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Friday, January 20

Editor's Note: The CNN Wire is a running log of the latest news from CNN World Headquarters, reported by CNN's correspondents, producers and Wires.CNN editors.

5 of Talabani's security guards wounded in roadside bombing

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Five security guards assigned to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani were wounded late Friday when a roadside bomb struck their convoy, Kirkuk Police Chief Torhan Abdul Rahman said.

Talabani was not present at the time. The convoy of several vehicles was driving from Sulaimaniya to Baghdad, where the guards were to rotate out with other guards, when the bomb exploded about 11 p.m. local time (3 p.m. ET) in Tuz Khurmatu town, about 70 kilometers (43 miles) south of Kirkuk, Rahman said. --CNN Producer Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report. (Posted 4:37 a.m.)

Aymara Indian holding ceremony Saturday before presidential inaugural

LA PAZ, Bolivia (CNN) -- A former leader of Bolivia's coca leaf farmers who has spent months calling President Bush an imperialist terrorist was set to be sworn in Saturday as the South American nation's new president.

But Evo Morales struck a conciliatory tone regarding the Bush administration in an interview Friday with CNN's Lucia Newman. "The U.S. ambassador and I spoke a couple of weeks ago," Morales said. "He said, 'It's time to turn a new leaf.' And I said, 'No problem' ... I'm the first to say I forgive the White House for all the accusations it made against me."

Washington, however, is watching Morales closely. He has vowed to stop the coca eradication program sponsored by the U.S. government, possibly setting the stage for a showdown over coca leaves. The small green leaves comprise the raw material for cocaine. Morales supports coca cultivation for "traditional consumption." He also has spoken of his admiration and respect for Cuban President Fidel Castro. (Posted 3:41 a.m.)

Rescue plans being made for lost whale in Thames

LONDON (CNN) -- Plans were being made Saturday for the rescue of a possibly sick and injured whale which ended up in the Thames River in central London after apparently becoming disoriented.

The northern bottle-nosed whale caused a stir Friday after it was sighted, but experts warned the coming hours could be crucial in their quest to get the mammal back in open seas.

An organization called the British Divers Marine Life Rescue said Saturday a veterinarian would assess the whale's state. If the whale is too stressed, plans call for it to be tranquilized and lifted out of the water onto a barge while asleep, so it will be out of the way of other Thames traffic. Because the whale cannot be taken to sea while asleep, experts plan to make a more thorough assessment of his state while it is unconscious. If the whale does not need to be tranquilized, the group said, they plan to initiate a rescue attempt as soon as possible. This would involve lifting him onto a barge and taking him to the mouth of the Thames, then out to its home in the North Atlantic.

By Saturday morning, it had moved upstream several miles and was near Chelsea Bridge. The whale's upriver direction was a possible indication of trouble to experts, who said it was a possible indication the animal was sick, confused or both. --CNN Producer Katie Turner and Correspondent Jim Boulden contributed to this report. (Updated 4:17 a.m.)

Lost mammal in Thames causes whale of a stir; experts concerned

LONDON (CNN) -- A wayward whale, apparently hurt and disoriented, caused a stir after it was sighted in London's Thames River, but experts warned the injured animal's story may not have a happy ending if it beaches itself or fails to find its way back to the open sea, more than 40 miles away.

Britons abandoned their desks and brought their children and their cameras Friday to see the mammal, which was first spotted by a commuter who told police he must be hallucinating. By that time, the northern bottle-nosed whale had slipped under Tower Bridge and headed upriver past Big Ben.

Saturday morning, the whale was sighted several miles upstream near the Chelsea Bridge.

But its upriver direction was a possible indication of trouble to experts, who said it was a possible indication the animal was sick, confused or both. "It's heavily scarred and it's got what looks like an infected wound behind the left eye, and it seems to be tired and exhausted," said Edwin Timewell of the Atlantic Whale Foundation. "Just by intuition, it doesn't look very well."

Authorities said a tow or a lift are last results for the mammal. (Updated 3:39 a.m.)

Mine rescue teams hampered by thick smoke

MELVILLE, W. Va. (CNN) -- Rescuers were drilling a 6-inch-wide hole 200 feet into a West Virginia mine early Saturday, with the hope that two missing miners will send a signal indicating their location, a mining official said late Friday.

