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Saturday, April 29

Editor's Note: The CNN Wire is a running log of the latest news from CNN World Headquarters, reported by CNN's correspondents and producers, and The CNN Wire editors. "Posted" times are Eastern Daylight.

Forecasters warn of flash floods or mudslides in Thailand due to rains from Cyclone Mala

CHIANG MAI, Thailand (CNN) -- Forecasters in Thailand issued warnings of possible flash floods or mudslides on Saturday night due to rains in the country's northern provinces from Cyclone Mala.

So far, officials said there are no reported incidents in the provinces of Mae Hong Son, Chieng Rai and Phayao -- which border Myanmar, where two people were killed earlier Saturday when Mala struck the western part of that country.

As many as 50 people were injured and hundreds of homes were damaged by winds of speeds up to 240 km per hour (150 mph), Red Cross officials said. Some areas of Myanmar were flooded in the storm, authorities said, but the system quickly lost its strength after making landfall. (Posted 1:16 a.m.)

Sri Lankan army: 10 paramilitary members killed by Tamil Tigers

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (CNN) -- At least 10 members of a paramilitary group were killed by Tamil Tiger guerrillas in a pre-dawn raid on Sunday, a spokesman for the Sri Lankan army said.

The Tamil Tigers accuse the paramilitary group of cooperating with the army, a charge the paramilitary group denies.

The attack took place in a camp in Welikada, north of Colombo. (Posted 1:15 a.m.)

At least 24 killed in coal mine explosion

BEIJING (CNN) -- At least 24 miners were killed in an explosion at a coal mine in northwestern China, the country's official news agency reported on Sunday.

Seven people survived Saturday's blast and at least eight more were still trapped in the mine, Xinhua reported.

The explosion happened at the Wayaobao coal mine in the Saanxi province.

The cause of the blast is under investigation, the news agency said, and the owner of the mine has been detained. The Wayaobao company's bank account has been frozen, as have the accounts of the owners and other managers, Xinhua reported. (Posted 1:14 a.m.)

Peru withdraws ambassador to Venezuela after Chavez remarks about presidential candidate

(CNN) -- Peru withdrew its ambassador to Venezuela, accusing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez of repeatedly trying to interfere in the election process in Peru.

The announcement came a day after Chavez called Peruvian presidential candidate Alan Garcia a thief and a puppet of U.S. President George Bush.

The Peruvian government statement announcing the withdrawal said Chavez " has repeatedly made statements about the Peruvian electoral process and about the President of Peru ." The statement goes on to accuse Venezuela of "persistently interfering in domestic affairs inside Peru."

During a speech marking Labor Day in Caracas, Chavez said, "He is Mr. Bush's candidate - Alan Garcia ... If by some trick of the devil Mr. Garcia gets to be elected as Peru's president, I would withdraw my ambassador from Peru, because with a president like that Venezuela will not have relations with Peru, not with a thief, a cardsharper."

He went on to announce his support for Ollanta Humala, who is running against Garcia for president.

"You have got to win, Ollanta (Humala), not for your but for the sake of Peru, God protect Peru from having such a crook as president," said Chavez.

Chavez' remarks followed accusations by Garcia and Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia and Chavez ally were spoiled children.

-- CNNE Stringer Maria Elena Belanunde Contributed to this report. (Posted 9:49 p.m.)

Militants say they set off car bomb blast near Nigerian refinery

(CNN) -- Nigerian militants claimed Saturday to have set off a car bomb near an oil refinery in the Nigerian city of Warri.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta claimed to have set off a 30 kilogram (66 pound) bomb by remote control using a cellular telephone.

"Our operatives in Delta state in the Niger Delta planted and detonated one car bomb amidst petroleum product bridging tankers located close to the refinery in Warri," MEND said in an e-mail sent to news organizations.

A Nigerian army spokesman told David Clark, correspondent for the French news agency AFP, the blast caused no casualties and minimal damage.

