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News update

Tuesday, May 1

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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.

Turmoil in Israeli politics as Olmert faces calls for resignation

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert came under renewed political fire Wednesday as the head of his Kadima party political coalition called for his resignation a day after an independent investigative commission placed heavy blame on him for mistakes in last summer's month-long war with Lebanon.

"I am trying to convince the members of Kadima to turn to the Prime minister and ask him to resign for the good of the country, the Kadima party and his own good," coalition chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki said on Israeli army radio. "In light of the findings of the report , the Prime minister has no choice but to resign."

The Winograd Commission, in an interim report released on Monday, said that Olmert was too hasty to go to war, that Defense Minister Amir Peretz was inexperienced, and that former Israeli Chief of Staff Dan Halutz acted impulsively without disclosing that the Israeli military was not prepared to carry out a land war in Lebanon. (Posted 2:35 a.m.)

Demonstrators call for change in immigration laws

CHICAGO (CNN) -- From Los Angeles to New York, demonstrators descended Tuesday on city centers around the country to call for Congress to pass legislation that would give the estimated 12 million people in the United States illegally a path to citizenship.

In Los Angeles County, home to an estimated 1 million illegal immigrants, thousands of people converged on City Hall, one of two demonstration sites. Police did not immediately issue crowd estimates.

Scattered scuffles broke out early Tuesday evening between demonstrators and police in MacArthur Park after officers were pelted with rocks and bottles. Police Chief Bill Bratton said officers responded using non-lethal force, including the "shooting of non-lethal projectiles (rubber bullets or bean bags) and the use of batons."

According to Bratton, at least three members of the media were injured, along with 15 police officers and an unknown number of demonstrators. One person was arrested for disorderly conduct.

Bratton said the incident was under investigation and promised to deal with any officers that responded to the situation inappropriately. (Posted 1 a.m.)

Report: Record number of FISA requests submitted last year

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. government last year asked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court for permission to conduct a record number of electronic surveillances and physical searches, according to a Justice Department report released on Tuesday.

The warrants are used by the intelligence community to investigate suspected terrorists and spies and gather information about other national security threats. They are mandated by the FISA law, which was enacted in 1978 to regulate the government's ability to conduct surveillance on U.S. citizens and U.S. residents.

The report was released following a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee in which U.S. intelligence officials were making the case for the Bush Administration's proposal to update the FISA law.

Democrats on the committee tried, but failed, to get assurances from the officials that President Bush would not sidestep the court and authorize surveillances as he had done previously.

-- From National Security Producer Pam Benson (Posted 8:18 p.m.)

Turmoil in Israeli politics as Olmert faces calls for resignation

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was fighting for his political life Tuesday after an independent investigative commission placed heavy blame on him for mistakes in last summer's month-long war with Lebanon.

Cabinet member Eitan Cabel, a member of Olmert's Kadima party coalition partner Labor, resigned in the wake of the Winograd Commission's report and called on Olmert to follow his lead, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

Haaretz also reported that coalition chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki is gathering signature on a letter asking for Olmert's resignation. (Posted 8:08 p.m.)

Bush vetoes war-spending bill with Iraq withdrawal date

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Four years after his much-ballyhooed declaration of victory in Iraq, President Bush on Tuesday vetoed a war-spending bill he said would set "a date for failure" by calling for the withdrawal of most U.S. troops.

In a televised address explaining the long-threatened veto, Bush said the $124 billion bill "subsitutes the opinions of politicians for the judgment of our military leaders."

In response, Democratic congressional leaders said Bush must now explain how he will bring the 4-year-old war to a close.

The bill set a March 2008 goal for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq and would have required them to begin leaving by October. It would refocus the mission of the remaining troops to training Iraqi units, counterterrorism and force protection. (Posted 7:37 p.m.)

Clinton, Obama give thumbs up to N.H. debate

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama Tuesday joined the leading Democratic and Republican White House hopefuls in agreeing to participate in back-to-back New Hampshire presidential debates next month in the politically influential Granite State.

Clinton and Obama were the final two presidential contenders to announce plans to participate in these debates that are being hosted by CNN, WMUR and the New Hampshire Union Leader. Democrats will take the stage at Saint Anselm College on June 3, while Republicans visit the campus on June 5.

Despite early statements to work within a debate sanctioning process instituted by the Democratic National Committee, Clinton, a New York Democrat, and Obama, an Illinois Democrat, announced within hours of each other today their intentions to take part in the June debate.

-- By CNN Political Editor Mark Preston (Posted 7:33 p.m.)