For the second time in nearly three weeks, anxious relatives and friends, accompanied by West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, were gathered at a church late Friday awaiting news of missing coal miners.

More than a day after a fire trapped two miners underground, rescuers were still battling smoke and carbon monoxide as they tried to search miles of tunnels to find them. Officials did not release the men's names at the request of families.

The fire that broke out Thursday night at Aracoma Alma Mine No. 1 in Logan County apparently began on a conveyor belt that moves coal out of the mine, officials said. The blaze was located at a depth of 900 to 1,000 feet and about 10,000 feet, or 2 miles, from the mine entrance. (Updated 12:37 a.m.)

No word on abducted journalist's fate

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- There was no immediate word early Saturday on the fate of journalist Jill Carroll. Her abductors on Tuesday set a 72-hour deadline for the release of all women detained in Iraqi prisons by the United States, or else Carroll would be killed.

The group, identified as the "Brigades of Vengeance," has not been heard from publicly since that demand. In previous abductions, deadlines have often been fluid, with the insurgents sometimes extending them.

On Friday, the powerful Sunni politician -- whom Carroll went to interview on the day she was kidnapped -- called for her abductors to release her unharmed, telling them "you are insulting me" and "insulting the work that I've been doing for Iraq."

"I call for them to release her. She is a woman who strived for Iraq, defending Iraq and Iraqis, condemning war on Iraq," Sunni politician Adnan al-Dulaimi told reporters.

An Iraqi deputy justice minister, Bosho Ibrahim Ali, told CNN he had visited the nine women detained without charges by U.S. troops in Iraq and had spoken with each of them. He said he expects six of the women to released soon, and is working on securing the release of the three others. (Posted 9:51 p.m.)

Rove stresses civility, but notes differences Bush sidesteps an embarrassing vote

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Karl Rove preached a message of civility Friday at a meeting of national Republicans, but insisted it is the GOP, not Democrats, who offer solutions to a wide range of issues facing this country.

Rove, making a rare public speech as he battles allegations that he revealed the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, spoke specifically on the differences between Democrats and Republicans on core issues such as the economy, the judiciary and national security.

But his call for civility was punctured at times by scathing critiques of the Democratic Party before a gathering of 200 state and local GOP members attending the Republican National Committee's winter meeting.

On national security, Rove said the parties "have fundamentally different views" on how to address the issue. "Republicans have a post-9/11 worldview, and many Democrats have a pre-9/11," he said. "That doesn't make them unpatriotic, not at all. But it does make them wrong -- deeply and profoundly and consistently wrong." --By CNN Political Editor Mark Preston (Posted 6:02 p.m.)

Former Pentagon specialist sentenced to 12 years for disclosing secrets

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former Pentagon Iran policy specialist Larry Franklin was sentenced Friday to 12 years and seven months in prison for providing classified information to an Israeli diplomat and members of a pro-Israel lobbying organization.

Franklin, who pleaded guilty in October, appeared in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, where Judge T.S. Ellis III levied the sentence for conspiracy to provide classified information to a foreign agent and to other unauthorized persons, and illegal retention of secret documents.

Franklin, identified by the government as a former Iran desk officer in the office of the secretary of defense, was indicted last August along with Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, former key members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Rosen and Weissman are slated to go to trial in April. --From Justice Producer Terry Frieden (Posted 4:57 p.m.)

Firebrand Iraqi politician calls for reporter's release

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- The Sunni politician whom journalist Jill Carroll went to interview on the day she was kidnapped called for her abductors to release her unharmed Friday, telling them "you are insulting me" and "insulting the work that I've been doing for Iraq."

"I call for them to release her. She is a woman who strived for Iraq, defending Iraq and Iraqis, condemning war on Iraq," Sunni politician Adnan al-Dulaimi told reporters. "She is here to cover Iraq's news and bring it out to the world."

He said Iraqis are working around the clock to free Carroll, a 28-year-old freelancer for the Christian Science Monitor who wrote stories about ordinary Iraqis and how the war was affecting their lives.

"We will work with Iraqi and non-Iraqi sides because it is an honorable aim that we are seeking," said al-Dulaimi, the head of the General Conference of the Iraqi People. (Posted 4:48 p.m.)

