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Saturday, February 24

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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 Standard.

Car bomb kills 1, hurts 4 near Iran's Baghdad embassy

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A car bomb exploded in central Baghdad just 100 yards from the Iranian embassy, killing at least one person and wounding four others Sunday morning, according to a Baghdad police official.

An Iranian embassy employee said no one inside the embassy compound was hurt.

--CNN's Tawfeeq in Baghdad contributed to this report. (Posted 1:37 a.m.)

WH: 'Small electrical issue' on Air Force Two

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A "small electrical issue" developed on Air Force Two while the plane was returning Vice President Dick Cheney to the United States after a trip to Australia, but there were no safety concerns, a White House spokeswoman said Emily Lawrimore late Saturday.

A report from the pool reporter on board said it was a power surge that shut down electrical outlets in the cabin after the plane took off from Sydney.

The vice president's spokeswoman on the flight disputed Australian media reports that Air Force Two was diverted to Singapore because of mechanical concerns.

"This was the scheduled, pre-planned refuel stop," said Lea Anne McBride, sopokeswoman. "We were not diverted."

The plane was being checked in Singapore to determine if it would be replaced by a back up jet that was accompanying it. --

From CNN White House Correspondent Elaine Quijano (Posted 2:50 a.m.)

Broncos RB Damien Nash dies at St. Louis hospital

ST. LOUIS (CNN) -- Denver Broncos running back Damien Nash died Saturday at a St. Louis hospital, according to a spokeswoman. He was 24.

Maria St. George, supervisor at Christian Hospital, confirmed Nash died at 6:41 p.m. No further details were immediately available. The St. Louis County medical examiner will determine the cause of death, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on its Web site.

A native of St. Louis, Nash joined the Broncos as a free agent on Aug. 3, 2006, according to the team's Web site. He played in three games, gaining 66 yards on 18 carries and catching four passes for 41 yards. (Posted 11:05 p.m.)

Possible tornado causes extensive damage, injuries in southeast Ark.

DUMAS, Ark. (CNN) -- A possible tornado wreaked havoc in the small southeast Arkansas town of Dumas (prono: DOO-mus) on Saturday, heavily damaging buildings along the town's main thoroughfare.

At least 12 people were injured, some seriously, but there were no reports of fatalities. "We all got on the floor," Bobbie Thomas, an employee at a Fred's store, told CNN affiliate KTHV. "All the debris was falling on us ... and I said, 'Lord, all I want you to do is save us today, because it's in your hands.'"

Along with the Fred's, several restaurants, a Mad Butcher grocery store and some nearby homes were leveled, KTHV reported. Video footage from the scene showed several buildings rendered nearly unrecognizable. A sign for a street located a mile away was lying in the grocery store parking lot.

The possible tornado struck just before 3 p.m. CT (4 p.m. ET). Desha County, where Dumas is located, is in "tornado alley," which is susceptible to tornadoes. Dumas is about 25 miles southeast of Pine Bluff. (Posted 10:15 p.m.)

Military: Blasts in Baghdad from 'indirect fire'

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A series of strong blasts were heard in Baghdad on Saturday night, coming during military operations in the city.

Gen. Qassim Moussawi, spokesman for the Baghdad security plan, told CNN the exact cause of the explosions is unclear, but confirms ongoing U.S.-Iraqi military operations in southern Baghdad.

The U.S. military attributed the explosions to "indirect fire," a reference to mortar or artillery fire.

"We do not know where it is coming from," the military said. (Posted 5:51 p.m.)

Bush administration conducts terrorism drill

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Top Bush administration officials took part in a drill Saturday to test how they would respond if terrorists carried out multiple attacks on American soil using improvised explosive devices, or roadside bombs -- which are commonly used against U.S. forces in Iraq.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel stressed that the three-hour exercise, led by Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend, was based on a "fictional" scenario, "not based on any real or perceived terrorist threat."

The drill took place at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building near the White House, and included representatives from all Cabinet agencies for a total of about 90 high-ranking officials, according to Stanzel.

Without going into specifics because of security concerns, Stanzel said the exercise helped identify areas for improvement. (Posted 5:48 p.m.)

Florida police on lookout for pickup used in alleged kidnapping

BRADENTON, Fla. (CNN) -- Police are relying heavily on the description of a pickup driven by a man who they said abducted a 13-year-old boy at gunpoint from a school bus stop, a sheriff's spokesman said Saturday.