The e-mail said the blast was designed to be a warning to all those who work in Nigeria's oil fields, especially the Chinese. it said was a warning to all people

Chinese President Hu Jintao signed oil deals earlier this week with Nigerian officials during a state visit.

"We wish to warn the Chinese government and its oil companies to steer well clear of the Niger Delta. Chinese citizens found in oil installations will be treated as thieves. The Chinese government, by investing in stolen, crude places its citizens in our line of fire," MEND said.

MEND militants claim the government of Nigeria has extracted billions in oil from the delta while leaving the region undeveloped and its residents impoverished.

MEND attacks, which have included bombings and kidnappings, have cut Nigeria's oil output. Some estimates of the drop are as much as 20 percent. (Posted 6:46 p.m.)

Car bomb kills three civilians in Al Qaim

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A car bomb detonated near Al Qaim, Iraq on Friday killing three Iraqi civilians, the U.S. military said Saturday.

"Our thoughts are with the families of the innocent civilians who lost their lives," said Marine Lt. Col. Bryan F. Salas, Multi National Force-West spokesman. (Posted 5:58 p.m.)

Twisters hit east Texas Saturday, damaging homes, trees and utility poles, but no humans hurt

(CNN) -- Tornadoes damaged homes, power lines and trees in five east Texas communities, but no people were reported injured as severe weather pushed eastward Saturday morning, according to the National Weather Service.

The five tornado reports were all in communities east of Houston in Liberty, Hardin, Harris and Polk counties, the weather service said.

Several homes suffered extensive roof damage about four miles southeast of Liberty, Texas, the weather service reported.

A travel trailer was tossed around and a patio roof was blown away in the Taylor Lakes Estates subdivision near Segno, Texas, the weather service said.

Downed trees and power lines were reported in a rural area near Kountze and in the Horseshoe Lakes Estates subdivision near Rye.

A horse trailer was overturned, trees were downed and some homes received minor damage in the Cedar Bayou community of Harris County, the weather service said.

Saturday's east Texas storms followed a windy Friday night in north Texas when high winds and baseball-sized hail caused two injuries and widespread damage to businesses and homes.

Cooke County emergency management coordinator Ray Fletcher said it was a "pretty intense evening" as crews spent the night assessing damage and making sure no one was trapped in their homes.

Fletcher said straight-line winds destroyed a handful of homes and damaged as many as 30 more. Windows were blown out and trees struck houses and roofs.

Businesses, including the airport, were socked as well.

Doors were blown off two airport hangars and around a half-dozen aircraft were damaged.

There was also flash flooding.

Two major communities in the 40,000-population county were struck -- Gainesville and Lindsay. The county is north of Dallas and borders Oklahoma.

Currently, there are no estimates of wind speeds.(Posted 3:17 a.m.)

Prodi's candidate for Italian Senate speaker wins in hotly-contested vote

ROME (CNN) -- Romano Prodi's candidate for speaker of the Italian Senate won the post on Saturday, but it took four rounds of voting.

Franco Marini defeated former Christian Democrat premier Giulio Andreotti, the nominee of outgoing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's bloc.

Prodi defeated Berlusconi in Italian elections earlier this month. Berlusconi will resign the post on Tuesday, according the Italian government press office. He will remain a member of parliament and the leader of his party.

The hotly-contested and debated vote in the upper house underlines the difficulties Prodi will have in the Senate, where his center-left bloc has a wafer-thin majority. Prodi's candidate in the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, was elected speaker there. Fausto Bertinotti, as expected, was elected. (Posted 12:50 p.m.)

21,000 estimated to be displaced in recent Sri Lankan violence

(CNN) -- U.N. humanitarian teams in Sri Lanka estimate that 21,000 people have been displaced from their homes by the recent upsurge in violence between government forces and separatist Tamil Tiger rebels.

People need "food, potable water, and protection" and "generally livelihood opportunities are severely affected for all displaced," according to a statement from the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator in Sri Lanka.