N.Y. transit union rejects contract, goes back to drawing board

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The president of the Transport Workers Union local said its 33,000 workers rejected their new three-year contract Friday, one month to the day after they stranded 7 million riders with a crippling three-day strike.

The workers, by just a seven-vote margin, rejected the call for ratification. The vote ended at noon Friday.

Said TWU president Roger Toussaint, "We will meet with our officers and executive board members as we go back to the drawing board." --From CNN Assignment Editor Lauren Rivera (Posted 4:12 p.m.)

Wall Street worries send stocks into the well

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The stock sell-off picked up steam Friday afternoon, sending the Dow Jones industrial average tumbling more than 200 points and putting the world's most widely watched stock index into the loss column for the year.

Disappointing earnings from General Electric and Citigroup -- following warnings earlier this week from Yahoo, Intel, Apple and other well-known companies -- raised a rash of worries on Wall Street about how corporate profits would fare in 2006.

A jump of more than 2 percent in oil prices added to the jitters. "Combine the name-brand companies that have disappointed with a backdrop of higher energy prices and you get a Friday sell-off," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Jefferies & Co.

The 30-share Dow industrials sank 213 points, or 1.96 percent, putting the index into the red for the year for the first time in 2006. (Posted 4:10 p.m.)

Oklahoma City bombing witness released

(CNN) -- Michael Fortier, who was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for not warning authorities about the Oklahoma City bombing plot, was released Friday, his attorney, Michael McGuire, told CNN.

Fortier, who has a wife and two children, was released a year and a half early because of good behavior.

While in prison, he was under a witness protection program, serving his time under an assumed name, two government sources told CNN. It is not clear if he will remain under that program. His attorney is barred from discussing the issue. (Posted 3:48 p.m.)

Spokeswoman: Doctors assessing Ford for discharge

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (CNN) -- Doctors are assessing former President Gerald Ford to see if he is ready for discharge from the Southern California hospital where he is receiving respiratory therapy, his spokeswoman said Friday.

No predictions were made on when he might be released.

Ford, 92, is doing well and continuing to respond to treatment, according to the statement issued Friday from spokeswoman Penny Circle. He was admitted Saturday with pneumonia. (Posted 3:05 p.m.)

Tape of bin Laden's No. 2 man surfaces; doesn't reference last week's assassination attempt

(CNN) -- A newly released audiotape from Ayman al-Zawahiri appeared on the Internet Friday in which Osama bin Laden's No. 2 man recited poetry to jihadists across the globe.

Al-Zawahiri did not mention last week's CIA attack aimed at killing him and it was not immediately clear when the tape was made because he made no references to specific dates.

If al-Zawahiri wants to prove he survived last week's attack, "this tape does not do it," a U.S. counterterrorism official said.

The release of the 17-minute audiotape comes just one day after an audiotape from bin Laden surfaced -- the al Qaeda leader's first message in more than a year. (Posted 3 p.m.)

White House 'stepping up' efforts to counter critics of domestic surveillance program

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush will visit the secret National Security Agency next week as part of a new White House effort to counter critics of its controversial domestic surveillance program.

The president's visit will come ahead of a Feb. 6 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing looking into the program's legality.

As part of the new push, the White House announced public appearances by other top Bush administration officials next week.

On Monday, Gen. Michael Hayden, deputy director of national intelligence, will deliver a speech on the issue at the National Press Club in Washington. On Tuesday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will make remarks on the program at a yet-to-be-announced venue in Washington. --From CNN White House Correspondent Elaine Quijano (Posted 2:03 p.m.)

Iraqi official: Tariq Aziz in stable health, despite rumors to the contrary

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- An Iraqi deputy justice minister said a former top-level Saddam Hussein-regime official's health is stable, despite recent assertions from an attorney about a deteriorating condition and being near death.

Deputy Justice Minister Bosho Ibrahim Ali visited former Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz in prison and said he appears to be in stable shape.

His statement followed a recent comment from a U.S. official who said there was no significant change in the health of Aziz, who surrendered in April 2003.

Ali said Aziz has diabetes and high blood pressure, but had those conditions for a long period of time, before he was captured. He said his weight has decreased four kilograms, or nine pounds, since he was arrested. --From Producer Mohammed Tawfeeq (Posted 2:01 p.m.)

