News Wrap: U.S. strikes back at Houthi rebels in Yemen

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FILE PHOTO - The USS Nitze, a Guided Missile Destroyer is pictured in New York Harbor, May 24, 2006. REUTERS/Peter Foley/File Photo - RTSS0JE

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 JUDY WOODRUFF:  In the day’s other news:  The U.S. carried out retaliatory strikes against rebels in Yemen, after they fired at American ships earlier this week.  The missiles launched this morning from the destroyer the USS Nitze hit three radar sites along Yemen’s Red Sea Coast.

A Pentagon spokesman said President Obama authorized the strikes.  The U.S. had been backing the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen’s civil war, but had yet to target the Houthi rebels directly.

PETER COOK, Pentagon Press Secretary:  These strikes were, again, a response to threats to our vessels and to freedom of navigation, which is a core U.S. national security interest.  These strikes are not connected to the broader conflict in Yemen.  Those who might threaten U.S. forces should recognize that we will not tolerate threats to our people.  We will respond if our forces come under fire.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  The rebels’ two failed missile attacks, yesterday and Sunday, appeared to be in reaction to a Saudi-led strike that hit a funeral in the Yemeni capital last week.

The world’s longest-reigning monarch has died.  The king of Thailand passed away today at the age of 88, after being in poor health.  His death plunges that country into a period of uncertainty, because of concerns about the son who will succeed him.

Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News has our report from Bangkok.

JONATHAN MILLER:  Thai TV stations interrupted all programs.  “The king has died,” the palace spokesman said.  “He has passed away peacefully.”

So comes to an end a reign of 70 years, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.  His name means the strength of the land, the incomparable power.  A wave of grief spread through the grounds of the hospital where the king died, beloved by his now bereft subjects for his self-sacrifice, wisdom, munificence, the only king most Thais have ever known.

You can him like a light.

WOMAN:  Yes, the only bright light for Thai people.

JONATHAN MILLER:  So, he was like a guiding star.

WOMAN:  Yes, something like that.

JONATHAN MILLER:  The body of King Adulyadej will now be taken to his royal palace to be ceremonially bathed.  He will lie for 100 days in state to allow as many of his 17 million adoring subjects to come and pay their respects as want to come.

He took the throne as an 18-year-old engineering graduate, the Thai monarchy at a nadir.  For decades, he traveled the lengths and breadth of his country, demonstrating his concern for his people.  He wielded his power deftly and sparingly.

But, in his long twilight, the looming succession crisis cast a dark shadow over his realm.  This, though, is the man who will be crowned King Rama X of the Royal House of Chakri.  It will happen when the time is right, Thailand’s military leader said tonight.

But 64-year-old Maha Vajiralongkorn, King Bhumibol’s only son, is not loved here like his father.  He is feared.  He lacks stature and respect, and many consider him reckless.  Tonight, though, Thailand’s game of thrones is on hold, as a nation marks a new milestone and mourns.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  In Washington, President Obama praised the king as a close friend and valued partner of many U.S. presidents.

In Nigeria, officials say 21 of the so-called Chibok girls kidnapped by Boko Haram extremists two years ago have been released.  A presidential spokesman said the breakthrough came after negotiations with the militant group.  All told, 276 schoolgirls were abducted; 200 of them are still missing.  We will have more on the wider dire situation in Nigeria later in the program.

In Syria, there’s been no letup in the assault on the city of Aleppo.  Shelling and airstrikes in rebel-held areas left at least 11 people dead overnight.  Rescue workers say renewed bombing there has killed more than 150 people this week.  Meanwhile, Russian state TV aired footage of Syrian government troops conducting operations against the opposition on the northern edge of Aleppo.  And late today, at least 20 people died in a car bombing near Syria’s border with Turkey.

Hurricane Nicole barreled into Bermuda today, with maximum sustained winds of 115 miles per hour.  The Category 3 storm peeled roofs off homes and knocked out power to more than 26,000 customers across the British island territory.  Amateur video captured waves pummeling the shores, as winds whipped rain into near whiteout conditions.  The storm is expected to weaken in the days ahead.

Back in this country, some progress was made for North Carolina residents still reeling from Hurricane Matthew.  Governor Pat McCrory says the number of people without power is down to roughly 44,000, from a peak of 900,000.  Still, many communities remain underwater.  The floodwaters were expected to peak in five counties today.  Meanwhile, the death toll in the state grew to at least 22 people.

The National Transportation Safety Board says that the brakes were working on the commuter train that slammed into New Jersey’s Hoboken terminal.  Last month’s crash killed one person and injured more than a hundred others.  In a preliminary report, investigators said they haven’t found any mechanical issues with the signal or train control systems.  Heavy damage to the front of the train is hampering the investigation.

There were fresh concerns today about China’s economy.  Chinese exports in September plunged 10 percent over last year, due to lower demand.  Imports were also down.

That weak economic data pushed stocks lower here.  On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 45 points to close under 18099.  The Nasdaq fell 25, and the S&P 500 slipped six.

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