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Friday, June 30

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.

1 dead after film crew helicopter crash

(CNN) -- A helicopter carrying three members of an independent movie crew was reduced to strips of metal Friday afternoon when it crashed into an Iowa field, killing one person and injuring two, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

The crew working on the film, "The Final Season," in Cedar Rapids was one day shy of completing filming. Production secretary Emma Barnum said she doesn't know if they'll be able to finish the movie. She was unable to immediately confirm the identity of the passengers but said they were involved with the film.

"The Final Season" is a true story of a high school baseball team, and it used local talent from Iowa and other parts of the United States. (Posted 11:06 p.m.)

Judge defers ruling on Libby request for trial delay

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A federal judge has decided against a quick decision on a request to delay the trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the indicted former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Libby, who is charged with lying to investigators and a grand jury, asked this week for a delay of more than a month in his trial, which is set to start in January. Libby said one of his attorneys faces a tight schedule because of an unrelated trial in California.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton wrote in an order filed Friday that he will hold off setting Libby's trial date until after an Aug. 31 pretrial hearing in the West Coast case.

Libby faces a five-count indictment in the investigation into how reporters found out the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame. (Posted 10:48 p.m.)

Passengers dispute captain's claim in boating accident

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Witnesses and passengers disagree with the captain of a tour boat about what caused the vessel to capsize last fall, killing 20 elderly passengers, says an initial report issued Friday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The NTSB will release its formal findings later this summer on the Oct. 2 capsizing of the Ethan Allen on New York's Lake George.

Most of the interviewed survivors told the NTSB they saw no wave or any large ship that could have created a wake on the lake that afternoon -- directly conflicting the report of boat captain Richard Paris.

The Ethan Allen was carrying 47 passengers on a foliage tour along the western shore of Lake George in New York's Adirondack Mountains. The tour operator, Shoreline Cruises, was shut down pending results of the probe. (Posted 10:40 p.m.)

U.S. offers $5 million reward for possible al-Zarqawi successor

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice authorized up to a $5 million reward Friday for information leading to the capture of Abu Ayyub al-Masri, believed to be the replacement for the late leader of al Qaeda in Iraq -- Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

The U.S. military believes al-Masri has taken over the terror network from al-Zarqawi, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike June 7 north of Baghdad. He had masterminded hundreds of bombings, kidnappings and beheadings.

The department's statement urges anyone with information on al-Masri's location to contact the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad or any other U.S. embassy or consulate, or any U.S. military commander. (Posted 8:29 p.m.)

Groups holding Israeli soldier issue new demand

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Three Palestinian militant groups holding an Israeli soldier hostage demanded the release of 1,000 Arab prisoners from Israeli jails, according to a statement faxed to media outlets early Saturday.

The statement did not make clear if the demand was in return for the release of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped Sunday in a daring Palestinian raid into southern Israel. Two Israeli soldiers were killed in the attack.

The new demand included women and children held in Israeli jails, as did an earlier demand that was to have been in return for information about the kidnapped soldier. Israel, however, has flatly ruled out any prisoner swap.

On Friday, Israeli television station IBA reported that Shalit was alive, injured and had been treated. No further information was available, the station said. (Posted 7:46 p.m.)

Report calls for fast US assistance in a post-Castro Cuba

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The United States should have assistance on the ground in Cuba within weeks of President Fidel Castro's death in order to support a transitional government and help move the country toward democracy, a U.S. report recommends.

The report, which is not scheduled to be released until next week but was obtained by CNN, is billed as a strategic plan to promote peaceful democratic transition in the country once Castro is no longer in power.

The report was prepared by the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, an interagency group chaired by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, which reviews U.S. policy toward Cuba. Gutierrez is a Cuban American.

The commission was created by President Bush in 2003 to study ways to hasten a post-Castro Cuba. Castro, who has been in power since 1959, has shown no signs of stepping down, despite his age of 80 and rumors of poor health. His brother, Raul, is believed to be his self-appointed successor.

The United States and Cuba, which have no formal diplomatic relations, are constantly at odds. But in the past year tensions between the two countries have increased. (Posted 6:56 p.m.)

