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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 Time.
4 killed in Kabul suicide car bomb attack
(CNN) -- A suicide car bomber slammed into a police checkpoint in Kabul Friday, killing a police officer and three bystanders, a Kabul police spokesman told CNN.
At least three other people were wounded in the attack, which took place in a congested area near the city's center.
Video footage showed the charred remains of an unknown object smoldering in the road while armed officials and onlookers viewed the blast site.
Two minivans nearby were also damaged, their windshields smashed in and parts of their autobody black from the explosion.
The spokesman said Kabul police have launched an investigation into the incident. (Posted 2:10 a.m.)
New intelligence director has difficulty filling deputy slot
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell has run into difficulty filling the key No. 2 slot in his office after six candidates either turned down the job or were rejected by the White House, people familiar with the personnel process told CNN Thursday.
The post of deputy director has not had a permanent occupant since May, when the man who held it, Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, was named CIA director. The White House declined to comment on the search for McConnell's deputy. His spokesman, Chad Kolton, told CNN that McConnell "is working diligently with the White House to identify the right candidate for the job." Kolton declined to say how much longer the process might take. But he described the post as "absolutely vital" to the intelligence director's mission.
McConnell, former director of the National Security Agency, became intelligence director in February, responsible for coordinating the work of the nation's 16 different intelligence agencies. The post was created in 2004, as part of a series of reforms undertaken in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. -- From CNN's Pam Benson (Posted 10:33 p.m.)
Terrorist paradox: U.S. protecting Iranian terrorist group inside Iraq
BAGHDAD (CNN) -- An Iranian opposition group based in Iraq, despite being considered terrorists by the United States, continues to receive protection from the American military in the face of Iraqi pressure to leave the country.
It's a curious paradox possible only because of this: The United States considers the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, or MEK, a source of valuable intelligence on Iran. The MEK is credited with helping expose Iran's secret nuclear program through spying on Tehran for decades. And the group is considered an ally to America because of its opposition to Tehran.
However, the U.S. State Department officially considers the MEK a terrorist organization -- meaning no American can deal with it; U.S. banks must freeze its assets; and any American giving support to its members is committing a crime. -- From CNN's Michael Ware (Posted 10:13 p.m.)
FBI: Agent may have been accidentally shot by another agent
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Preliminary information suggests an FBI agent killed Thursday while attempting to arrest three bank-robbery suspects in New Jersey may have been fatally wounded when another agent's weapon accidentally fired, the bureau said in a statement.
Barry Lee Bush, 52, a special agent assigned to the Newark FBI office, died after the incident in Readington, N.J. Bush was wounded during a "dynamic arrest situation," the FBI said.
"Special Agent Bush and his team were in pursuit of heavily armed serial bank robbers who are believed to be responsible for four bank robberies," according to a statement from the bureau. "In two of those robberies, the suspects, armed with assault weapons, fired rounds while inside the bank."
Two of the suspects were in custody, according to a federal court spokesman. A third was being sought.
An FBI spokesman said Thursday night that to his knowledge, the suspects did not fire at agents. (Posted 10:12 p.m.)
Betty Ford hospitalized, recovering from surgery
(CNN) -- Former first lady Betty Ford was hospitalized while recovering from unspecified surgery, the office of the late President Gerald Ford said Thursday.
Ford was at Eisenhower Medical Center and recovering well, according to spokeswoman Penny Circle. No further information was released.
Ford will be 89 on Sunday. (Posted 7:19 p.m.)
Senate to hold hearings on pet food recall; new company reports contamination
(CNN) -- The Senate will hold hearings on the Food and Drug Administration's handling of the growing recall of contaminated pet food, which has been linked to kidney failure in an undetermined number of dogs and cats, the chamber's No. 2 Democrat said Thursday.
"The FDA's response to this situation has been tragically slow," Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told reporters in Chicago. "Pet owners deserve answers. The uncertainty about what is safe to feed their pets has gone on far too long."
The original recall of more than 60 million cans of "cuts and gravy-style" wet cat food and dog food began March 16. Menu Foods, the first manufacturer involved, conducted testing of its contaminated food and about one third of cats tested died, the FDA said. Since then, the recall has broadened to include some pet foods produced by Nestle Purina PetCare Company, Del Monte Pet Products and Hill's Pet Nutrition.
