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Quick Guide & Transcript: Najaf battle update, Mountain lion attack

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(CNN Student News) -- January 30, 2007

Quick Guide

The Fight for Iraq - Find out why some members of a religious cult were likely involved in a recent battle in Iraq.

Iraq & Iran - Research the evidence that suggests Iran is getting increasingly involved in the Iraq war.

Daring Rescue - Hear the harrowing and graphic story of a mountain lion attack in a California state park.

Teachers: Please preview the Mountain Lion Attack story, as it contains images that may not be appropriate for some students.



DANIELLE ELIAS, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: Glad to have you along for this Tuesday, January 30th edition of CNN Student News! I'm Danielle Elias. The scene from Najaf, Iraq. After combined forces apparently prevented a major assault. Find out who was trying to shatter this celebration. The scene of a vicious attack by a mountain lion. Learn what you're supposed to do, if you're ever stalked by one wild animal. And the scene of a back-breaking race in the U.K. Sit back and watch thousands of athletes, take on a trial to test their toughness.

First Up: The Fight for Iraq

ELIAS: The smoke has cleared in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf, after a battle between coalition forces and insurgent fighters. Reportedly acting on a tip that there'd be trouble, Iraqi troops found hundreds of militants massed near Najaf last weekend. They were apparently planning an attack on Shiite Muslims celebrating a holy ritual. So some assumed the fighters were mostly Sunni Muslims, who've clashed with Shiites before. But others were involved. And for a grim reason, according to Arwa Damon.


ARWA DAMON, CNN REPORTER: As dust from a sandstorm settles over the details emerge of the identity of the gunmen who put up some of the fiercest fighting that Iraq has seen this year. Members of a Shi'a messianic cult, calling themselves 'The Soldiers of Heaven' ---- plotting to attack the holy Shi'a city of Najaf.

They massed in the hundreds...joined by foreign fighters, Sunni extremists, criminals and gangs...Intending to assassinate pilgrims, clerics -- including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani --- the most revered Shi'a cleric -- called by many the 'Shi'a pope.' And holy shrines...trying to destroy all that is sacred to Shi'a Islam...during Ashura -- the holiest Shi'a ritual. The cult's intent --- to create more chaos, to accelerate the return of the Mahdi - the savior of the Shi'a.

The Mahdi is the 12th Shi'a Imam. His followers believe that he disappeared down a well in Samarra in the 9th century....and will return at a time of violent deaths and intense disputes -- when people are experiencing great fear. His arrival will directly precede the Day of Judgment.

Iraqi officials described the aftermath of the battlefield as being strewn with bodies of the gunmen...Saying they killed at hundreds of fighters. The enemy they faced so fierce - senior Iraqi officials say U.S. forces had to step in, taking the lead on the battlefield. Some officials are calling this group 'insane'...others lamenting that the level of death and destruction in Iraq has convinced some Shiites that the end of days are coming. Arwa Damon, CNN, Baghdad.



CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Time for the Shoutout! Which of these countries is Iraq's eastern neighbor? If you think you know it, shout it out! Is it: A) Saudi Arabia, B) United Arab Emirates, C) Jordan or D) Iran? You've got three seconds--GO! Iran, a country a little bigger than Alaska, borders Iraq to the east. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!

Iraq & Iran

ELIAS: And now, Iran's suspected of helping insurgents in Iraq attack troops and civilians. So the Bush administration is warning Iran to stay out of the war, saying, the U.S. would quote, "respond firmly." An additional warning to Iran -- two U.S. aircraft carriers have been stationed in the Persian Gulf. But the question is, what evidence is there that Iran is doing anything wrong? Barbara Starr did some research, and found these answers.


ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: If you're in Iraq and trying to kill our troops, then you should consider yourself a target.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That blunt warning from the new defense secretary, singling out Iran's growing involvement in the fighting inside Iraq. The State Department says it wants to unveil classified evidence that proves just that.

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPT SPOKESMAN: Where we are in the process is taking a look at the mountain of evidence that we do have.

STARR: But much of that information is already out there, if you know where to look. Earlier this month, CIA Director General Michael Hayden said Iran is shipping weapons into Iraq that are killing U.S. troops.