Clay Moore was found several hours after his kidnapping Friday.

The vehicle the suspect used to drive Clay to a remote area was described as a dark red, metallic, four-door pickup with a blue cloth interior and a faded yellow or white pinstripe down the middle of the exterior, said Dave Bristow of the Manatee County Sheriff's Department.

He said it apparently was an older-model truck, perhaps 1980s.

"The car description still is probably the best thing we have to go on," Bristow told CNN.

U.S. governors' meeting focuses on competing in global economy

He said authorities are about "90 percent sure" the man is Hispanic, but he also could be white. The suspect is believed to be in his 30s; about 5 feet, 7 inches tall with a medium build. (Posted 3:24 p.m.)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- States must be innovative to increase their competitiveness in the global economy, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano said Saturday as governors convened for their winter meeting.

The four-day conference of the National Governors Association will focus on the roles of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, in creating "an innovation environment," NGA chairwoman Napolitano told reporters.

"Throughout this meeting we will focus on strategies to achieve success in these critical areas," through education, post-secondary training and business incentives.

She appeared at the news conference with Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, NGA vice chairman, and the governors of Florida, Vermont and Colorado.

At a question-and-answer session, the five expressed disappointment about the extension of deployments in Iraq and concern about damage and destruction to National Guard equipment. The governors will meet privately with Bush on Monday and attend a White House dinner Sunday night. (Posted 2:28 p.m.)

39 killed in suicide attack near Sunni mosque in Iraq's Anbar province

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- At least 39 people died Saturday when a car bomb exploded while people were leaving a Sunni mosque in Iraq's Anbar provincial town of Habbaniya, said an Interior Ministry official.

There were 61 people wounded in the suicide attack that occurred about 4:30 p.m. near a school, an Iraqi police station and the mosque, according to a statement from Multi-National Forces.

Habbaniya is located between Falluja and Ramadi in the Sunni-dominated province. Civilian and coalition medical personnel responded to the attack.

Coalition forces were providing security and helping citizens transport the injured to medical facilities. (Posted 2:05 p.m.)

Suspected 'rogue' members of al-Sadr's Mehdi Army detained near Baghdad

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Five militia members suspected of being "rogue" members of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army were detained in a village east of Taji on Saturday by special Iraqi Army forces, the U.S. military said.

Taji is just north of Baghdad. The operation, conducted with coalition advisers, took place in Husayniya.

"The suspects are believed to be part of a rogue JAM network responsible for kidnapping, murders and improvised explosive device attacks against Iraqi civilians and Iraqi security forces," the military said. JAM is the acronym for the Mehdi Army's Arabic name -- Jaish Al-Mehdi.

"The suspects are implicated in several IED attacks against Coalition Forces in northern Baghdad and Taji." (Posted 11:27 a.m.)

Al-Maliki: Baghdad security plan is yielding 'positive results'

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Saturday announced several "positive results" in the renewed push to restore order to war-torn Baghdad, a stiff crackdown that has yielded the arrests and killings of hundreds of insurgents and the dismantling of terror cells.

Speaking to reporters after a tour of the security plan command center, he said 426 suspected insurgents have been detained since the start of the crackdown in recent weeks and almost the same number or maybe less have been killed.

He said there has been a drastic drop in sectarian killings and kidnappings, and that in the past few days, terrorist cells have been dismantled, terrorist plots have been foiled and hundreds of displaced families have returned to their homes.

The prime minister, who has been criticized for not being tough enough on Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army, reiterated that political affiliations will not affect security. He also urged politicians to respect the military's chain of command and not contact them directly. (Posted 11:22 a.m.)

Insurgent thought to be part of 'foreign fighter smuggling network' detained in northern Iraq

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- An insurgent suspected of belonging to a "foreign fighter smuggling network" was detained close to a village near the Iraqi city of Tal Afar on Saturday by members of the Nineveh Special Weapons and Tactics Team, the U.S. military said.

The arrest was made during "air assault operations with coalition advisers" near the village of Tal Abtah. The location is in Nineveh province, in northern Iraq.

"The suspect is believed to be part of a network facilitating the movement of foreign fighters, arms and money into Iraq that support insurgent attacks targeting Iraqi civilians and Iraqi security forces." (Posted 11:08 a.m.)