Web site says another bin Laden audio message is coming

(CNN) -- An Arab-language Web site announced early Saturday that it would soon post an audio message from al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden -- this time addressing the mujahedeen in Iraq and Somalia.

The last announcement was made Wednesday, and bin Laden's audio message was posted Friday, about 29 hours later.

The latest "tease" came from al Qaeda's as-Sahab Institute for Media Production. The institute said the message would be titled, "To the General Ummah & Especially to the Mujahideen in Iraq and Somalia."

This will be the fifth statement by bin Laden this year.

Bin Laden's last message was a poetic eulogy to the late terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in a U.S. military airstrike June 7. (Posted 6:22 p.m.)

Judge tosses out racketeering murder charges against two ex-New York cops

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A federal judge threw out a case Friday involving two ex-New York City police detectives who committed what he said were "the most heinous series of crimes ever tried in the courthouse" because the statute of limitations had expired on their murder charges.

A federal grand jury in June convicted the former partners, Louis Eppolito, 57, and Stephen Caracappa, 64, of a racketeering conspiracy that led to eight murders; witness tampering; witness retaliation; obstruction of justice; money laundering; and drug charges.

U.S. District Judge Jack B. Weinstein sentenced the men to life in prison for the murders and 80 years each for their other crimes, but threw out the charges after defense attorneys argued that the five-year statute of limitations had expired on the slayings.

Weinstein granted a new trial to the defendants on money laundering and drug charges. (Posted 6:19 p.m.)

Connecticut eminent domain battle finally over

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A contentious Connecticut eminent domain battle, which at one point found its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, came to an end Friday as two New London residents gained partial victories in their struggle to keep their properties.

In an agreement reached with the state and city on Friday, Susette Kelo will have her home spared and moved to another location where the house originally stood more than 100 years ago, according to a statement released by her attorneys at the Institute for Justice.

Michael Cristofaro, who represented his family in the dispute, was the only other New London resident to continue contesting the city's eminent domain order. The Cristofaros will lose their home, but will be eligible to purchase a unit of new planned housing in their current neighborhood, Fort Trumbull, at a fixed price, according to their attorneys. (Posted 4:48 p.m.)

Testimony: Criticism, money led to minister's shooting

SELMER, Tenn. (CNN) -- A Tennessee woman shot her minister husband because she "snapped" after what she claimed was repeated criticism and stress over issues including the couple's financial situation, an investigator testified Friday in the woman's bond hearing.

Mary Carol Winkler, 32, told police after her arrest that she didn't remember getting a shotgun belonging to her husband, Matthew Winkler, from the closet on March 22, the morning he was slain.

Mary Winkler then fled with her three daughters to Orange Beach, Ala., where she was arrested the day after the shooting. She said in the statement read by Booth she knew she would be caught, but "I wanted to take them to the beach and play with them as long as I could."

She said she told her daughters -- Patricia, 8, Mary Alice, 6, and Breanna, 1 -- she had shot their father, but that he was in the hospital.

It was the first time a motive for Matthew Winkler's death had been revealed.

Earlier this month, Mary Winkler pleaded not guilty to to a charge of first-degree murder after a grand jury indicted her. (Posted 3:34 p.m.)

Autopsy: Child who died on coaster may have had congenital heart problems

ORLANDO, Fla. (CNN) -- A 12-year-old boy who died after riding a roller coaster at the Disney MGM theme park may have had congenital heart abnormalities, preliminary autopsy results indicated, but no evidence of injury from the ride was found, a medical examiner said Friday.

Michael Russell of Fort Campbell, Ky., collapsed as he was getting out of a car on the "Rock'n Roller" coaster ride Thursday with his family, the Orange County Sheriff's Office said.

His father began administering CPR and later was aided by a Disney assistance, but the boy was unresponsive. He was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital, where he was announced dead.

"This morning a complete autopsy was conducted on 12-year-old Michael Russell by Dr. Sara H. Irrgang, associate medical examiner," said a statement released by the District Nine Medical Examiner's Office, which includes Orange and Osceola counties. "No evidence of injury was found, but congenital heart abnormalities were detected which will be further evaluated.

The cause of death will be left pending until results of the additional studies are obtained." (Posted 2:03 p.m.)

