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Nation & World Briefs: 10-16-17

Updated: 
October 16, 2017 - 8:17pm

Somalia truck bombing tops 300, scores still missing

MOGADISHU, Somalia — More than 300 people were killed in the weekend truck bombing in Somalia’s capital and scores remained missing, authorities said Monday, as the fragile Horn of Africa nation reeled from one of the world’s worst attacks in years.

As funerals continued, the government said the death toll was expected to rise.

Nearly 400 people were injured in the bombing Saturday that targeted a crowded street in Mogadishu. Somalia’s government blamed the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab, though the Islamic extremist group has not claimed responsibility for the attack. A new statement by the SITE Intelligence Group said al-Shabab posted claims of responsibility as recently as Monday for other attacks on Somali and African Union forces — but not for Saturday’s blast.

Still, analysts said there was little doubt the Islamic extremist group carried out the bombing, one of the deadliest in sub-Saharan Africa. “No other group in Somalia has the capacity to put together a bomb of this size, in this nature,” said Matt Bryden, a security consultant on the Horn of Africa.

Nearly 70 people remained missing, based on accounts from relatives, said police Capt. Mohamed Hussein. He said many bodies were burned to ashes in the attack.

Trump, McConnell: No matter what people say, we’re friends

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell reaffirmed their alliance of necessity Monday in a raucous Rose Garden news conference that also underscored their sharp differences. The garrulous president claimed they were longtime friends now closer than ever; the reserved Senate Republican leader allowed that they share goals and speak often.

It was a spectacle that mesmerized Washington, as Trump and McConnell appeared side by side for more than a half hour, the president tossing off answers — sometimes mini-speeches — on all topics while McConnell, disciplined as always, delivered brief, scholarly explanations about the legislative process and the risks to their party of nominating candidates who can’t win.

At various points, the president denounced the Russia-Trump campaign investigation, lauded himself for his record on judicial nominations, argued wrongly that “it took years for the Reagan administration to get taxes done,” and claimed that past presidents hadn’t necessarily contacted bereaved family members to mourn lost service members — before backtracking on that assertion when pressed. He also noted, as he often does, that he won the presidential election last fall, and he implored Hillary Clinton to run again.

In front of a hastily assembled White House press corps, jostling each other on the lawn because there wasn’t time to bring out chairs, Trump began his remarks by saluting McConnell and, as he described it, their longstanding friendship.

“We’re probably now closer than ever before,” the president proclaimed as McConnell grinned stiffly at his side. “My relationship with this gentleman is outstanding.”

Army sergeant pleads guilty to deserting post

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured and held by the Taliban for five years after walking away from his post in Afghanistan, pleaded guilty Monday to desertion and endangering his comrades — charges that could put him behind bars for the rest of his life.

“I understand that leaving was against the law,” said Bergdahl, who admitted guilt without striking a deal with prosecutors, meaning his punishment will be up to a military judge when he is sentenced later this month.

The guilty plea brings the highly politicized saga closer to an end eight years after Bergdahl vanished.

President Barack Obama brought him home in 2014 in a swap for five Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, saying the U.S. does not leave its service members on the battlefield. Republicans roundly criticized Obama, and Donald Trump went further while campaigning for president, repeatedly calling Bergdahl a “dirty, rotten traitor” who deserved to be executed by firing squad or thrown out of a plane without a parachute.

Bergdahl, 31, who is from Hailey, Idaho, has been assigned to desk duty at a Texas Army base in the meantime.

By wire sources

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