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Saturday, January 21

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.

15 rebels, 6 soldiers killed in confrontation

KATHMANDU, Nepal (CNN) -- Fifteen Maoist rebels and six Nepalese soldiers died in an armed confrontation that occurred in a remote area south of Kathmandu, according to the United Defense Forces.

The Royal Nepalese Army reportedly used night-vision helicopters for bombings on the ground during the clash about 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Kathmandu. Details of the incident remained sketchy.

On Saturday, more than 200 pro-democracy activists were arrested across the country as they organized rallies protesting the absolute rule of King Gyanendra. The king took absolute control of the country in February, suspending Parliament and sacking the government, citing a Maoist threat as justification. He has promised to restore multi-party democracy and basic civil and human rights, but he is under international pressure to move quickly. --Journalist C.K. Lal contributed to this report. (Posted 5:13 a.m.)

Red Cross helicopter with 7 aboard missing in Pakistan

(CNN) -- Searches were underway Sunday along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border for a missing helicopter with seven people aboard, being used by the Red Cross to deliver aid to earthquake survivors in Pakistan, the organization said.

The chartered helicopter went missing Saturday as it was headed to Turkmenistan from Peshawar, Pakistan, after its seven crew members had finished their relief work, said Marco Jiminez, spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Asked about the possibility of foul play, Jiminez said, "for the moment, we don't have a reason to believe that's the case." The terrain is mountainous, he noted, and weather conditions were poor, with high winds. "We are expecting that there are other reasons for the helicopter to be missing at the moment." --CNNRadio's Raul Bali contributed to this report. (Posted 5:01 a.m.)

Army officer convicted of negligent homicide in Iraqi general's death

(CNN) -- An Army officer was convicted Saturday of negligent homicide and negligent dereliction of duty in connection with the death of an Iraqi general at a detention camp.

Six military jurors, however, rejected the more severe charge of murder, which could have resulted in a life prison sentence for Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer Jr., according to Army Public Affairs spokeswoman Judy Dutt.

Welshofer, 43, was accused of putting a sleeping bag over the head of Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush, sitting on his chest and covering Mowhoush's mouth with his hand while interrogating him in November 2003. A surgeon initially said Mowhoush died of natural causes, but a death certificate released months later by the Pentagon called the death a homicide by asphyxia.

He faces a dishonorable discharge and up to three years in prison for negligent homicide, along with three months for negligent dereliction of duty. Sentencing was set for Monday in Fort Collins, Colo. Mowhoush was a major general in the former Iraqi Army's Air Defense branch and a former high-ranking air defense commander linked to Saddam Hussein. He was arrested by U.S. troops in an October 2003 raid. --CNNRadio's Shelby Lin contributed to this report. (Posted 5:01 a.m.)

9 people, including 4 children, killed in Iraqi violence

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Nine people, including four children and four Iraqi police officers, were killed early Sunday in two separate incidents in the country's volatile Diyala province, according to an official with the Diyala Joint Communications Center.

The children died in a 12:20 a.m. (4:20 p.m. Saturday ET) rocket attack on the Balad Ruz home of an Iraqi police officer, the official said. The officer was not home at the time, but the rockets struck the home and killed the officer's brother and the children, two boys and two girls aged 6 to 11. The brother's wife was wounded.

The four police officers died when a roadside bomb targeting their patrol exploded about 3:50 a.m. in Tahrir Square in central Baquba, the official said. Nine police officers were wounded.

Saturday, a roadside bomb wounded three civilians about 8:30 p.m. in central Baquba. --CNN Producer Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report. (Posted 3:22 a.m.)

After a 2-day search, both West Virginia miners found dead

MELVILLE, W. Va. (CNN) -- The bodies of two miners trapped after a fire broke out in a vast West Virginia coal mine two days ago were found Saturday, West Virginia's mine safety chief Doug Conaway said.

"The mine rescue teams made a valiant effort to locate these folks," Conaway said.

Their bodies were found together near the area where a fire had broken out, Jesse Cole of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration said.

The fire broke out Thursday around 5:30 p.m. the Aracoma Alma Mine No. 1 in Melville, about 60 miles southwest of Charleston. Ten other men on the 12-person crew escaped safely. (Updated, 5:15 p.m.)

Captive son of Iraqi official asks Iraqis to end relations with U.S. military

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- The kidnapped son of a former Iraqi official appeared Saturday in a video televised on Al-Arabiya and said his captors have threatened to kill him unless Iraqi security forces stop cooperating with the U.S. military, the Arab network said.

Hussein Sabah Abdul-Karim, son of Brig. Gen. Sabah Abdul-Karim, was kidnapped in Baghdad's Mansour neighborhood earlier this month, according to an Iraqi defense ministry spokesman.

His father was a close aide to Iraqi Defense Minister Sadoun Dulaimi, who recently resigned.

During the kidnapping, the spokesman said Abdul-Karim was shot, but he did not appear wounded on the videotape.

The young man begins his 19-second presentation by announcing his name, then says, "I am appealing to those who work with the Americans against their countrymen. We are paying a high price for that." (Posted, 5:15 p.m.)

Syrian leader: Israel assassinated Arafat

(CNN) -- Syria's president on Saturday asserted that Israel is responsible for the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, a charge he leveled without providing details.

The 75-year-old Palestinian leader died Nov. 11, 2004, at a French hospital after an illness, but there has been talk and rumor ever since that he was killed.

"Of the many assassinations that Israel did in a methodical and organized way, the most dangerous thing that Israel did was the assassination of President Yasser Arafat," Bashar al-Assad said to a group of Arab lawyers in Damascus.

"This was in the sight of the world and its silence and not one state dared to issue a statement or stance towards this as though nothing happened."

An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman on Saturday said that Israel has provided medical documents on Arafat's medical condition.