GENERAL MICHAEL HAYDEN, DIRECTOR CIA: The EFPs are coming from Iran. They are being used against our forces. They are capable of defeating some of our heaviest armor, and incident for incident cause significantly more casualties than any other improvised explosive devices do, and they are provided to Shi'a militia.

STARR: Hayden is talking about "explosively formed projectiles"..sophisticated, manufactured explosives capable of penetrating even a battle tank. Back in November Hayden bluntly warned Teheran was stepping up its supply chain to Shia militias inside Iraq.

HAYDEN: The provision to them, of capabilities that have been used against the coalition has been quite striking.

STARR: There is more. U.S. officials say in recent raids in Iraq, they detained suspected Iranian operatives and found IEDS, rifles, mortar launchers, weapons with Iranian markings, maps and shipping documents. They also say two suspects are senior members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. And there's further evidence still.

GENERAL JOHN ABIZAID: It's clear that money is coming in through their intelligence services, training is probably being conducted inside Iran through various surrogates and proxies.

STARR: U.S. troops are looking for other signs of Iranian involvement in the insurgency. But the evidence already in hand has played a crucial role in the decision to go public. Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


Fact Check Promo

ELIAS: We've posted even more information on the relationships between Iran, Iraq and the United States on our Web site. We've posted a video 'Fact-Check' that you can watch right on your desktop. Check it out at

Is This Legit?

AZUZ: Is this Legit? Mountain lions are also called cougars. Yep! And cougars are also called panthers or pumas or even catamounts or painters... or just big cats!

Daring Rescue

ELIAS: Teachers, we encourage you to preview this next segment-- The injuries sustained by the victim in this story may be disturbing to some students. Whatever you call them, mountain lions can be dangerous. And they can be found in the U.S. In fact, along with jaguars, they're the only large cats in the western hemisphere. Males average about 130 pounds. So encounters with them can be terrifying. Here's Chris Lawrence with one victim's harrowing story.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN REPORTER: Bandages can't even begin to cover the puncture wounds and torn scalp. But Jim Hamm is only alive because of his wife Nell.

NELL HAMM: His life was in jeopardy. And we were fighting for his life.

LAWRENCE: Nell is 65 years old. Jim is 70. They go hiking two, three times a week, but had never seen a mountain lion before last week when a lion like this one pounced on Jim.

JIM HAMM: So he just wants to pin me down and start eating me, he doesn't care.

LAWRENCE: It knocked Jim flat on his face.

JIM: Then he got me in the mouth, and I got my thumb in his eye. And I jammed my thumb into his eye up to my knuckle.

LAWRENCE: Nell grabbed the biggest log she could lift and hit the animal's head as hard as she could.

JIM: She was beating him the whole time. She was worn out from beating him. She said she didn't think she could beat him any more. She was exhausted.

LAWRENCE: Finally, the jaws loosen ...and let Jim go.

LAWRENCE: So did she do the right thing?

PARK RANGER MAURY MORNINGSTAR: She did exactly the right thing, and that was to fight back. Not give up.

LAWRENCE: Park ranger Maury Morningstar says you can't outrun a mountain lion. Sightings like this one in residential areas are increasing. Attacks are still extremely rare, but three years ago, a lion killed a biker...who may have been kneeling down to fix a flat tire.

STAR: We're more of a target...because we're smaller. We look more like the size of their type of prey. So that's the idea want you to stand up, put your hands above your head and start yelling and screaming at it.

LAWRENCE: The cat that attacked Jim was shot and killed. On examination, it looks like it hadn't eaten in weeks.

NELL: I feel very blessed that Jim is alive, and I'm so very thankful for that.

LAWRENCE: Nell says they fought side-by-side ...same way they've done everything for the 50 years they've been together. Chris Lawrence CNN Eureka California.


Before We Go

ELIAS: Before we go, maybe you play basketball, football, or run cross country. This extreme event combines all three, and more. It starts with an eight-mile run through town before you even get to this two-mile obstacle course. Then you've got to get through mud, icy water, smoke bombs, cargo nets. All for the title of "tough guy." It took the winner an exhausting hour and twelve minutes to reach the finish line! His day job? Laying bricks.


ELIAS: ...and he's apparently made of them as well. That's all for CNN Student News -- more Headline News is straight ahead.


• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide


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