International news round-up
Released al-Qaida documents reveal organisation in turmoil
Documents swept up in the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound portray a leader cut off from his underlings, disappointed by their failures, beset by their complaints and regretting years of separation from much of his extensive family.
Focus your fighting on America, not each other, the sidelined al-Qaida chief exhorts his followers. In a videotaped will, he urges one of his wives, should she remarry after his death, to still choose to live beside him in paradise. He also directs her to send their son to the battlefield.
Despite some surprising quirks in the collection, the overall message of the 103 letters, videos and reports made public yesterday hews to the terror group's familiar mission: In the name of God, find a way to kill Americans. Kill Europeans. Kill Jews.
"Uproot the obnoxious tree by concentrating on its American trunk," bin Laden writes in a letter urging al-Qaida affiliates in North Africa to not be distracted by fighting local security forces and to avoid Muslim infighting.
The United States (US) Office of the Director of National Intelligence said the documents, released as online images, were among a collection of books, US think tank reports and other materials recovered in the May 2011 raid that killed bin Laden at his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
ISIS captures Syrian town
Islamic State extremists captured the ancient Syrian town of Palmyra after government defence lines there collapsed yesterday, a stunning triumph for the group only days after it captured the strategic city of Ramadi in Iraq.
It was unclear by nightfall how close to Palmyra's famed archaeological site the militants had advanced, activists said, adding that Syrian soldiers were seen fleeing the area.
The ruins at Palmyra are one of the world's most renowned historic sites and there were fears the extremists would destroy them as they did major archaeological sites in Iraq. The UNESCO world heritage site is famous for its 2,000-year-old towering Roman-era colonnades and other ruins and priceless artefacts. Before the war, thousands of tourists a year visited the remote desert outpost, a cherished landmark referred to by Syrians as the 'Bride of the Desert'.
The fall of the town to the Islamic State group after a week of fighting was an enormous loss to the government, not only because of its cultural significance, but because it opens the way for the extremists to advance to key government-held areas, including Damascus and the Syrian coast to the south and southwest, as well as the contested eastern city of Deir el-Zour to the east.
Next to it are also important gas and oil fields in the country's central region.
Banks to pay $5 billion in penalties
Four of the world's biggest banks agreed yesterday to pay more than $5 billion in penalties and plead guilty to rigging the currency markets - a rare instance in which federal prosecutors have wrung an admission of criminal wrongdoing from a major financial institution.
Traders at JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup's banking unit Citicorp, Barclays and the Royal Bank of Scotland were accused of working together to manipulate rates on the foreign exchange market, where hundreds of billions of dollars and euros change hands back and forth.
The penalties are a victory for the government and reflect a broader effort by the Justice Department, long criticised as reluctant to prosecute big banks, to tackle financial misconduct.
In the past 18 months, prosecutors have brought criminal cases against banks accused of tax evasion and sanctions violations, and have reached multibillion-dollar settlements with several others for their roles in the 2008 financial meltdown.
Still, the punishment announced Wednesday may have limited practical consequences.
Nebraska abolishes death penalty
LINCOLN, Neraska (AP):
Nebraska lawmakers gave final approval yesterday to a bill abolishing the death penalty that would make it the first conservative state to do so since 1973 if the measure becomes law.
The vote margin in the unicameral Legislature was more than enough to override a promised veto from Governor Pete Ricketts, a supporter of capital punishment. Ricketts, a Republican, said the vote represented a "dark day" for public safety.
"Nebraska has a chance to step into history the right side of history to take a step that will be beneficial towards the advancement of a civilised society," said Senator Ernie Chambers of Omaha, an independent who has fought for four decades to end the death penalty.
The Nebraska vote marks a shift in the national debate because it was bolstered by conservatives who oppose the death penalty for religious reasons, cast it as a waste of taxpayer money and question whether government can be trusted to manage it. Law-and-order conservatives in the United States have traditionally stood among the strongest supporters of the ultimate punishment.
Nebraska hasn't executed a prisoner since 1997, when the electric chair was used. The state has never imposed the punishment under the lethal injection process now required by state law. Some lawmakers have argued that constant legal challenges will prevent the state from executing anyone in the future.
Restaurant shooting in Texas
WACO, Texas (AP):
As gunfire broke out in the parking lot of a Texas restaurant, dozens of motorcycle riders ran inside seeking cover and tried to guide others to safety, security video reviewed exclusively by The Associated Press showed yesterday.
The video suggests that Sunday's deadly gunfight unfolded almost entirely outside the Twin Peaks restaurant, except for one round fired by a biker on the patio, who then ran inside.
On the patio, bikers ducked under tables and tried to get inside. At least three people were holding handguns. One biker was seen running with blood on his face, hands and torso.
Before the shooting, the inside of the restaurant appears to be mostly empty. Bikers and other patrons can be seen walking to the windows facing the parking lot where police say the dispute began.
When gunfire begins at 12:24 p.m., most bikers, other patrons and staff immediately run away from the windows and into the restaurant's interior.