And on Thursday, Sunshine Mills in Red Bay, Ala., said 20 types of large dog biscuits are contaminated with potentially toxic wheat gluten from China. The dog treats maker said it has received no reports of death or illness related to the products. (Posted 7:00 p.m.)
FBI agent killed in New Jersey shootout
NEW YORK (CNN) -- An FBI agent was killed Thursday in a shootout with three bank-robbery suspects in New Jersey, authorities said.
The shootout occurred in a parking lot across the street from a PNC Bank branch in Readington, N.J., about 45 miles outside New York.
The FBI identified the slain agent as Special Agent Barry Lee Bush, assigned to the Newark FBI office. Bush "was shot and killed today while working a criminal investigation into a series of armed bank robberies," the bureau said in a statement. A suspect was still being sought, "and an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the shooting is being conducted," it said.
Bush, 52, joined the FBI in 1987 in Kansas City and transferred to Newark in 1991, the FBI said. He is survived by his wife and two children. -- By CNN's Zak Sos (Posted 6:53 p.m.)
U.S. soldier killed northeast of Baghdad, military reports
BAGHDAD (CNN) -- An American soldier was killed and two were wounded by a roadside bomb northeast of Baghdad on Thursday, the U.S. military announced.
The soldier was part of the Army's Task Force Lightning, based in the northern city of Tikrit. The blast occurred in Diyala province, which includes the restive city of Baquba, the military reported.
The fatality brings the U.S. death toll in Iraq to 3,267 since the March 2003 invasion that toppled former dictator Saddam Hussein. (Posted 6:53 p.m.)
ConAgra says it has identified source of peanut butter contamination
(CNN) -- ConAgra announced Thursday it will reopen its Georgia plant this summer after having discovered how salmonella contaminated its Peter Pan peanut butter last year, sickening more than 400 people.
The moisture entered the plant either through a leak in the roof or when the sprinkler system was activated twice during last August, said spokeswoman Stephanie Childs.
"What we believe happened is that dormant levels of salmonella that would have been present in the plant because of raw peanuts or dust came into contact with the moisture, even after a thorough cleanup, and subsequently led to levels of salmonella getting into our peanut butter product before it was packaged," she said.
A faulty sprinkler has since been fixed and the plant is being renovated, she said. (Posted 6:52 p.m.)
Pelosi's remarks in Syria draw response from Israel, Cheney
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office is defending her face-to-face meeting Wednesday with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against criticism that she sent the wrong message to his regime during her foray into foreign policy.
After meeting with al-Assad, Pelosi told reporters that she had given him a message from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that Israel was ready to engage in peace talks with Syria. In response, Olmert's office issued a rare "clarification" on its Web site, saying that during a meeting with Pelosi before her visit to Damascus, the prime minister never indicated any change in Israel's stance toward negotiations with Syria.
"What was communicated to the U.S. House speaker does not contain any change in the policies of Israel, as was communicated to other foreign leaders," the statement said.
After Pelosi's comments were denounced Thursday by the Washington Post as "foolish" and a "pratfall," her office fired back, insisting that she had delivered a "tough and serious" message to al-Assad that contained all of Israel's demands for beginning peace talks. --From CNN Correspondent Jill Dougherty (Posted 6:10 p.m.)
9 school children killed as tractor hits primary school
LAHORE, Pakistan (CNN) -- Nine school children were killed and 18 were injured when a speeding tractor smashed into a primary school in Hafizabad, 80 km (50 miles) southeast of Lahore on Thursday, local police told CNN.
Most of the children who died were under 10 years old.
The children were in a classroom when the tractor smashed into the school after the driver lost control, police said. The driver was arrested.
Eighteen children -- two in critical condition -- were admitted to a hospital for treatment of injuries, police said. --From CNN's Syed Mohsin Naqvi (Posted 5:59 p.m.)
NATO widens offensive in southern Afghanistan, U.S. general says
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Hundreds of helicopter-borne NATO troops descended on southern Afghanistan's Helmand province overnight as U.S. and allied commanders broadened a spring offensive against Taliban fighters, U.S. and allied officials said Thursday.