Major cleanup under way in flooded northeastern region as water recedes

NEW HOPE, Pa. (CNN) -- Ducks were still seen bobbing down waterlogged streets in the Delaware River region Friday, but water levels are down from Thursday and have been receding throughout the Northeast following three days of heavy flooding that left 18 dead.

The Delaware River crested 6 feet above flood stage Wednesday night, but by Friday levels had receded some, although New Hope emergency officials reported most residents are still out of the area.

As of Friday, 34 counties within Pennsylvania have been declared a federal disaster area with flood waters claiming nine lives. An additional five people were dead in Maryland, three in New York and one in Virginia. (Posted 1:08 P.M.)

U.S. Army probing alleged killing of Iraqi civilians by soldiers

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- The U.S. Army has launched an investigation an alleged killing of four Iraqi civilians by U.S. soldiers, the U.S. military said on Friday.

The incident in question occurred in March in Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad. It revolves around allegations that at least two U.S. soldiers were involved in the rape of a woman, and that one of them killed the woman, a child, and two other adults in a house, according to U.S. military sources.

The probe was ordered by Maj. Gen. James D. Thurman, commanding general, Multi-National Division - Baghdad.

The military sources said the allegations came to light when a soldier undergoing a stress debriefing said he heard that soldiers may have been involved in a rape and murder. That soldier is from 502nd Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division.

That happens to be the same unit of the three soldiers involved in the June 16 checkpoint incident near Yusufiya, in which one soldier was immediately killed and two others were later found dead.

The military said it interviewed a second soldier, who reported much of the same incident. The soldier said he saw bloodstains on soldiers' clothing and heard them conspire to commit such an act. The two soldiers said they didn't witness the incident. (Posted 1:03 p.m.)

Al Aqsa claims to have kidnapped another Israeli soldier, then retracts claim as untrue

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- The militant Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed Friday to have kidnapped an Israeli soldier on the West Bank then later retracted the claim as "untrue."

The Israel Defense Forces cast doubt on the report, telling CNN such claims are made "hourly." Al Aqsa, a militant off-shoot of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction, did not make the claim from the West Bank but reported the claim to the Reuters news agency in Gaza, where militants have been holding an abducted Israeli soldier since Sunday.

A few hours later, the group issued another statement saying upon investigation the claim was "untrue." Al-Aqsa has made hoax claims of kidnapping Israelis in the past. (Posted 1:02 p.m.)

Iraq's prime minister to visit Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, UAE

(CNN) -- Iraq's prime minister will embark on a five-day trip to the Arab Gulf on Saturday, his colleague told CNN on Friday.

Hasan al-Seneid, a Shiite parliamentarian and member of al-Maliki's Dawa party, said al-Maliki will visit Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Bilateral relations, Iraq's national reconciliation plan, supporting Iraq's political process, and border and security issues will be discussed. (Posted 11:53 a.m.)

Forensic tests find no data accessed from stolen VA laptop

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The FBI has concluded its final forensics tests on a stolen Veterans Administration laptop computer and found none of the personal data was accessed, a federal official tells CNN.

The FBI recovered the laptop and hard drive containing personal data on more than 26 million veterans and active-duty military personnel on Wednesday -- more than a month after their theft from the home of a Veterans Affairs analyst.

The equipment was taken May 3 from the house of a VA employee -- who the agency said had no clearance to take it home. It was returned to the FBI's Baltimore's field office Wednesday after someone tipped off the U.S. Park Police, who in turn called the FBI, FBI Baltimore field office director bureau Bill Chase told reporters Thursday. (Posted 11:34 a.m.)

Former NYPD commissioner pleads guilty to taking gifts while in office

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik pleaded guilty Friday to charges he accepted tens of thousands of dollars in gifts while he was city corrections commissioner, court officials said.

The plea was entered in Bronx State Supreme Court to violation of the New York charter and violation of the New York administrative code. Both charges are misdemeanors. Kerik also agreed to pay $221,000 in fines.

Under the plea deal, Kerik avoids any jail time. Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson had been investigating Kerik since December 2004, when Kerik withdrew his name from consideration as President Bush's Homeland Security secretary after allegations that he employed a nanny who had questionable immigration status.

