News Wrap: Top ISIS leader killed in drone strike, says Pentagon; bombings rock Thailand

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Hafiz Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, addresses a rally in Quetta on April 26, 2012, against the reopening of the NATO supply route to Afghanistan. Islamabad on April 26 reiterated its opposition to US drone attacks in its territory as Washington's point man on Pakistan and Afghanistan arrived amid efforts to mend fractured relations. Relations between Pakistan and the United States plunged last year over the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan and a NATO air strike near the border with Afghanistan that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. AFP PHOTO/BANARAS KHAN        (Photo credit should read BANARAS KHAN/AFP/GettyImages)

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JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news:  The Pentagon confirms tonight that a U.S. drone attack has killed a top Islamic State leader in Afghanistan.  Hafiz Saeed Khan died in a strike on July 26.  The State Department designated him a global terrorist last year.

Bombings rocked across towns in Southern Thailand today, killing at least four people and wounding dozens more.  Coordinated attacks hit six sites, including the popular island of Phuket.

Harry Smith of Independent Television News reports.

HARRY SMITH:  The authorities say they were small explosions from improvised devices, but still deadly in their impact, some filled with ball bearings and other shrapnel designed to cause maximum casualties.

Many set off in areas busy with tourists at times when they might have been out enjoying the nightlife.  The blasts also coincided with the national holiday to celebrate the birthday of Thailand’s queen.  If the object was to hit the country’s tourist trade, it made an immediate impact.

HANNAH HARKNESS, British Tourist:  I couldn’t believe it.  I felt sick.  Couldn’t like — I was absolutely speechless.  I just don’t know how to feel.  I thought like that I was going to come to this place and feel safe.

MAN:  I mean, it’s astonishing what’s happening in little Hua Hin.  It’s a place where tourism, and especially this weekend with the queen’s birthday, it’s supposed to be a place for celebration.

HARRY SMITH:  Perhaps to reassure the thousands who visit Thailand each year, police were quick to insist this was not an attack connected to any global terror network, insisting instead it was the work of local insurgents.

COL. KRISANA PATANACHAROEN, Royal Thai Police:  We are working round-the-clock in order to identify the suspects and also the motives behind the scene.

HARRY SMITH:  Insurgent groups in the historically Muslim south of Thailand have a long-running campaign for an independent Islamic state.  It’s often been violent, thousands have been killed, but it has never before targeted tourist areas.  The attacks came just a week after the Thais voted in a referendum to strengthen the powers of the ruling military regime.

The authorities have stepped up security checks at all tourist destinations, and European embassies have advised their nationals to be vigilant.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The man that Turkey’s government blames for a coup attempt is calling for an international investigation before he will agree to return.  Turkish leaders want the U.S. to extradite Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania.

Writing today in the French newspaper Le Monde, Gulen said — quote — “If a tenth of the accusations against me are established, I pledge to return to Turkey and serve the heaviest sentence.”

In Russia, President Vladimir Putin fired his right-hand man today as part of an ongoing shakeup of his inner circle.  Longtime ally Sergei Ivanov was dropped from his post as chief of staff.  He’d been one of the most influential figures in Russia and was once considered a likely successor to Putin.

But, today, the Russian president said he made the decision at Ivanov’s request.

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia (through translator):  We have been working together for many years and it was successful work.  I’m happy with how you have handled the tasks.  I understand your desire to choose another line of work.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  In the past year, Putin has replaced several of his more powerful allies with younger officials.

Back in this country, the U.S. Department of Health and Human services has declared a public health emergency in Puerto Rico over the Zika virus.  The island has more than 10,000 cases, and the surgeon general warned that 25 percent of the population will be infected by year’s end.  Zika is linked to severe birth defects.

New data shows the cost of expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act is almost 50 percent higher than projected.  Up to 10 million low-income Americans have been added to Medicaid rolls so far.  But the agency overseeing the effort says it’s running nearly $6,400 a person.  That could make it much more difficult to expand Medicaid in the 19 states that have not yet done so.

Wall Street closed out the week with a subpar session, after weak data on retail sales.  The Dow Jones industrial average lost 37 points to close at 18576.  The Nasdaq rose four points, and the S&P 500 dropped a point.  For the week, all three indexes gained a fraction of a point.

And at the Summer Olympics, an upset today in women’s soccer.  The U.S. team lost to Sweden in the quarterfinals on a penalty shoot-out after regulation play ended in a tie.  The American women had won gold in the last three Olympics.

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