Man who shot John Paul II rearrested a week after his release

ANKARA, Turkey (CNN) -- Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who attempted to kill Pope John Paul II nearly 25 years ago, was rearrested Friday after Turkey's Supreme Court ruled his release from prison last week was a legal mistake.

After serving nearly 20 years in an Italian prison for the pope's shooting, Agca spent less than five years in a Turkish prison for the 1979 murder of a left-wing newspaper editor. Last week, a lower court allowed for his release because it counted his prison time in Italy toward his sentence in Turkey.

The Supreme Court on Friday overturned that ruling and Agca was taken into custody in Istanbul. He is expected to be taken to jail later in the day. If he is forced to complete his sentence, he could be in jail until 2010, legal experts said.

Agca's release had caused outrage among some in Turkey. (Posted 1:20 p.m.)

Iraq official says some Iraqi female detainees to be released next week, he's working hard to get the rest freed

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- An Iraqi deputy justice minister told CNN said he expects six women in U.S. custody in Iraq to be released soon and is working on securing the release of three others.

The status of the women is important now because their release is demanded by militants who are threatening to kill hostage journalist Jill Carroll unless the women prisoners are freed.

Bosho Ibrahim Ali said he had been working on freeing the women -- detained at a Baghdad prison -- even before Carroll was taken hostage. He said he was doing so for humanitarian reasons.

The U.S. military had said that there were only eight women detained without charges in their custody, but Ali said another had been detained on Jan. 6.

He said six are to be released -- four or five of them as soon as next week. (Posted 1:12 p.m.)

Justice Department to unveil indictments relating to allegations of ecoterrorism

(CNN) -- A federal grand jury in Eugene, Oregon, Friday returned a 65-count indictment against 11 people allegedly involved in ecoterrorism incidents in five states.

The charges include conspiracy to commit arson; arson; attempted arson; use and possession of a destructive device; and destruction of an energy facility. The alleged crimes were committed from 1996 through 2001 in Oregon, Wyoming, Washington, California, and Colorado.

The Justice Department said those indicted are members of the Earth Liberation Front or the Animal Liberation Front, which have claimed responsibility for numerous ecoterror attacks across the nation.

According to the indictment the group's arsons were done with home-made devices constructed from milk jugs, petroleum products and home-made timers. The targets included Bureau of Land Management wild horse facilities, U.S. Forest Service ranger stations, meat processing companies, lumber companies, a high-tension power line, and a Colorado ski facility. (Posted 12:30 p.m.)

Former female journalist held hostage in Iraq last year urges release of Jill Carroll

(CNN) -- A French journalist who was held hostage in Iraq for six months last year on Friday called for the release of kidnapped U.S. journalist Jill Carroll.

Florence Aubenas, a journalist with the French newspaper Liberation, was kidnapped in early January 2005 and was released six months later, in June.

"It's true that I was also asked throughout an entire afternoon, 'Why are you here and can you prove that you are a journalist?' Obviously, you have no other proof but your word. So I hope they are going to believe her as they believed me," she said Friday. (Posted 11:23 a.m.)

Marines: U.S., Iraqi forces fend off strikes in Ramadi

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- U.S. and Iraqi forces fought off strikes on military bases Friday afternoon in Iraqi city of Ramadi, the Marine Corps said.

The military has said that it expected violence after Friday morning's announcement of election results.

In a written statement, Capt. Jeffrey Pool of the 2nd Marine Division said, "Today's attacks in Ramadi resulted in no serious damage and only a couple of minor injuries to U.S. forces, who have already been treated and returned to duty."

Ramadi, the capital of the Sunni-dominated Anbar province, has been a hub of insurgent activity. (Posted 10:52 a.m.)

Iraq elections: Shiites, Kurds again prevail but with fewer votes; Sunni Arabs gain seats

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iraqi election results issued Friday showed gains by Sunni Arabs who stayed away from the polls last year and slight setbacks for the ruling Shiite and Kurdish blocs, who came in one-two but with fewer votes than they received when they prevailed in last January's transitional assembly election.

The uncertified final results were announced at a press conference conducted by the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq. Eleven million people went to the polls last month to cast their ballots.

The two parties that fared best in this election didn't earn as many seats as they had on Jan. 30. The Shiite-led United Iraqi Alliance earned 128 seats and the Kurdish alliance won 53 seats. Last year, they won 146 seats and 75 respectively and formed a ruling coalition.

