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Saturday, September 9

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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.

Florence now Cat 1 hurricane, with winds gusting at 75 mph

(CNN) -- Florence intensified into a Category 1 hurricane Sunday as it headed toward Bermuda, boasting winds gusting at 75 mph, National Hurricane Center forecasters said Sunday.

The storm's center was about 360 miles south of Bermuda, moving north-northwest near 13 mph, the NHC said. Forecasters warn of storm force winds extending outward up to 260 miles.

Bermuda residents should be making preparations to protect their lives and property as the storm system inched closer to the small island chain, The Bermuda Weather Service warned Friday. (Posted 2:29 a.m.)

Bomb explodes in southwest Pakistan wounding 8

LAHORE, Pakistan (CNN) -- Eight people were hospitalized after a bomb exploded in central Quetta Sunday, local police officials said.

Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province in southwestern Pakistan has about 1 million residents and is thought to be where elusive Taliban leader Mullah Omar is located, a U.S. intelligence source told CNN.

Omar heads the religious militia fighting U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, where Taliban militants have made a dramatic resurgence.

-- From CNN's Syed Mohsin Naqvi in Lahore (Posted 1:26 a.m.)

Sri Lanka army says 28 troops killed, many rebels dead in fighting

COLOMBO (CNN) -- The Sri Lankan army said 28 soldiers were killed and 119 were wounded while battling the Tamil Tiger rebels in Jaffna, located in the northern tip of the country, late Saturday evening, Sri Lanka police inspector Percy Perera said.

An estimated 150 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels were also killed, with more wounded, Perera said. The exact number of wounded was not immediately available, he said.

The fighting sparked during the army's operation to control the area of Muhamalai in Jaffna. Soldiers have been working to de-mine the area and the operation is ongoing.

Hundreds of civilians, troops and Tiger fighters have been killed in the past months as both blame the other for disregarding a 2002 ceasefire agreement. (Posted 12:57 a.m.)

Coalition raid nabs 2 suspected terrorists in eastern Afghanistan

KABUL (CNN) -- Two suspected terrorists, believed to be connected to bomb attacks against Coalition and Afghan forces in the Khowst Province near the eastern border with Pakistan were captured late Saturday, according to the Coalition Press Information Center.

The suspected terrorists were captured during a joint raid by Coalition and Afghan forces in the village of Khulbesat at a compound "which credible intelligence indicated were a refuge for al- Qaeda facilitators linked to a known terrorist network", the Coalition said.

"The terrorists are linked to plotting improvised explosive device attacks against Afghan and Coalition forces in Khowst," the Coalition said. No shots were fired and no one was hurt, the military said. (Posted 11:32 p.m.)

Iraqi War vets arrested after leaving postcards at Pentagon memorial

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Five men, including four Iraqi War veterans, were arrested near the Pentagon's September 11th memorial Saturday after one of them left a stack of postcards on a window seal warning about the health dangers of depleted uranium, according to one of the men.

A Pentagon spokesman said the men acted "inappropriately," but he said their arrests was a "non-event."

Geoffry Millard, a 25-year-old sergeant in the New York National Guard, said he left about 200 postcards in the Pentagon memorial chapel alongside other literature, including religious material and pamphlets on surviving war. He said he thought other soldiers would benefit from information about the hazards of depleted uranium weapons, which he blames for his own illness.

"It should not be illegal to hand out information about the weapons that are used by the Pentagon at the Pentagon," Millard said. He said no one told him he couldn't leave the postcards on the window sill or in the outdoors, although he later learned some of the others in his group were warned. He said he also left two cards in the outdoors portable toilet. (Posted 7:02 p.m.)

Space shuttle has complex construction mission

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (CNN) -- Space shuttle Atlantis headed Saturday for a complex construction mission at the International Space Station. Despite falling foam debris seen striking the orbiter more than four minutes after lift-off, "nothing of any remote consequence" was observed, said Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale.

