Pentagon: Haqqani group behind Afghan bombing

Posted Sept. 12, 2011, at 10:01 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 13, 2011, at 12:27 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The Haqqani insurgent network was behind the powerful truck bomb that wounded 77 U.S. soldiers and killed five Afghans, the Pentagon said Monday.

The Taliban had claimed responsibility for the Saturday attack outside a combat outpost in eastern Wardak province. But Defense Department press secretary George Little said Monday that it was Haqqani operatives, adding it was highly likely their top leadership supported and was aware of the attack.

The Haqqani network is a Pakistan-based group affiliated with both the Taliban and al-Qaida. It has emerged as one of the biggest threats to stability in Afghanistan.

“This was not some guy with a suicide vest; this was a large, large vehicle with a large amount of explosive material,” said Navy Capt. John Kirby, a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “You don’t conduct that kind of attack without good resourcing, good planning and a fair level of coordination.”

The massive bomb loaded on a truck filled with firewood exploded Saturday night just outside the gates of Combat Outpost Sayed Abad. Officials said four of those killed were civilians, including a 3-year-old girl. Another 17 people — 14 civilians and three policemen — were wounded. The provincial governor said the blast was so powerful it damaged about 100 shops in the Sayed Abad bazaar, located near the military base.

Witnesses, officials: 1,200 on sunk Tanzania boat

STONE TOWN, Tanzania — Official and survivor counts indicate that nearly 1,200 people may have been aboard a crowded ferry that sank off Tanzania’s coast.

Survivor Issa Hemeid said Monday some 150 people were likely trapped inside the boat’s first- and second-class section when it sank early Saturday, echoing two other survivors. The death toll was 240 on Monday. On Sunday, an official estimated more than 800 people survived.

Together, that could mean nearly 1,200 people were aboard, well above survivors’ estimates of the boat’s capacity of 600.

Officials gathered Monday on the island of Zanzibar to pray for the survivors and the dead.

Survivors said the ferry left Tanzania’s commercial capital of Dar es Salaam loaded with building materials, mattresses and passengers. Officials said they are seeking the boat’s captain and owner.

Wayward penguin ‘Happy Feet’ missing in action

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The wayward penguin known as “Happy Feet” is missing in the Southern Ocean.

Experts tell The Associated Press the most likely scenario is that the emperor penguin’s satellite transmitter fell off. The small unit was attached to his feathers with super glue and was designed to fall off when he molted early next year.

But the unit stopped transmitting Friday, just five days after the penguin was released into the sea south of New Zealand.

Other possibilities are that Happy Feet was eaten by an orca or a leopard seal; that he died of natural causes; or that the transmitter malfunctioned.

The aquatic bird was discovered on a New Zealand beach in June. He became sick from eating sand which he likely mistook for snow, but was nursed back to health over two months at the Wellington Zoo. Veterinarians repeatedly flushed his stomach to remove sand and fattened him up on a diet of fish.

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