The investigation also focused on allegations that Kerik had traded payment on repairs to his Bronx apartment for favors, including city contracts. As part of the plea deal, Kerik admitted that while serving as the city's police commissioner, he failed to report a personal loan and accepted a gift in violation of the city's charter. (Posted 10:54 a.m.)

CIA analysis: Voice is bin Laden

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A CIA analysis has concluded the voice on an audio tape released Thursday night on an al Qaeda website is that of Osama bin Laden, according to a CIA representative. (Posted 10:50 a.m.)

IDF carries out air strike

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- The Israel Defense Forces said Friday it had targeted a car in Gaza City carrying militants on their way to launch a Qassam rocket at Israel.

At least one person was reported injured. (Posted 10:18 a.m.)

4 U.S. troop deaths in Iraq announced

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- The U.S. military on Friday announced more troop deaths.

A Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldier was killed at 10:30 p.m. Thursday after a bombing during "a dismounted combat patrol" south of the capital.

An improvised explosive device detonated on Thursday night, killing a one soldier and wounding another, a military statement said. The incident took place near Balad. The soldiers -- assigned to the 1/34 Brigade Combat Team -- were conducting a combat logistics patrol at the time.

A U.S. soldier died Thursday from small arms fire received in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, the military said. The soldier served with Task Force Band of Brothers -- the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

Another military statement said a Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 died Wednesday from wounds "due to enemy action" in Anbar Province, west of Baghdad.

Since the start of the war, 2,532 U.S. military personnel have been killed in Iraq. (Posted 10:16 a.m.)

In Fla., confession thrown out in killing of 9-year-old girl

ORLANDO, Fla. (CNN) -- A judge Friday threw out a Florida man's confession that he kidnapped, raped and buried alive a 9-year-old girl in 2005 because he had requested a lawyer and was not provided one before making the confession.

Convicted sex offender John Couey, accused of murder in the death of Jessica Lunsford, asked for an attorney on March 17, 2005, the day before he told police he committed the crime, according to an official transcript of his questioning.

The prosecution argued that Couey had not made clear at what point he wanted an attorney. (Posted 10:10 a.m.)

Israel holds off on ground operation amid efforts to free soldier

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Israel held off on a planned ground operation Friday as diplomats works feverishly to end the deepening crisis in the Palestinian territories.

On Friday morning, Israeli planes dropped leaflets in northern Gaza warning residents of an offensive, but as the day wore on the offensive did not materialize.

Israel is seeking the release of a soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, who was abducted Sunday in a brazen attack by Palestinian militants.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told the government newspaper al-Ahram late Thursday that the Palestinian ruling faction Hamas had approved a conditional plan for returning Shalit.

However, Mubarak said Israel -- which has rejected calls for an exchange of prisoners -- had not accepted the terms. Israel has rejected previous calls for a prisoner exchange, saying it would only encourage further abductions. (Posted 9:40 a.m.)

5 Iraqi soldiers killed at Kirkuk checkpoint

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Gunmen west of Kirkuk on Friday attacked an Iraqi military checkpoint, killing the five soldiers there, police in the northern Iraqi city told CNN.

The incident took place at 4 p.m.

This follows a bloody incident Thursday in the oil-rich, diverse city. Five people were killed and more than 30 were wounded in a suicide car bombing that targeted a wake for a slain Iraqi soldier.

Kirkuk -- made up of Arabs, Turkmens, Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites -- has been the site of religious and ethnic tensions in the past. (Posted 8:53 a.m.)

Russia posts $10 million for info leading to killers of embassy personnel in Iraq

MOSCOW (CNN) -- Russia is posting a $10 million reward for information leading to the whereabouts of the killers in Iraq of five Russian diplomats, four of whom were slain after they were abducted earlier this month, the Interfax news agency reported on Friday.

Russia's National Antiterrorist Committee -- which is spearheading the country's efforts to hunt down and "destroy" the killers -- will pay the reward, said Federal Security Service Director Nikolai Patrushev, who spoke to journalists on Friday.

Gunmen on June 3 attacked a car carrying five Russian diplomats, killing one of them and kidnapping the other four.

The incident took place in Baghdad's Mansour neighborhood, where the Russian Embassy is located. "The National Antiterrorist Committee will pay a reward of $10 million for information that can help achieve a result," Patrushev is quoted as saying. (Posted 8:36 a.m.)