The assault -- which began late Wednesday -- included the airlift of troops into the Sangin Valley area, north of the onetime Taliban base of Kandahar, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said.
In Washington, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said the new push is an expansion of the alliance's spring offensive, dubbed "Operation Achilles." "I do not want to get into the specifics of the operations, but it will unfold very clearly here in the next couple of days what he has begun," Gen. Peter Pace told reporters at the Pentagon.
The month-old operation involves nearly 5,000 NATO and Afghan troops in Helmand province, the scene of recent heavy fighting between Taliban and NATO-backed Afghan government forces. The push is also aimed at curbing drug traffickers in the country's south, Maj. Gen. Ton Van Loon, NATO's southern regional commander, said in March. (Posted 3:27 p.m.)
Cruise ship evacuated safely
(CNN) -- A cruise liner carrying more than 1,500 people was evacuated Thursday after it began taking on water near the Aegean Sea island of Santorini, Louis Hellenic Cruises said.
The Sea Diamond was carrying 1,167 passengers and 391 crew members when it scraped its side on a reef. "The vessel has taken a list due to the penetration of water, but has now been stabilized," the cruise line said in a statement posted on its Web site. No one was hurt, it said.
Another of the liner's ships, the Perla, was en route to pick up the passengers and a team of company technicians was en route "to evaluate the situation," it said.
Video showed efforts being made to tow the ship to the port of Santorini. (Posted 3:10 p.m.)
40-year old intern pleads guilty to stealing 164 National Archives documents
(CNN) -- A 40-year-old summer intern with the National Archives in Philadelphia pleaded guilty Wednesday to stealing 164 Civil War documents, including the War Department's announcement of Lincoln's death, and putting most of them for sale on eBay.
Denning McTague, an avid cultural and historical artifacts collector with two masters degrees, posted 150 of the Civil War documents on eBay and sold about half of them, according to Rich Manieri, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office.
Paul Brachfeld, inspector general for the National Archives, said McTague -- whose unpaid internship at the archives required him to help prepare an exhibit for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War -- admitted to stealing the documents by placing them between sheets of a yellow note pad that he then put in his backpack.
The documents are estimated to be worth a total of $30,000, and all but three have been recovered by investigators. --From CNN's Deborah Brunswick (Posted 2:59 p.m.)
Negroponte heads to Africa to focus on Darfur
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The State Department's number two official, John Negroponte, will travel to Sudan and other African nations -- including Libya -- next week to discuss the crisis in Sudan's Darfur region, spokesman Sean McCormack said Thursday.
The trip will focus on "ongoing efforts to achieve peace in Sudan through the implementation of the Darfur peace agreement and the comprehensive peace agreement," he said.
Negroponte will also visit officials in Chad -- where hundreds of thousands of Darfur refugees have fled -- as well as Libya and Mauritania from April 11 to 19, McCormack said.
"The focus of his discussions will be on Sudan and how Libya, how Chad can play a role in resolving the conflict," McCormack said. (Posted 1:57 p.m.)
Dog biscuits made by another pet food manufacturer recalled
(CNN) -- The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday announced it has identified additional contaminated pet food products produced by another manufacturer -- Sunshine Mills from Red Bay, Ala.
The products -- dog biscuits -- were made with contaminated wheat gluten, the FDA says. A full list will be available later.
Also, Menu Foods announced it is expanding its recall of a wide variety of products by amending the recall date. (Posted 1:37 p.m.)
AG in intense preparations for testimony concerning fired U.S. attorneys
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As part of intensive preparations for coming congressional questioning concerning the eight fired U.S. attorneys, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales next week will take part in mock question-and-answer sessions that could include outside legal advisers, Justice Department officials said Thursday.
The attorney general, who has not had any public events this week and has remained behind closed doors at the Justice Department, canceled plans for a family vacation to spend time preparing, officials said.
Several Republican political consultants -- who requested anonymity because they were talking about the future of the attorney general -- have told CNN that what Gonzales tells Congress in the next few weeks and how he is received will be key to whether he can rebuild support on Capitol Hill.