In this latest election, two top Sunni Arab tickets won 55 seats. They include the Iraqi Accord Front won 44 seats and a coalition led by Saleh al-Mutlag, a prominent Sunni Arab politician, won 11 seats. Last year, the Sunnis had 17 in parliament.

Two smaller Sunni Arab-affiliated groups won four seats. The ticket of Ayad Allawi -- the former interim prime minister -- has received 25 seats. He is a secular Shiite who headed a diverse coalition that shunned sectarianism. (Posted 9:18 a.m.)

Iran moving financial holdings as threat of U.N. sanctions looms

TEHRAN (CNN) -- Amid the threat of possible U.N. economic sanctions, Iran announced Friday it is transferring its foreign exchange accounts out of U.S. and European banks, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

Ibrahim Sheibani, the head of Iran's Central Bank, said the Islamic state will transfer all of its foreign accounts related to its oil income to Southeast Asian banks, according to the conservative news agency.

The United States and Europe could block Iran's foreign accounts if the U.N. imposes economic sanctions on Iran. The International Atomic Energy Agency has called an emergency meeting on Feb. 2 to discuss Iran's resumption of nuclear activities. (Posted 8:11 a.m.)

Japan halts U.S. beef imports after spinal cords found in shipment of meat; U.S. asked to explain

TOKYO (CNN) -- Japan halted the import of U.S. beef Friday after animal spines were found in three boxes of frozen beef at Tokyo International Airport and asked U.S. officials to explain what happened.

Slightly more than a month ago, Japan lifted a two-year ban on U.S. beef amid concerns about mad cow disease. It is unclear how long the temporary stoppage of U.S. beef imports will last.

The shipment of beef with spinal cords attached violates the agreement between the two countries, meaning a ban could be reinstated.

A Japanese Agriculture Ministry statement said the importation of U.S. beef had been halted until the U.S. government can report to the ministry "the cause of the discovery." The statement said when 41 boxes of frozen beef arrived from a firm in New York, inspectors found beef with spinal cords attached in three of the boxes. (Posted 8 a.m.)

55 killed, 5 injured when bus rolls into gorge

SRINAGAR, Indian-controlled Kashmir (CNN) -- At least 55 people were killed and 5 injured Friday when a bus rolled into a deep gorge near the village of Sianganji, officials in the region said.

One of the injured is in critical condition, said Mohammad Abbas, district magistrate in Rajouri, southern Kashmir. The injured were taken to a hospital in Rajouri.

The bus was traveling from Darhal to Rajouri, a police official said. The crash occurred at about 9 a.m. local time. --CNN's Ram Ramgopal and Journalist Mukhtar Ahmad contributed to this report. (Posted 7:54 a.m.)

Recovery efforts continue at site of Hungarian plane crash

(CNN) -- Recovery efforts continued Friday at the site of the crash of an AN-24 military plane, which was carrying 43 passengers when it crashed in the rugged terrain of northern Hungary. One person survived, authorities said.

Those on board included three crew members and 40 Slovak soldiers, according to Lt. Col. Kiss Dezfo of the Hungarian Defense Ministry. The crash site is in a remote mountainous area, accessible only by foot, near the Hungarian town of Telkibanya, about one mile from the Slovak border.

Conditions were hampering efforts to transport casualties from the crash site, authorities said. The survivor, identified as a 30-year-old soldier by the Hungarian National Police Force, was being taken to the border, according to government spokesman Andras Batiz, where he will be handed over to a Slovakian rescue team for transport to a hospital in Kosice, Slovakia.

Twenty-one bodies had been recovered, according to the Hungarian Interior Ministry. (Updated 5:56 a.m.)

6 killed, 9 wounded, 5 kidnapped in Iraqi violence

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Six Iraqis were killed and five others were kidnapped in incidents across Baghdad on Thursday and Friday, police said, while eight Iraqi police and soldiers were wounded in two bombings in restive Diyala province.

At 10:20 a.m. Friday, two Iraqi civilians were killed and a third was wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near a U.S. military convoy in southeastern Baghdad, police said. The kidnapping occurred about 11 p.m. Thursday, when at least 15 masked gunmen dressed like Iraqi police commandos stormed the Najam al-Zawiya restaurant in central Baghdad, according to an Iraqi police official with Baghdad emergency police.