Palestinian PM accuses Israel of trying to destroy Hamas-led government, but tacitly admits government can't free soldier

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, in an impassioned sermon delivered at a Gaza Mosque Friday, accused Israel of a "premeditated plan" to destroy the Hamas-led Palestinian government but also tacitly admitted that his government does not have the power to free a kidnapped Israeli soldier.

"We read what is happening in terms of aggression on our people, and that it is going beyond the abducted soldier. The aggression has many goals...This comprehensive aggression shows there is a premeditated plan against the people and the legitimate government and the elected PLC (Palestinian Legislative Council," said Haniya.

Haniya questioned the Israeli offensive, saying it was complicating his government's attempts to free the soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit.

"... they claim they want to reach and rescue the soldier, but all the shelling and siege ... the path?" asked Haniya. "Or are there other goals?"

And he conceded the government does not have the power to order militants, including members of the military wing of Hamas, who captured Shalit to free him.

"We have contacts to end the crisis in the right way, but the escalation complicates matters. We demand the end of the aggression on the Palestinian people so matters won't worsen, and they should stop attacking the Palestinian political system and democracy," said Haniya. (Posted 8:35 a.m.)

Bush administration praises Israel's restraint, calls on Palestinians to hand over kidnapped soldier

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration Friday praised Israel for holding off on a planned military offensive in Gaza at the urging of Arab countries trying to mediate an end to a kidnapping crisis.

It also called on the Palestinians to free Cpl. Gilad Shalit, kidnapped Sunday during a Palestinian raid in southern Israel.

Bush spokesman Tony Snow said it is "positive" that Israel has stood down in its offensive in northern Gaza, and that Palestinian leaders are working hard to end the standoff by securing the release of an Israeli soldier kidnapped Sunday.

"We want the Israelis to practice restraint, and the Palestinians to hand over the soldier," Snow said Friday morning. (Posted 7:40 a.m.)

Raid in eastern Afghan province results in 14 militant deaths

(CNN) -- Coalition and Afghan forces conducted a raid in eastern Afghanistan on Friday that left 14 militants dead, the Combined Forces Command in Kabul said.

Troops attacked "a known Taliban safe house" in Nuristan province that killed the "enemy extremists.

"A coalition patrol tracked a band of 14 extremists traveling with AK-47s and rocket propelled grenades. The extremists were observed hiding and then Coalition forces attacked them once they reached their safe house, destroying two buildings in the compound," the command said.

The compound was later seized and the "enemy combatants" were identified. (Posted 7:40 a.m.)

2 top Tour de France riders suspended amid doping charges

STRASBOURG, France (CNN) -- Just two days before the Tour de France is scheduled to officially begin here, the racing director Friday announced that Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich -- two of the top riders -- have been suspended amid doping charges.

They are among 58 bicyclists suspended after a Spanish court charged them with using performance-enhancing drugs, Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said.

Ullrich and Basso were both considered top contenders to replace American Lance Armstrong, who won seven straight Tours before he retired after last year's win.

The news will deal a severe blow to the affected teams, which Prudhomme said will not be allowed to replace any suspended riders.

Ullrich, 32, who won the 1997 Tour de France, is a member of the T-Mobile team. Basso, 28, rides for Astana-Wurth.

All 58 riders are suspended from competing until they are tried on the charges. -From CNN's Jim Bittermann (Posted, 7:25 a.m.)

Teen girl killed during Iraq fighting; young boy found slain

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Children bore the brunt of deadly violence in Iraq, emergency police told CNN on Friday.

A firefight between armed gunmen and Iraqi soldiers in the Babil province town of Latifiya left a teenage girl dead.

The fighting occurred around 11 a.m. in the town, nearly 20 miles south of Baghdad.

Also, six slain bodies were found in Baghdad on Friday.

One was the body of a boy, thought to be between 4 and 6 years old. He was shot and his body showed signs of torture.

The dumping of dead bodies across the capital has been a constant in Baghdad since sectarian violence escalated after the Feb. 22 bombing of the Askariya Mosque, a Shiite shrine in Samarra.(Posted, 7:25 a.m.)