NATO calls purported al Qaeda posting 'video fiction'

(CNN) -- A NATO official in Afghanistan on Saturday called the purported al Qaeda video showing fighters firing missiles at a U.S. base in Afghanistan a piece of "video fiction."

Col. Tom Collins, spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, said the military doesn't "see this as a credible video, as there is nothing to substantiate an attack on friendly forces."

He said that "once again the extremists have resorted to melding video together to create an impression of strength, but really it is one of weakness. The fact that they continue to pump out video fiction shows again that they will say and do anything to sell their immoral cause."

The 56-second video showed the fighters firing from a wooded hillside but did not show the base. It was not clear if the fighters were al Qaeda or Taliban.

According to a subtitle on the video, it was shot on Nov. 28, 2006, in Afghanistan's al-Wara region. The video was posted on a Web site where similar videos have been posted in the past. CNN could not confirm its authenticity. (Posted 11:07 a.m.)

9 killed, many wounded in Baghdad attacks

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A suicide bombing in central Baghdad killed three people and wounded seven, one of several attacks in the capital on Saturday that killed nine Iraqis and wounded many more.

An Interior Ministry official said the suicide car bomber happened to be about 500 meters (0.3 mile) away from the first exterior checkpoint of the compound of a major Shiite political party -- the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

SCIRI-affiliated al-Forat TV denied media reports of a car bomb targeting its compound, and the Interior Ministry official said it is inaccurate to report that the attacker was targeting SCIRI.

In the incident, guards opened fire on what they thought was a suspicious vehicle, and the bomber detonated explosives. Another official said the explosion occurred outside a bakery and destroyed that facility.

The incidents occurred while Iraqi and U.S. troops were carrying out their renewed security plan. (Posted 10:47 a.m.)

Iraqi politician's son criticizes U.S. military for brief detention

NAJAF, Iraq (CNN) -- The Iraqi politician's son briefly detained by U.S. troops Friday upbraided the forces for being rude and abusive to him.

"There is no excuse for what happened," said Ammar al-Hakim, the son of leading Shiite politician Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. "It shouldn't happen to anyone in the future."

Ammar Al-Hakim spoke to reporters at a press conference on Saturday in Najaf about the incident, in which Al-Hakim and his security detail were detained while entering Iraq's Wasit province from Iran. They were later freed.

He said that when he entered the checkpoint, troops told him his passport had expired. However, he said, his passport was still valid. Al-Hakim said he was body-searched.

His car and suitcase were searched, and he claimed that all that troops found in the suitcase were his clothes and the equivalent of $1,000. He said he was blindfolded, with his hands cuffed behind him, and he was pushed against a wall while troops shouted at him.

He said that his security detail was mistreated as well. Items the bodyguards had been carrying were not returned, including seven Kalashnikovs, 14 handguns, seven cell phones, and $4,520. (Posted 10:29 a.m.)

8 Iraqi police, 2 insurgents killed in firefight near Baghdad airport

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- At least eight Iraqi police and two insurgents were killed Saturday during what the U.S. military said was a "coordinated attack on a national police checkpoint two miles south of the Baghdad International Airport."

"Witnesses described the attack as two vehicles driving from the east towards the checkpoint at a high rate of speed.

"Eight to ten gunmen exited the lead vehicle, firing assault rifles and throwing hand grenades at the policemen."

Then, a firefight began.

"The second vehicle was forced into a ditch. It was cordoned off as a possible vehicle-borne improvised explosive device." U.S. troops heard the attack and responded.

"Upon receiving gunfire from the attackers, the soldiers called in aviation support. Troops secured the area and "rendered medical aid to the two wounded national policemen and evacuated them to a nearby combat support hospital." Troops were able to identify the slain attackers. (Posted 10:27 a.m.)

CNN correspondent robbed at gunpoint in Johannesburg

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (CNN) -- Jeff Koinange, CNN's Africa correspondent, and his wife were robbed at gunpoint on Saturday outside CNN's office in the South African metropolis of Johannesburg.

Koinange said he had a gun pointed to his head while four armed young men stole everything he was carrying.

But he and his wife did not suffer injuries in what he called a "brazen" assault that occurred in broad daylight with people walking by and cars driving past.

Koinange, who was interviewed about the robbery on CNN, said the assault reflects the rising crime in Johannesburg and the fact that police are "overworked and underpaid."