"He has a tall order," is how one of them put it, saying it has to be a "compelling presentation." --From CNN Producers Kevin Bohn and Terry Frieden (Posted 1:42 p.m.)
British troops held captive in Iran welcomed home
DEVON, England (CNN) -- Fifteen British service members detained for nearly two weeks in Iran were reunited with their families Thursday after flying home from Tehran.
The group of sailors and marines landed at London's Heathrow Airport around noon (7 a.m. ET) after a six-hour flight from the Iranian capital before being transferred by helicopter to a military base in southwestern England.
A Navy spokesman read statements from the "very tired" group, who has requested privacy from the media.
In a joint statement, read by Lt. Col. Andy Price, the group said, "Touching down at Heathrow this morning was for all of us a dream come true, and the welcome home that we've enjoyed today is one none of us will ever forget."
In his individual statement -- also read by Price -- Lt. Felix Carman said the group was "completely overwhelmed by the wave of goodwill we received" on arriving at Royal Marines Barracks Chivenor. (Posted 1:31 p.m.)
At least 10 Iraqi soldiers killed in northern Iraq
BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Attackers near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Thursday shot dead 10 Iraqi soldiers, an Iraqi army official told CNN.
At least 30 attackers driving in cars used rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns to assault an army post , the official said.
Along with the killings, one soldier was wounded.
The incident occurred in the town of Badoosh, more than 20 miles south of Mosul. -- From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq (Posted 12:27 p.m.)
AARP, drugmakers battle over whether Medicare should negotiate prices
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Behind the scenes in Washington, this may be a pivotal week in a fiery, multimillion-dollar fight over Medicare and what seniors pay for their medicine.
This week, the AARP and pharmaceutical companies launched a blitz of tactics aimed at the U.S. Senate, debating whether Medicare should negotiate prices with drug companies. The House has already passed a bill allowing it.
At the center of the controversy is the massive prescription drug program known as Part D that serves 39 million seniors. When Part D was created in 2003, the Republican Congress passed language forbidding the program from negotiating bulk prices.
Drugmakers argue government negotiation would ultimately become government price setting, which they insist would set artificially low prices and lead some drug makers to pull their products out of the Medicare drug program altogether.
The AARP insists negotiating power would save millions of dollars for seniors. Outside reports present conflicting conclusions, some supporting cost savings and others doubting any gain. --From CNN Radio's Lisa Goddard (Posted 11:40 a.m.)
British troops held captive in Iran welcomed home
LONDON (CNN) -- Bearing grins and toting gifts from the Iranian regime, 15 British marines and sailors arrived at London's Heathrow Airport Thursday after being held by Iran for nearly two weeks.
The 14 men and one woman landed at the airport shortly after noon (7 a.m. ET) after a six-hour flight from Tehran.
About two and a half hours later, they arrived in a military helicopter at the Royal Marines Base Chivenor in southwestern England, where they will be given a medical exam and debriefed.
Speaking from 10 Downing Street as they arrived at Heathrow, Prime Minister Tony Blair said Britons rejoiced at their arrival and reiterated that the release happened "without any deal, without any negotiation, without any side agreement of any nature whatsoever." (Posted 11:01 a.m.)
Scotland Yard: 3 men charged in 2005 London transit bombings
LONDON (CNN) -- Three men arrested by London police March 22 are being charged in the July 7, 2005, terrorist attacks on the city's transit system that killed 52 people, New Scotland Yard said Thursday.
They are the first suspects to be charged in the bombings, which also wounded more than 900 people.
The three men in custody are identified by police as Mohammed Shakil, 30, and Sadeer Saleem, 26, both from Beeston, West Yorkshire, a suburb of Leeds; and Waheed Ali, 23, who recently resided in East London but lived in Beeston most of his life. Until recently, Ali was known as Shipon Ullah, police said.
They are accused of reconnaissance and planning with those who carried out the bombings, police announced in a brief media briefing. Officially, they are charged with unlawfully and maliciously conspiring with the four suicide bombers. They also are suspected of conspiring to cause explosions at tourist attractions in London.
Clarke said he knows there are people who know more information about the case but aren't coming forward, and urged them to call a Scotland Yard hot line, which keeps calls confidential. The terrorism hot line number is 0800 789 321.(Posted 10:22 a.m.)