Israel revokes residency rights for 4 arrested Hamas politicians

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israel Friday revoked the Jerusalem residency rights for four Hamas officials -- including the Jerusalem affairs minister -- a day after the Palestinian lawmakers were arrested in the West Bank, according to a spokeswoman for the Israeli Interior Ministry.

Interior Minister Roni Bar-On stated that the ministers cannot be residents of Israel while at the same time, holding an active membership in a terror organization that is hostile to the Jewish state, the spokeswoman said.

Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to exist and calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.

Palestinian ministers who live in East Jerusalem carry blue Israeli identity cards and enjoy all the benefits of Israeli citizens, including subsidized health care. Those benefits were extended to Palestinians living in East Jerusalem when Israel captured the area during the 1967 Mideast War and annexed it. (Posted, 5:34 a.m.)

Military raid on Afghan village nets 8; 1 'extremist' killed

(CNN) -- Afghan and coalition forces raided a Kandahar village in southern Afghanistan early Friday, killing one "enemy extremist" and detaining eight others, suspecting of participating in anti-government activities, according to a U.S. military news release.

The eight were detained for "actively" planning and carrying out attacks on Afghan and coalition forces in Kandahar and Helmand provinces.

They are being questioned about their role in activities against the Afghan government, the military said.

Friday's raid took place in the village of Gapoza'l, and the forces "made exceptional efforts to ensure the safety of all villagers and their property," the military said.

The raid was part of "Operation Mountain Thrust," a heavy push by U.S.-led coalition forces to rout out Taliban insurgents and extend Kabul's rule into eastern and southern Afghanistan. (Posted, 4:38 a.m.)

3 militants dead in northern Kashmir gunbattle

SRINAGAR, Indian-controlled Kashmir (CNN) -- At least three militants and a senior Indian army officer died in a shootout inside a shopping complex in northern Kashmir Friday morning, senior police official said.

Three paramilitary troopers of the Border Security Force were injured in the gunbattle which happened in Bandipore.

According to Farid Khan, Indian security forces staged the raid after an intelligence tip.

"The holed-up militants opened heavy fire on the surrounding troops which was promptly returned," Khan said. "In the sustained gun battle the three holed-up militants were also killed."

According to Khan, the shopping area is being searched by security forces in case any militants remain.

Bandipore is about 35 miles (56 km) from Srinagar.-- From Journalist Mukhtar Ahmad (Posted, 4 a.m.)

8 Islamic militants die in firefight with Indian security forces

SRINAGAR, Indian-controlled Kashmir (CNN) -- A fierce gun battle between Islamic militants and Indian security forces along the Line of Control in Kashmir late Thursday left eight of the militants dead, police said.

According to police senior superintendent Vijay Kumar, a group of heavily armed intruders was caught trying to sneak into Indian-controlled Kashmir from the side administered by Pakistan when the firefight broke out.

"When they were challenged to surrender they opened fire on the troops," Kumar said. "A fierce encounter followed which ended early this morning. Bodies of eight intruders have been recovered from the encounter site besides a large cache of arms and ammunition."

The confrontation took place in the Keran sector, about 87 miles (140 km) from Srinagar.

The gun battle was the first along the Line of Control since a bilateral ceasefire was implemented in December 2004 between Indian and Pakistan. -- From Journalist Mukhtar Ahmad (Posted, 2:40 a.m.)

2 dead in latest Sri Lanka fighting

COLOMBO (CNN) -- A firefight erupted Friday between Sri Lanka's navy and Tamil Tiger rebels in northwestern Sri Lanka, leaving one sailor and one rebel dead, according to a military spokesman.

The confrontation near the western seaboard town of Mannar began after a Navy team went to check on reports that armed rebels were planning attacks, spokesman Prasad Samarasinghe said.

The violence comes two days after the rebel group's "Sea Tigers" wing surrounded a Navy boat on routine patrol offshore of Mannar. At least three sailors were killed in the ensuring gun battle.

Rebel attacks and government reprisals against Tamil strongholds have been frequent over the past few months, in violation of a cease-fire brokered by Norway in 2002.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), known as the Tamil Tigers, have been seeking their own Tamil homeland in the north and east of the island nation, which lies to the south of India. -- From Journalist Iqbal Athas (Posted, 2:24 a.m.)

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