Blast-off came just in the nick of time in a launch window that produced drama and delays from both the elements and some malfunctioning hardware. The shuttle is scheduled to dock with the space station at 6:46 a.m. EDT Monday, and land at Kennedy Space Center on Sept. 20 at 5:57 a.m.

"We have a great set of folks working on this ship. They finally got their reward today, and it felt excellent to reward them," said shuttle launch director Mike Leinbach. "The countdown went extremely smoothly. That's not surprising -- as many times as we tried it," he joked, referring to the 13 days awaiting lift-off. (Posted 6:50 p.m.)

Officials; U.S. journalist en route home after release in Sudan

(CNN) -- A Chicago Tribune correspondent was on his way home to the United States after Sudanese authorities freed him Saturday after more than a month in detention, State Department spokeswoman Janelle Hironimus told CNN.

Earlier in the day, the Tribune reported that Paul Salopek has been released. "I'm doing great," Salopek was quoted as saying just after he was freed. The two-time Pulitzer Prize winner was freed with two Chadians -- his driver and an interpreter, the newspaper said on its Web site.

The Tribune said Salopek and the Chadians were to be tried on Sunday "on charges of espionage, passing information illegally and printing 'false news,' as well as entering the country without visas.

The Tribune noted that Salopek was on a planned leave of absence from the newspaper and had been "on a freelance assignment for National Geographic magazine when he was detained on Aug. 6." (Posted 4:45 p.m.)

NATO soldier, more than 40 insurgents killed in southern Afghanistan

(CNN) - More than 40 insurgents and a NATO soldier were killed in action late Friday and early Saturday during fighting in southern Afghanistan, NATO's International Security Assistance Forces said.

The fighting came during a NATO offensive in Kandahar province dubbed Operation Medusa, a push against the Taliban that began last Saturday. The operation is being spearheaded by Canadian and Afghan troops.

Three insurgent positions, a bomb-making factory, and a weapons cache were destroyed, and ISAF troops are now occupying parts of Panjwayi and Zhari districts.

Medusa is designed to oust the insurgency in certain districts so displaced residents can return to their homes, allowing much-needed reconstruction and development projects to take place in relative stability, NATO said. (Posted 4:40 p.m.)

Blair offers Israel 'solidarity' on Mideast visit

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Nearly a month after the United Nations brokered a cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah militants, British Prime Minister Tony Blair offered "sympathy and solidarity" to his Israeli counterpart Saturday for leading his country during difficult times.

Blair and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert held closed-door talks before facing reporters in Jerusalem. Blair planned to visit Lebanon and the Palestinian territory of the West Bank on Sunday.

Both men restated their commitment to advancing the political process to secure a Middle East peace, with Olmert offering to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas -- without conditions -- but with the goal of obtaining the release of two Israeli soldiers in Hezbollah custody. (Posted 4:38 p.m.)

Chicago Tribune reports release of correspondent imprisoned in Sudan

(CNN) -- The Chicago Tribune reported that its correspondent Paul Salopek has been freed Saturday by Sudanese authorities after more than a month in detention.

"I'm doing great," Salopek was quoted as saying just after he was freed. "It's an interesting feeling being mobile again, in a mechanized vehicle."

The two-time Pulitzer Prize winner was freed with two Chadians -- his driver and an interpreter, the newspaper said on its Web site.

Judge Hosham Mohammed Yousif was quoted as telling the three that "we are stopping the case and we are releasing you right now. And that is all." (Posted 2:25 p.m.)

N.Y. fugitive makes first court appearance

BUFFALO, N.Y. (CNN) -- A judge set aside a federal count of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution Saturday against New York fugitive Ralph "Buck" Phillips, allowing him to be turned over to state authorities to face more serious charges, U.S. Attorney Terry Flynn said.

Phillips, 44, had been sought for five months, during which he allegedly shot three New York state troopers, one of whom died. He was to face a charge of attempted murder in Chemung County, N.Y. He also faces charges in Chautauqua County. He was placed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List on Thursday.