"It is expected that as tension subsides people will be able to start returning to their places of residence," the statement said.

A tense cease-fire in the two-decade conflict deteriorated in recent weeks with the upsurge in violence between the government and the rebels.

The displaced people are in the Trincomalee district in the northeast, half in government-controlled and half in rebel-held regions.

"U.N. agencies are starting immediately deliveries of aid to affected areas," and they are working with the government, non-governmental groups and the Red Cross. (Posted 12:50 p.m.)

Police find a dozen bodies, shot to death, in Baghdad

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Baghdad police found 12 bodies, shot to death, in several locations around the Iraqi capital city Saturday, an Iraqi police official said.

Each of the bodies suffered a gunshot to the head and showed signs of torture, the police official said.

The dead have not yet been indentified, he said. (Posted 12:50 p.m.)

U.S. soldier killed in roadside bombing southwest of Baghdad

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- An American soldier was killed on Saturday by a roadside bomb southwest of Baghdad, the military said in a statement.

The Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldier was killed around 4 p.m. "when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device southwest of Baghdad."

This brings the total of U.S. troop and military civilian deaths in the war to 2,397. Sixty-nine U.S. forces have been killed in April, the highest monthly total since November. (Posted 12:20 p.m.)

Bush praises Iraq's political strides, bravery amid terror

(CNN) -- President Bush on Saturday hailed Iraq's political strides and "courage in the face of terrorist threats" as protesters took to the streets in New York to denounce the grinding, bloody war, a mission polls have said is losing grass-roots support.

"This is an important milestone on the road to democracy in Iraq, and it marks the beginning of a new chapter in America's involvement. " Bush said in his weekly radio address.

He was referring to last week's political developments -- the breaking of an impasse over the prime minister's position. Nuri al-Maliki, a Shiite politician, was chosen prime minister last Saturday and he has about three weeks to assemble a government that must be approved by parliament.

"We've all been impressed by the Iraqi leaders' commitment to maintain the unity of their country and effectively represent the Iraqi people," Bush said.

Bush praised the lawmakers' sacrifices and fortitude in the face of recent terror acts targeting the relatives of Sunni Arab politicians.

The president also hailed politicians' condemnations of statements by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, who showed up in a Web video earlier this week condemning the new government and promising more attacks. Al-Zarqawi said he was speaking on April 21. (Posted 12:20 p.m.)

Iran: We're ready to allow snap inspections if Security Council is 'no longer involved'

(CNN) -- An Iranian official on Saturday said the country is ready to allow snap inspections of its nuclear facilities if the U.N. Security Council doesn't involve itself with the country's nuclear program.

Muhammad Saeedi, deputy head of Iranian Atomic Energy Agency, said Iran wants to deal solely with the U.N. nuclear inspection group -- the International Atomic Energy Agency.

This is the latest development in the Iranian nuclear issue. Iran said its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes. But the West, suspecting Iran wants to build nuclear weapons, wants Iran to stop enriching uranium. The IAEA delivered a report on Friday to the U.N. Security Council that said Iran wasn't heeding a demand to stop uranium enrichment.

"If Iran's case is again discussed in the agency, we will implement the additional protocol," which permits intrusive inspections, Saeedi said.

"If the agency is again responsible for Iran's dossier and the Security Council is no longer involved, we are ready to finalize and solve the remaining issues with the agency during a three-week period."

Iran blocked snap inspections earlier this year after the Security Council began taking up the matter. Scheduled inspections, though, haven't been stopped. (Posted 10:27 a.m.)

Israel shells northern Gaza after militants launch Qassam rockets

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- The Israeli army responded to the launching of four Qassam rockets into Israel from northern Gaza by firing artillery rounds into the Palestinian territory on Saturday, an Israel Defense Forces spokesman said.

Five Palestinian were wounded -- one of them critically -- by the Israeli artillery fire, according to Palestinian security sources. The IDF spokesman said four Qassam rockets were launched into Israel overnight, but there were no reports of casualties. (Posted 10:08 a.m.)