People told him he is the seventh person this week they know who was robbed by gunpoint in the city. Koinange was just returning from Europe when the incident took place.

CNN released a statement about the incident. "CNN's first concern is for the safety of Jeff and his wife, and additional security measures have been put in place. The robbery is now under investigation by the police and CNN." (Posted 10:26 a.m.)

Soldiers, weapons smugglers fight in Baghdad; dead, injured children found

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- U.S. soldiers on Friday battling weapons smugglers in a Baghdad firefight found a grisly site at their destroyed bunker -- three children, two of whom were killed and another who was wounded.

The U.S. military said troops engaged gunmen trying to smuggle weapons from the west to the east bank of the Tigris River in southast Baghdad. They first confronted two gunmen on the west bank and then they were joined by three other gunmen.

"After an initial firefight, the five gunmen took cover in a bunker and a large shipping container along the river bank. They continued firing across the river at the troops. The soldiers returned fire with small arms, and eventually used tank rounds to destroy the bunker and end the attack," the military said.

The military did not specify the fate of the five gunmen. After the fighting, soldiers clearing the bunker found three children at the scene. One was dead and two were wounded. One of the wounded later died. (Posted 8:44 a.m.)

5 Palestinians killed, 17 wounded in Gaza

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Five Palestinians were killed and 17 were injured in the Gaza town of Khan Younis since Friday night, according to Palestinian medical sources said Saturday.

Security sources said the latest wave of violence was sparked by clan and political tensions.

The Kaware clan, mostly Fateh supporters, avenged the death of a clan member by killing an operative from Hamas' Izzedine al-Qassam. The operative was from the Ghalban family, most of whom support Hamas.

A series of inter-clan clashes ensued throughout the night into Saturday, involving other Hamas forces as well, such as the executive force and Izzedine al- Qassam, with a 70-year-old man among the dead. (Posted 8:43 a.m.)

Italian president asks Prodi to stay on as PM

ROME (CNN) -- Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Saturday rejected Romano Prodi's resignation earlier this week from the post of the country's prime minister, a move designed to end the country's political upheaval.

Prodi -- who was directed by Napolitano to gain support from both chambers of parliament -- said, "I will seek a vote of confidence as soon as possible, with renewed impetus and a united coalition."

And the vote is expected to be held next week. Prodi -- who prevailed in office with a coalition of reformed and hard-core Communists, centrist market reformers, and Catholics -- resigned from office on Wednesday because he lost a key foreign policy vote in the upper house of parliament. He then moved into a caretaker role as prime minister.

Prodi -- whose government has had a razor-thin advantage in parliament -- quit because he was unable to muster support for maintaining Italian troops in Afghanistan and for his decision to allow the United States to expand a military base in northern Italy. (Posted 7:45 a.m.)

U.S. military: son of powerful Shiite politician displayed 'suspicious activities' that led to arrest

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- The U.S. ambassador to Iraq on Friday apologized for the arrest and detention of a powerful Iraqi Shiite politician's son Friday, but a day later the U.S. military defended their actions.

Backed by coalition forces, Iraqi border security troops initially stopped Ammar al-Hakim because "the vehicles met specific criteria for further investigation in an area where smuggling activity had taken place," the military said in a statement Saturday.

U.S. military troops then arrested Al-Hakim and his companions when "at the time" they failed to "cooperate with coalition forces and displayed suspicious activities."

Al-Hakim is the son of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the United Iraqi Alliance and SCIRI and a politician with close ties to both Iran and the United States. He is considered by some people the most powerful Shiite politician in Iraq. The UIA is the dominant political coalition in Iraq and SCIRI is one of the leading parties in the UIA. (Posted 4:44 a.m.)

Coalition forces net 12 suspected terrorists, bust up terrorist funding operation in Iraq raids

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- The U.S. military said coalition forces busted up a terrorist funding operation and arrested 12 suspected terrorists during Saturday morning raids around Iraq targeting al Qaeda in Iraq members and affiliates.

Troops confiscated a "large amount" of Syrian and Egyptian currency, false passports and identification cards in Mosul -- a location the military said is home to a cell that helps fund terrorism by channeling money in Iraq and neighboring countries.

During two raids in the northern Iraqi city, the military said troops arrested six suspected terrorists -- including the cell's suspected leader. (Posted 3:49 a.m.)


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