Flynn, who talked to reporters outside the federal courthouse in Buffalo, discussed the reasons for dropping the federal charge, for now, against Phillips.

"It's a normal procedure. In a fugitive apprehension, the person is turned over to other jurisdictions if there is a pending state warrant of more significant penalty that you allow to proceed," he said.

"Dismissing that charge allows you to proceed with the more serious charge" at the state level. "It does not in any manner jeopardize our right under federal law to proceed with other more significant federal charges at a later time," Flynn said, without elaborating.

No shots were fired when Phillips was caught Friday night near Akeley, Pa., the Warren County, Pa., Sheriff's Office said. (Posted 1:38 p.m.)

Pakistan calls CNN's Mullah Omar report 'ludicrous'

LAHORE, Pakistan (CNN) -- A Pakistan government statement disputed what it calls a "ludicrous" CNN report that said Taliban leader Mullah Omar, who heads the religious militia fighting U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, is living in Pakistan.

The statement -- which said there "has been no evidence" that Omar is in Pakistan -- called the news report a "baseless and concocted story and nothing but mere figment of reporters' imagination."

The fact that "such sensitive information" turned up on the news rather than official channels "is a good enough indication that it is nothing but an effort to create sensation, and has no reality," the statement said.

A U.S. intelligence source said the elusive Taliban leader is believed to be in Quetta or its environs, a city of 1 million that is the capital of Baluchistan province in southwestern Pakistan. The intelligence source said of Mullah Omar's location: "At one point we had it down to a particular section of Quetta."

The last known location for Mullah Omar was in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, which he fled in December 2001 as U.S. forces closed in on the city. The U.S. government is now offering a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to the capture of Mullah Omar.

One Pakistani official underscored the points in the statement.

"We are quite certain that Mullah Omar is not present in Pakistan and that he is present inside of Afghanistan," Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan told CNN. (Posted 11:40 a.m.)

Atlantis launches

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (CNN) -- NASA launched space shuttle Atlantis launched Saturday morning -- the agency's fifth attempt to launch the spacecraft toward the International Space Station.

The crew is to install equipment activating a new set of solar arrays that will double the outpost's ability to generate power from sunlight. (Posted 11:15 a.m.)

Iranian president to attend U.N. General Assembly meeting

(CNN) -- Iran's controversial president will attend the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly during the week of Sept. 18, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported Saturday.

IRNA said Ahmadinejad will go first to Cuba to participate in the Non-Aligned Movement Summit, Sept. 15-16. Last year, Ahmadinejad's comments about Israel and his government's stance on nuclear power stirred controversy at the United Nations and harsh criticism from around the world.

He said Israel -- the Jewish state and a longtime member of the United Nations -- should be wiped off the map. The U.N. Security Council later condemned the comment. Israeli officials also said any country whose leader calls for the destruction of another member state of the United Nations doesn't deserve a U.N. seat.

Iran has ignored a U.N. deadline to suspend its uranium enrichment work, declaring it has a right to develop nuclear technology. Tehran insists the work is aimed at producing civilian electric power. However, the United States and other Western nations are concerned that Iran could use the nuclear technology to develop weaponry. (Posted 10:45 a.m.)

Blair carrying fresh set of ideas for regional peace in Mideast visit

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair is expected to visit the Middle East this weekend with an eye on offering ideas for a comprehensive peace, sources told CNN.

He is to visit Israel on Saturday. On Sunday, he is headed to Lebanon and to the Palestinian territory of the West Bank.

Arab and Western diplomats and senior U.S. officials said that Blair will discuss a set of ideas developed recently among British and American officials on how to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.

As the cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon persists, Blair wants to move tackle root causes of instability and violence in the region, particularly the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as the Syrian and Lebanese track.

Among the issues he will discuss are "guarantees" for Israelis and Palestinians that would promote a two-state solution and moves to re-energize aid structures for Palestinians.

Such structures would bypass the Hamas militant movement that controls the Palestinian government and build up moderate Palestinians and the Palestinian political process, the sources said. (Posted 9:38 a.m.)