"Assad kicking up this issue now can only raise questions about what is going on behind the scenes in Damascus."

Assad met earlier this week with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has issued a number of hostile comments about Israel and has questioned the Holocaust.

The two leaders offered one another mutual support in their respective conflicts with the West, Syria over its activities in Lebanon and Iran over its push to develop its nuclear programs. (Posted, 2 p.m.)

London whale dies

LONDON (CNN) -- The whale that made an appearance in London's Thames River died Saturday before rescuers could release it into open waters, according to the London Port Authority.

The injured whale had made a wrong turn into the river which flows through the heart of London, transfixing Londoners and TV viewers everywhere.

Rescuers secured the northern bottlenose whale, dragged it to a barge and lifted the animal on the craft. The dramatic rescue effort was televised across the globe.

The barge was returning the whale to the English Channel, when it died. (Updated, 2:20 p.m.)

Iran's state-run media hails Islamic state's cooperation with U.N. nuclear agency

TEHRAN (CNN) -- Ahead of an emergency meeting by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran's state-run media Saturday reported on a routine IAEA inspection that it said indicates the Islamic state's "determination to work with the U.N. nuclear agency."

The IRNA report said IAEA inspectors would arrive in two days "to verify the civilian nature of the nuclear program."

It is a routine replacement of inspectors already on the ground in Iran, according to IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming.

"We're observing everything, nothing has changed in terms of IAEA access at all," she told CNN. "The Iranians are always trying to show how much they are submitting to inspections."

Iran recently broke the seals on its Natanz uranium enrichment plant to resume what it says is nuclear research. Fleming said IAEA inspectors still have access to Natanz and other plants, and so far there is no indication that activity has resumed at Natanz.

The United States and the EU3 -- Britain, France and Germany -- want Iran to halt all nuclear activity, fearing it may try to build a nuclear weapon under the guise of a nuclear energy program. (Posted, 2:40 p.m.)

U.S. Muslim group, in Baghdad, calls for journalist's release

(CNN) -- Representatives from an American Muslim group arrived in Iraq on Saturday to urge kidnappers to release Jill Carroll, the journalist taken hostage on Jan. 7. Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and Corey Saylor, the group's government-affairs director, spoke to reporters at the Baghdad International Airport.

Ibrahim Hooper, the group's communications director, gave details about the trip and confirmed quotes delivered by Awad. "We are the only people who have come from outside of Iraq to call for Jill's release and we are very hopeful they will hear our message on behalf of American Muslims," Awad said. "Harming her will do (the kidnappers) no good at all. The only way is to release her."

Muslim groups like CAIR and non-Muslims as well have mobilized to obtain Carroll's freedom. Hooper said the group undertook the journey to Iraq to make sure it would be crystal clear the kidnappers would have every opportunity to hear that message.

It was reported Tuesday that kidnappers would kill the journalist in 72 hours unless U.S. forces freed all women in their custody. An Iraqi deputy justice minister said Friday there are nine women in custody. He said he expects six of them to be released soon and is working on the freeing of the other three. (Posted 9 a.m.)

Palestinian killed by Israeli military in northern Gaza

GAZA (CNN) -- An 18-year-old Palestinian male was killed and at least two Palestinian men were injured after Israeli soldiers opened fire on them on Saturday evening in northern Gaza, according to Palestinian medical sources.

The Israeli military said three Palestinians were trying to cross the border into Israel, near the Erez Crossing.

Israeli ordered the people to halt and fired warning shots that weren't heeded. Then they fired at the people. (Posted, 3:20 p.m.)

2 Iraqi army officers killed in Tikrit

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Two Iraqi army officers were killed on Saturday in a drive-by shooting in Iraqi city of Tikrit, police told CNN.

They are Maj. Maamoun Younis Abdullah and Army staff Sgt. Salim Athab. Two of Abdullah's sons were wounded in the attack.

They were heading to work in a civilian car when gunmen opened fire on them. Tikrit is located north of Baghdad in Salaheddin province. (Posted 8:15 a.m.)

Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova dies at 61

(CNN) -- Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova, the literary scholar turned politician who was the symbol of the fight for Kosovar self-rule, died Saturday, according to Kosovar officials.

The 61-year-old leader, who had been dianosed with lung cancer last year, died in Kosovo city of Pristina.

He squared off against the Serb-dominated Yugoslav regime, led by Slobodan Milosevic -- now on trial at the Hague for war crimes during the Balkan wars last decade. Rugova testified at the Milosevic trial in 2002. (Posted 7:17 a.m.)

Hundreds of activists, opposition party members arrested in Nepal

KATHMANDU, Nepal (CNN) -- More than 200 activists and opposition party members were arrested across Nepal on Saturday as they organized pro-democracy rallies, the parties said.

Three hundred other activists were arrested Friday, and another 100 on Thursday, according to opposition party members. There were some injuries Saturday, but it was not known how many were hurt.

The rallies were protesting King Gyanendra's taking absolute control of the country in February, suspending Parliament and sacking the government. He has promised to restore multi-party democracy and basic civil and human rights, but he is under international pressure to move quickly. (Posted 5:07 a.m.)

1 killed, 5 wounded in car bomb; Talabani security guards wounded

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- An Iraqi civilian was killed and five others were wounded Saturday when a bomb in a parked car detonated near a market in northeastern Baghdad, police said.

The blast occurred about 1:20 p.m. (5:20 a.m. ET) near the al-Madinna market in the al-Shaab neighborhood, which is a mix of Sunnis, Shia and Kurds.

Late Friday, five security guards assigned to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani were wounded when a roadside bomb struck their convoy, Kirkuk Police Chief Torhan Abdul Rahman said. Talabani was not present at the time. --CNN Producer Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report. (Updated 6:24 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.)

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