Dozens killed in bombings across nation
A series of explosions across Iraq killed at least 36 people on Friday, continuing a spate of violence that has marked recent political turmoil and witnessed bombings on seven consecutive Fridays. The bombings come amid worsening sectarian tensions, with Sunnis and others saying that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his political bloc are seeking to monopolize power before provincial elections in April. Sunnis also complain of official discrimination. The blasts fit the pattern of deadly attacks on markets on Fridays, when they are typically crowded with people.
Ex-envoy alleges ransom paid
A former U.S. ambassador to Mali has alleged that France paid a $17 million ransom to free hostages seized from a French mining site — cash she said ultimately funded al-Qaida-linked Islamist militants its troops are now fighting. French officials, whose soldiers are pushing north into the territory where the missing captives are believed to be held, denied paying any ransoms. Vicki Huddleston, who served as ambassador to Mali, told France's iTele network that the French money allowed al-Qaida's North Africa branch to flourish in Mali.
Pay hike sought for fed workers
President Barack Obama will propose a pay raise for federal civilian employees that is less than private-sector wage growth yet more than that favored by many House Republicans, who want to extend an employee pay freeze. Obama will propose a 1 percent pay increase in the administration's fiscal 2014 budget plan, which is expected in mid March. The freeze was set for two years.
Bomb claimed by Taliban kills 11
A car bomb ripped through a town bazaar in northwestern Pakistan's tribal belt Friday, killing 11 people and wounding at least 31, local officials said. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility. A Pakistani Taliban commander in Orakzai said his operatives had planted the bomb near the bazaar in a village called Ferozkhel, local journalists reported. They quoted the commander as saying that the targets were tribal elders who had helped organize a militia to resist Taliban encroachment in the area. Several elders were among the victims in the blast.
Two more Marines charged over video
Two more Marines face criminal charges over a 2011 YouTube video showing members of a scout sniper platoon urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. The U.S. Marine Corps announced Friday that Sgt. Robert Richards faces charges including dereliction of duty and violating orders. Military prosecutors say he filmed himself and others urinating on the corpses. Capt. James Clement faces charges that include conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman for failing to properly supervise junior Marines and making false statements to investigators. Two other Marines have already faced courts martial.
Billings, Mont.: The U.S. Department of Interior is investigating whether mining companies are skirting royalty rules as they increase exports of coal to Asia, federal officials disclosed Friday. No violations have yet been issued.