Journalist gunned down in Baghdad, among 3 killed in violence

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Insurgents in Baghdad shot and killed an Iraqi journalist on Saturday morning, one of several attacks in Baghdad that left three people dead and 20 others wounded.

Sabah al-Rubaie -- assistant chief editor of Iraq's state-owned daily newspaper, Al-Sabah -- was killed in a drive-by shooting outside his house in central Baghdad this morning, state TV and the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory reported.

The observatory -- an Iraqi journalists' group -- monitors violations of the free press in Iraq. This was the second time in the past few months Al-Sabah has been targeted by insurgents. Al-Rubaie's colleague was also shot, but survived.

In other incidents:

-- In Baghdad's northern, mainly Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiya, a suicide car bomber killed a police officer and wounded at least six civilians wounded, Iraqi Interior Ministry officials said. The explosion also killed the suicide bomber.

-- Also in Adhamiya, a roadside bomb exploded and wounded two members of an Iraqi army convoy, police said.

-- In eastern Baghdad, a car bomb targeting a U.S. military convoy in the Zayuna neighborhood left one civilian dead and 6 more wounded, police said.

-- Police also said two officers were wounded during a roadside bomb explosion that targeted a police patrol in New Baghdad.

-- Three U.S. soldiers were wounded in a car bombing in the city. (Posted 9:22 a.m.)

Report: Syria's Assad welcomes idea of EU presence on Syrian border

ROME (CNN) -- Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said on Saturday Syria's President Bashar Assad "has welcomed" a proposition that would place a European Union presence on Syria's border to help stem the passage of arms into Lebanon, according to ANSA, an Italian news agency.

Prodi's proposition called for EU frontier guards to control the passage of arms between the two nations, the report said.

Assad has said he would consider the deployment of U.N. international peacekeeping troops along his country's border with Lebanon as "hostile" to Syria and that it would create problems between the two nations. (Posted 7:43 a.m.)

NATO soldier, more than 40 insurgents killed in southern Afghanistan

(CNN) - More than 40 insurgents and a NATO soldier were killed in action late yesterday and early today during fighting in southern Afghanistan, NATO's International Security Assistance Forces said.

The fighting came during a NATO offensive in Kandahar province dubbed Operation Medusa, a push against the Taliban that began last Saturday. The operation is being spearheaded by Canadian and Afghan troops.

Three insurgent positions, a bomb-making factory, and a weapons cache were destroyed, and ISAF troops are now occupying parts of Panjwayi and Zhari districts.

The nationality of the latest NATO soldier killed has not been released. Scores of insurgents and at least five Canadian soldiers have been killed in Medusa so far. (Posted 7:32 a.m.)

3 killed, 13 wounded in dual roadside bomb attack in Kirkuk

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Dual roadside bomb attacks targeting a police convoy exploded nearly simultaneously Saturday morning in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, leaving 3 dead and at least 13 wounded -- including Iraqi military officials, local police said.

One of the explosions occurred in the city's center and the second detonated at a nearby bridge, police said. (Posted 6:51 a.m.)

Bermuda under hurricane watch as Florence churns in the Atlantic

(CNN) -- Tropical Storm Florence intensified Saturday as it cut a path through the Atlantic and headed towards Bermuda with the potential to reach hurricane status later in the day.

Bermuda residents were warned Friday evening to start making preparations to protect their lives and property as the storm system inched closer to the small island chain.

Forecasters with the National Hurricane Center kept a Hurricane Watch in effect for Bermuda, which means hurricane conditions, with winds in excess of 74 mph, are expected within 36 hours.

"A Hurricane Warning will likely be required for Bermuda later this morning," forecasters added.

At 5 a.m., Florence was still a tropical storm, with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph, as its center churned about 580 miles south-southeast of Bermuda, moving toward the west-northwest near 14 mph, NHC forecasters said. (Posted 6:40 a.m.)