About 6 p.m. Thursday, gunmen fatally shot two people working inside a cell phone shop in southwestern Baghdad's al-Amil neighborhood, police said. An hour later, two barbers were shot to death inside their shop in southwestern Baghdad's al-Bayya neighborhood.

In Diyala province, four Iraqi police officers were wounded about 9 a.m. Friday when a roadside bomb struck their convoy in Muqdadiya, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Baquba, according to an official with Diyala Joint Coordination Center. Four soldiers were injured when a second roadside bomb exploded near an Iraqi Army patrol in eastern Baquba about an hour earlier. (Updated 4:33 a.m.)

Journalist's father makes appeal for her release

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- The father of kidnapped American journalist Jill Carroll on Friday appealed to her kidnappers to free her, saying they should "use Jill to be your voice to the world."

"I want to speak directly to the men holding my daughter Jill because they may also be fathers like me," Jim Carroll said in the statement which aired Friday on the Arabic-language network Al-Jazeera. "My daughter does not have the ability to free anyone. She is a reporter and an innocent person. Do not sacrifice an innocent soul. ... As a father, I appeal to you to release my daughter for the betterment of all of us. And I ask the men holding my daughter to work with Jill to find a way to initiate a dialogue with me."

Also, Arab satellite channels on Friday aired a press conference held by Adnan Dulaimi, head of the General Conference of the Iraqi People. Dulaimi added his voice to the growing chorus calling for Carroll's release, beseeching her kidnappers to free her in the name of God.

Carroll was abducted Jan. 7 in Baghdad. She appeared Tuesday in a video aired on Al-Jazeera, in which her captors threatened to kill her unless the U.S. military released all female Iraqi prisoners within 72 hours. (Posted 2:49 a.m.)

Israel defense minister: Iran financed Tel Aviv bombing

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli officials believe Iran financed a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv on Thursday in which more than 20 people were wounded, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said, and the directions came from Islamic Jihad headquarters in Syria.

Israel's Defense Ministry on Friday confirmed Mofaz's remarks, which were made Thursday after a security meeting.

A teen-age suicide bomber detonated in a food stand near an old central bus station in Tel Aviv, officials said. Palestinian security sources identified him as Sami Abed al-Hamid, 18, from the Nablus area. Al-Hamid was the only person killed, but Israeli medical services reported 22 people were wounded -- one seriously, five moderately and 14 lightly. --CNN Producer Michal Zippori contributed to this report. (Updated 3:28 a.m.)

Stock exchange attempting to increase system capacity by next week

TOKYO (CNN) -- The Tokyo Stock Exchange, which was forced to close early this week during a massive selloff because of concerns about its system capacity, is hoping to increase that capacity as of next week, a spokesman said Friday.

The exchange closed about 20 minutes early Wednesday because of high trading volumes, with officials fearing the system might crash under the load. The number of transactions totaled about 3.5 million ahead of the close; the system's limit is 4.5 million.

The spokesman said Friday officials are trying to increase the system's capacity to 5 million as of next week. The exchange will also appoint a new chief information officer, who looks after its computer systems, he said. (Posted 2:14 a.m.)

Friends of abducted journalist believe her Arabic skills may save her

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Friends and former co-workers of abducted American journalist Jill Carroll said Thursday night her fluent Arabic and knowledge of the Middle East may help convince her kidnappers to release her unharmed.

Carroll, who was abducted Jan. 7 in Baghdad, appeared Tuesday in a video on the Arabic-language TV network Al-Jazeera in which her captors threatened to kill her unless the U.S. military released all female Iraqi prisoners within 72 hours.

"The kidnappers who took Jill need to know that Jill is only an innocent journalist ... who only went to Iraq only to convey the truth, to tell the stories of the Iraqi people," close friend Natasha Tynes said on CNN's "Larry King Live." "She had nothing to do with the war that happened in Iraq." "I'm hoping that her Arabic skills and her knowledge of the region will help her to survive this."

Rajiv Chandrasekaran, former Baghdad bureau chief for The Washington Post, met Carroll in 2002 in Amman, Jordan, where she worked for a year before going to Iraq. "Jill is a spunky, courageous woman. I was struck when I first met her by her sheer chutzpah," he said. (Posted 12:03 a.m.)

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