The New York Times leads with a suicide car-bombing of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s motorcade that left at least 14 people dead. Musharraf was unharmed by the second attempt on his life in 11 days. The Los Angeles Times leads with an Israeli helicopter strike in Gaza that killed an Islamic Jihad leader and at least 4 other people, and a suicide bombing in a Tel Aviv suburb that killed at least 4 Israelis. USA Today leads with a roundup of yesterday’s violence, which also included mortar attacks on the Iranian and Turkish embassies in Baghdad and a bombing near a U.N. building in Kabul. The Washington Post leads with the first article in a series that will cover the 2004 election from the “grass-roots perspective of the citizens in Dubuque, Iowa.” The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with the allegation by investigators that the dairy giant Parmalat had been falsifying its records for 15 years.
Both of the recent assassination attempts have occurred in the tightly guarded city of Rawalpindi. Yesterday’s attack occurred on the road back to Islamabad, which was cordoned off for the president’s fast-moving convoy. Two explosive-laden pickup trucks swung out from side streets and barely missed the president’s limousine, blowing up the front and rear of the motorcade. The visibly shaken Musharraf, appearing on Pakistani TV, blamed “terrorists and extremists” for the attack, but there were no specific suspects. Although the Pakistani interior minister told the WP that the two recent attacks were a “matter of shame for our security services,” there are no plans to cancel the summit of South Asian leaders that is scheduled to take place 10 days from now in Islamabad.
The bombing in Israel occurred at a bus stop near Tel Aviv 10 minutes after a helicopter missile strike killed the leader of Islamic Jihad’s military wing and at least four others (the WP reports five). The suicide bombings were the first in Israel proper since Oct. 4. During what the LAT calls a 12-week lull in violence (despite a late October Israeli missile strike and an intensified incursion into Gaza that started two weeks ago), Egypt reopened negotiations with Israel, and the Palestinian Authority tried to renegotiate a cease-fire among its squabbling factions. Israeli officials said the temporary peace was a mirage, reporting that they had foiled 39 attempted attacks since the Oct. 4 bombing. An adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that the attack only reinforced Sharon’s plan, revealed last week, to unilaterally separate Israel from the Palestinians.
The WP fronts reports that some “U.S. officials” believe that the cancellation of Air France Flights 68, 69, and 70 to Los Angeles earlier this week might have prevented a hijacking. French officials, who questioned and released six people who were scheduled to fly on Flight 68 and seven people who were scheduled for Flight 70, called the cancellation a “nonevent.” The NYT reiterates the French official line in its headline (“ FRENCH FIND NO TERROR TIE, BUT AMERICAN SUSPICIONS REMIAIN“) andreports that the U.S. State Department originally requested that the French government place armed guards on the suspected flights and then changed their minds on Wednesday. A homeland security official told the NYT on the record, “It’s too early to say that we’ve dodged any bullets,” and the article mentions that the U.S. is still investigating people who didn’t show up for the flight.
The WP fronts an in-depth story on the structure of the Baathist insurgent network that hid Saddam Hussein and planned many of the attacks throughout Iraq. The network revolved around five extended Tikrit families that were close to Saddam and helped shuttle him around to his 30 or so hideaways. U.S. authorities pieced together the structure of the resistance over the course of six months, placing pictures of all suspects into a massive and intricate diagram known as the “Mongo Link.” Officials expressed surprise at how many upper- and middle-level members of the network belonged to the five families. The article also reiterates the now-familiar view that Saddam had little operational role in the resistance and served a more inspirational role.
A front-page story in the WP revives Plamegate and reports that the FBI investigation of who in the White House broke former CIA agent Valerie Plame’s cover is still going strong. A fourth prosecutor has been added to the investigative team, and FBI agents have indicated to many of the people they’ve interviewed that they may be called to testify in front of a grand jury.
The NYT says the recent case of Mad Cow disease in Washington state will probably result in more testing of cattle for the disease, but there will likely be debates over the extent of the increase. The WP reports that investigators have still not pinpointed the infected Holstein cow’s origins.