Palestinian security forces: 4 dead after clashes with Israeli forces in south Gaza

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Four people were wounded -- one critically -- when Israeli troops clashed with Palestinian militants in the southern Gaza area of Khuza'a on Saturday, Palestinian security forces said.

Israel Defense Forces said militants opened fire at Israeli troops in the area of Khan Younis, but the IDF did not return fire because they could not find its source.

Israeli forces have been moving in and out of the area as part of a broader offensive that was precipitated by the seizure of an Israeli soldier in a cross-border raid June 25. (Posted 5:39 a.m.)

Nuclear research reactor shut down after 'abnormality'

(CNN) -- A nuclear research reactor in Norway was shut down after a "minor incident" caused by an "abnormality," a spokesman with the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority announced Saturday.

Nothing was released in the environment and the cause of the shut-down is under investigation, the spokesman said.

The nuclear reactor was being used for research purposes, not to produce commercial energy.

"We believe the situation is stable," the spokesman said. (Posted 5:28 a.m.)

Iraqi leader to visit Iran Monday for 2-day talk

(CNN) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki will travel to Iran Monday for a two-day visit to discuss political and security relations between the two nations and how to strengthen existing ties, Iraqi government spokesman Ali Al-Dabbagh said Saturday in a statement.

Monday's planned talks follow Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih's high-level delegation visit last week to Tehran, whose continued uranium enrichment has caused global concern.

The upcoming trip is to "confirm the establishment of a lasting friendly and balanced relationship based on the two countries' common interests," Al-Dabbagh said in his statement. It is also meant to foster "respect of the two nation's sovereignty without interference in internal affairs." (Posted 5:16 a.m.)

Missing USAF major found alive in Kyrgyzstan in stable condition

(CNN) -- A U.S. Air Force major who had been missing since Tuesday in Kyrgyzstan has been found alive and is stable condition, the military said Saturday.

Bishek police in Kyrgyzstan told U.S. Embassy and military officials they had found Maj. Jill Metzger at 1:15 a.m., a military statement said.

After an examination by a team of doctors, Metzger's medical condition Saturday was listed as stable and the military was working to get her back home as soon as possible, Capt. Anna Carpenter at the Manas Airbase in Krygyzstan said.

Metzger has been transported out of Krgyzstan but Carpenter did not give details on the new location or facility. (Posted 3:12 a.m.)

Freedom only hours away for jailed Chicago journalist in Sudan

(CNN) -- Chicago Tribune journalist Paul Salopek was hours away from freedom early Saturday morning after being imprisoned in Sudan under charges of espionage and entering the country illegally, David McGuffin, a Canadian journalist in Khartoum told CNN.

"We're hoping in a few hours time for the release," McGuffin said of Salopek, who has been detained by Sudanese authorities since Aug. 6 after being charged with spying and entering the country without a visa. His Chadian interpreter and driver were also detained.

Salopek's release was granted after a 45-minute meeting between Sudan's president Omar al-Bashir, Salopek's wife Linda and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, the governor said Friday.

U.S. officials confirmed the announcement, saying Sudan has informed the U.S. Embassy that Salopek will be released Saturday to Richardson's party in Sudan.

The Sudanese authorities will also release two Chadians held with him, Richardson said. (Posted 2:21 a.m.)

U.S. intelligence source: Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden living in Pakistan

KABUL (CNN) -- The one-eyed Taliban leader Mullah Omar, who heads the religious militia fighting U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, is living in Pakistan, though not in the same area where al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is thought to be, according to a U.S. intelligence source.

The elusive Taliban leader is believed to be in Quetta or its environs, a city of one million that is the capital of Baluchistan province in southwestern Pakistan. The intelligence source said of Mullah Omar's location: "At one point we had it down to a particular section of Quetta."

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf did not address specifically the question on his visit to Kabul Thursday, but said "Please do understand the Pakistan government, (is not) behind anything that is happening in Afghanistan." -- From CNN's Peter Bergen, Anderson Cooper and Charlie Moore in Kabul (Posted 11:23 p.m.)


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