North Texas county socked by heavy winds; 2 injured, widespread damage to businesses, homes

(CNN) -- Emergency crews in north Texas on Saturday are assessing the aftermath of last night's terrible weather -- high winds and baseball-sized hail that caused two injuries and widespread damage to businesses and homes.

Cooke County emergency management coordinator Ray Fletcher said it was a "pretty intense evening" as crews spent the night assessing damage and making sure no one was trapped in their homes.

Fletcher said straight-line winds destroyed a handful of homes and damaged as many as 30 more. Windows were blown out and trees struck houses and roofs. Businesses, including the airport, were socked as well. Doors were blown off two airport hangars and around a half-dozen aircraft were damaged. There was also flash flooding. (Posted 10:08 a.m.)

Stones' Keith Richards injured while on vacation

(CNN) -- Rolling Stones' guitarist Keith Richards was injured while on vacation in Fiji, a band spokeswoman said on Saturday.

He "suffered a mild concussion while on holiday in Fiji." The incident happened earlier in the week. After treatment locally, he was flown to a hospital and was accompanied by wife. Wakaya Club in Fiji confirmed that Richards and his wife were staying at that resort and left a few days ago.

Local media reported he fell out of a palm tree, but that could not be confirmed. The band had just finished a tour in Australia and New Zealand, the band's Web site said. (Posted 10:09 a.m.)

Explosives found at Rotterdam residence; 4 arrested

LONDON (CNN) -- Police in the Dutch city of Rotterdam said they found explosives at a residence and arrested four people there.

Rotterdam police spokeswoman Arjanne Versteegt said three man and and a woman taken to a police station and were questioned. No identities were provided.

Fifteen people were evacuated from seven nearby houses, police said, and a bomb squad came to the scene and detonated the explosives in an open area of the neighborhood.

It is not yet clear whether the case is related to terrorism. The Netherlands has been vigilant over terror since the July 7 bombings in London and 2004 killing of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, an act linked to his critical remarks about Islam. (Posted 9:13 a.m.)

Five dead in Iraq over the last 24 hours

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Insurgents in Iraq over the last 24 hours killed five people, four of whom were police.

Two men were kidnapped from a house in Musayyib in Babil province south of Baghdad early Saturday and their bodies were found later. The two had been shot, police said. One of them was a police officer.

A roadside bomb targeting a police convoy in the Ghazaliya neighborhood of western Baghdad killed one police commando and wounded three others.

A roadside bomb near Baiji in Salaheddin province north of Baghdad hit the city police chief's convoy Friday night, police said. Two police were killed and five were wounded, police said. Col. Sufyan Mustafa, Baiji police chief, escaped unharmed in the attack, which took place in Siniya. Baiji is a Sunni city. (Posted 9:13 a.m.)

Cyclone Mala strikes Myanmar's west coast; 2 deaths reported

(CNN) -- A cyclone packing winds as high as 240 km per hour (150 mph) battered a large swath of western Myanmar Saturday. Red Cross officials in the region said before landfall two people were killed and about 50 injured.

Hundreds of homes were damaged, the Red Cross said. Cyclone Mala has brought heavy wind and rain, causing flooding in some areas.

Reports from the region said the cyclone quickly lost intensity after making landfall Saturday. (posted 5:30 a.m.)

Reports: Maoist rebels abduct soldiers despite cease-fire

KATHMANDU, Nepal (CNN) -- Eleven Nepalese soldiers were abducted Thursday, shortly after Maoist rebels declared a cease-fire, military officials said Saturday. Villagers in the area of the abduction said the rebels were behind the abduction.

The Associated Press, citing an army official, reported that the rebels abducted the soldiers.

Concern about the soldiers presents a new challenge in efforts to quell the political turmoil that has swept the country amid three weeks of protests by rebels and pro-democracy groups. (posted 5:00 a.m.)

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