government suspected the brigade commander was about to join forces with the movement to oust Saleh.
In recent days, supporters of Sheik Sadeq al-Ahmar, a powerful tribal leader who has sided with protesters against Saleh, have clashed with army units. In retaliation, President Saleh has blocked electricity and water supplies in the neighborhood where al-Ahmar resides.
On Tuesday’s NewsHour, Margaret Warner spoke to Barbara Bodine, former U.S. ambassador to Yemen, and Benard Haykel of Princeton University, about the breakdown of the cease-fire and what’s next for Saleh.
Space Shuttle Endeavour Completes Final Mission
Space Shuttle Endeavour made its final landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida after a two-week mission to the International Space Station. NASA plans to phase out its space shuttle program this summer, sending Atlantis on its final mission in July.
“It’s sad to see her land for the last time, but she really has a great legacy,” said Commander Mark Kelly, whose wife, Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, is still recovering from being shot in January but was allowed by doctors to travel to Florida to attend the launch.
The NewsHour put your questions before the Endeavour’s crew in a live interview from the International Space Station.