Analysis: White House grapples with how to answer al-Qaida-linked Somali rebel group
WASHINGTON — The White House is under pressure to ramp up counterterrorism action against al-Shabab in Somalia following the al-Qaida-linked group’s deadly attack on an upscale Kenyan shopping mall that has killed and injured dozens, including Americans.
Republican lawmakers Sunday said the attack showed al-Qaida is growing in size and strength, belying the Obama administration’s claims that it has grown weaker.
“They’re not on the decline,” said Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” ”They’re on the rise, as you can see from Nairobi.”
Al-Shabab militants launched their assault on Saturday, storming the mall with grenades and gunfire. Kenyan security forces launched a “major” assault late Sunday on the mall, where the militants are still holding an unknown number of hostages, trying to end the two-day standoff that had already killed nearly 70 people.
State Department spokesman Marie Harf said five U.S. citizens were among the more than 175 injured, but no Americans are among those reported killed.
Suicide bombers attack Christians at church in northwest Pakistan, kill 78 people
PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A pair of suicide bombers blew themselves up amid hundreds of worshippers at a historic church in northwestern Pakistan on Sunday, killing 78 people in the deadliest-ever attack against the country’s Christian minority.
A wing of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing, raising new questions about the government’s push to strike a peace deal with the militants to end a decade-long insurgency that has killed thousands of people.
The Jundullah arm of the Taliban said they would continue to target non-Muslims until the United States stopped drone attacks in Pakistan’s remote tribal region. The latest drone strike came Sunday, when missiles hit a pair of compounds in the North Waziristan tribal area, killing six suspected militants.
The attack on the All Saints Church, which wounded 141 people, occurred as worshippers were leaving after services to get a free meal of rice offered on the front lawn, said a top government administrator, Sahibzada Anees.
“There were blasts and there was hell for all of us,” said Nazir John, who was at the church in the city’s Kohati Gate district along with at least 400 other worshippers. “When I got my senses back, I found nothing but smoke, dust, blood and screaming people. I saw severed body parts and blood all around.”
Merkel triumphs in election, but will need new partner as coalition ally wiped out
BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel led her conservatives to a stunning victory in Germany’s election Sunday, a personal triumph that cements her position as Europe’s most powerful leader. But she will need to reach out to center-left rivals to form a new government after her coalition partner crashed out of Parliament.
Merkel’s Union bloc scored its best result in 23 years to put her on course for a third term, winning 41.5 percent of the vote, official results showed — and putting it just short of the other three parties in Parliament combined. Election officials didn’t immediately give a seat tally.
The 59-year-old benefited from a strong economy and low unemployment that have helped keep her personal popularity sky-high — a contrast with the string of leaders who have lost their jobs in other European countries since the continent’s debt crisis erupted three years ago.
By wire sources
Merkel, Germany’s chancellor since 2005 and the de facto leader of Europe’s crisis response, told supporters it was “a super result.” She wouldn’t immediately speculate about the shape of the next government, but made clear she plans to serve a full term.
“I see the next four years in front of me and I can promise that we will face many tasks, at home, in Europe and in the world,” Merkel said during a television appearance with other party leaders.