NATO, Afghan troops launch assault in southern Afghanistan
KANDAHAR (CNN) -- NATO troops launched a major push in southern Afghanistan overnight, part of an operation in northern Helmand province aimed at jacking up the pressure on Taliban militants, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said.
The assault -- which began late Wednesday and continued into early Thursday -- included the airlifting of hundreds of troops into the Sangin Valley area.
"ISAF forces discovered an enemy weapons cache containing over a dozen large caliber rounds of munitions such as 82 mm mortar and 107 mm rockets and RPG as well as 20,000 small arms munitions and Improvised explosive device-making materiel. In addition, an enemy mortar firing position was located and destroyed," ISAF said in a news release.
The push is part of Operation Achilles started a month ago with nearly 5,000 NATO and Afghan troops in northern Helmand.
Security strides are permitting authorities to pursue a range of development projects, ISAF said. (Posted 8:41 a.m.)
Attackers strike Baghdad TV station affiliated with Sunni party
BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Attackers assaulted a TV station affiliated with a Sunni political party Thursday, killing an assistant TV manager and wounding 12 staffers, according to the Iraqi Islamic Party -- which owns the station.
Insurgents launched a car bombing and a machine gun attack on Baghdad TV, said the party -- the most powerful Sunni Arab party in Iraq.
"The channel committed since the first day to moderate national attitude, it defended Iraqi citizens regardless the religion and sect that made the channel distinguishable among other channels in Iraq," the party said -- condemning it as a "cowardly criminal attack" and a "hopeless attempt to shut down the voice of the true." (Posted 8:19 a.m.)
British envoy, Palestinian PM to meet, discuss abducted reporter
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Britain's consul-general plans to sit down with Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya and discuss the predicament of an recently abducted BBC reporter.
This is significant because Haniya's Hamas movement has been a diplomatic persona non grata among Britain and other Western nations because it considered a terrorist group.
Britain's consulate in Jerusalem confirmed the Thursday afternoon meeting between Consul-General Richard Makepeace and Haniya, leader of the Hamas movement that holds power in the Palestinian government.
The talks mark the first contact between the British government and a Hamas member of the new Palestinian Unity government. (Posted 7:54 a.m.)
4 British soldiers, translator killed in violent ambush near Basra
BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Four British soldiers and a civilian translator were killed in an ambush on their armored vehicle while returning from a mission west of Basra early Thursday, a British military spokesman told CNN.
Lt. Col. Kevin Stratford-Wright said the troops were blasted with a roadside bomb, small arms fire and rocket- propelled grenades at a location about 340 miles southeast of Baghdad.
The soldiers fired back on the insurgents, and according to Stratford-Wright, "one or more of the attackers were killed."
Another British soldier was seriously wounded in the fray and has been hospitalized.
The deadly attack was the second launched on the unit that night. The first attack did not cause any casualties. (Posted 7:31 a.m.)
5 U.S. soldiers killied in Baghdad violence on Wednesday
BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Five U.S. soldiers were killed in separate incidents around Baghdad on Wednesday, the U.S. military said Thursday.
A roadside bomb detonated north of the capital, killing two soldiers and wounding another. One was wounded.
Two soldiers were killed south of the capital in a roadside bombing. Three others were wounded.
Insurgents wielding small arms killed a soldier on patrol in eastern Baghdad. (Posted 7:10 a.m.)
Two arrested in connection with Tal Afar truck bombings
BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iraqi security forces, backed by coalition advisers, raided a residence in Iraq's Nineveh province on Tuesday and arrested two people in connection with the truck bomb attacks that killed 152 people in Tal Afar last week, the U.S. military said Wednesday.
The two suspects were linked to the coordinated truck bombings launched March 27 in Shiite districts in the predominantly Turkmen city. It was the single deadliest single attack since the start of the Iraq war in 2003, according to a high-ranking Iraqi Interior Ministry official.
The bombings sparked reprisal shootings the next day in a Sunni neighborhood, killing 70 people.
In addition, forces arrested 19 other suspects during Tuesday's raid, the military said. -- CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq and Jennifer Deaton contributed to this report (Posted 7:04 a.m.)
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