Federal health officials expect other farms nationwide to be affected by tainted feed

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Federal health officials said Tuesday they expect other farms across the United States will be affected by animal feed tainted with recalled pet food after an investigation of Indiana chicken farms found more than three dozen facilities with the contaminated feed.

In a teleconference, Food and Drug Administration officials also reassured consumers that "the likelihood of illness after eating chicken fed the contaminated product is very low," and therefore no chicken recall has been issued.

The FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Monday that recalled pet food containing Chinese tainted wheat gluten was found in chicken feed on 38 Indiana farms that raise poultry for human consumption.

No human illnesses have been reported related to the minimally tainted poultry feed, according to the agencies.

-- By CNN's Katy Byron (Posted 7:20 p.m.)

Bank reviewing procedures after video reveals customer information

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The nation's third-largest bank was reviewing its security procedures Tuesday after a video posted by a union member on the popular Web site YouTube showed someone holding various documents containing customers' personal information, which the union claims were found in the curbside trash of several banks.

The bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co., became aware of of the video on Tuesday, spokesman Tom Kelly.

The video, filmed by the local chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), was posted in response to the company's hiring of security contractors. Last week, union members went through the curbside trash of several banks located in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, according to Linda Tran, SEIU spokeswoman.

-- From CNN's Richard Davis (Posted 6:29 p.m.)

Bush vetoes war-spending bill with Iraq withdrawal date

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush has vetoed a $124 billion war-spending bill that includes a call for American combat troops to leave Iraq in 2008, the White House announced Tuesday.

Bush has scheduled a 6:10 p.m. address to the nation to explain the veto, which he has threatened for weeks.

The bill set a March 2008 goal for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq. It passed the House of Representatives and the Senate last week, but by margins far short of the two-thirds needed to override a presidential veto.

The veto is only the second of Bush's presidency. It comes on the fourth anniversary of his 2003 speech that declared an end to "major combat" in Iraq.(Posted 6 p.m.)

5 Pennsylvania campuses to reopen 6 days after e-mail threats

(CNN) -- Delaware County Community College's five campuses in Pennsylvania will reopen on Wednesday, six days after faculty and administration members received two e-mails threatening violence, the Chester County DA's Office said on Tuesday.

West Whiteland Township Police Chief Ralph Burton told CNN that no suspect has been identified. However, over 200 people have been interviewed and there are several leads, said the Chester County DA's Office.

The 10,000 students who attend the Exton commuter campus were notified of the threat via e-mail, signs posted on campus and a message on the school Web site and will be required to carry their belongings in clear plastic bags when they return to school on Wednesday.

Uniformed and plain clothes police will be present on campus with metal detectors.

-- From CNN's Vidya Singh (Posted 5:25 p.m.)

NJ Gov. Corzine pays fine for not wearing a seat belt

(CNN) -- New Jersey Governor Jon S. Corzine has paid a $46 fine for not wearing a seat belt at the time of a car accident that left him severely injured three weeks ago.

-- From CNN's Amy Sahba (Posted 5:19 p.m.)

Congress, White House struggle to find immigration compromise

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As advocates for immigration reform marched at sites across the country Tuesday, their protests were aimed squarely at Capitol Hill, where lawmakers have been struggling, without success, to come up with a compromise on the contentious issue.

The White House and key lawmakers have been urgently negotiating for nearly a month, trying to come up with a new way forward, but, so far, the only agreement out of those talks is how hard it is to agree.

Ironically, immigration reform is one of the few issues where President Bush and Democratic leaders in Congress generally see eye-to-eye -- to the consternation of many conservatives in Bush's own political base.

-- From CNN Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash (Posted 5:03 p.m.)

On victory speech anniversary, Bush says failure in Iraq 'unacceptable'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Four years after declaring victory in Iraq from the deck of an aircraft carrier, President Bush prepared to veto a war-spending bill that calls for pulling American combat troops out of the now-unpopular conflict.

The president plans a 6:10 p.m. address to the nation after vetoing the $124 billion measure, which calls for most U.S. troops to leave Iraq by March 2008.

Democratic leaders urged Bush to sign the bill and begin winding down the war, but Bush's Republican allies in Congress called the bill an admission of defeat.

"A veto means denying our troops the resources and the strategy they need," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "After more than four years of a failed policy, it's time for Iraq to take responsibility for its own future."

The White House expects to formally receive the spending bill from Congress about 4 p.m. Bush plans to make a televised statement at 6:10 p.m., after he vetoes the bill.

Bush declared an end to "major combat" in Iraq in a May 1, 2003, speech from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. However, U.S. troops have been battling an ongoing insurgency since then, and more than 3,200 Americans have died in Iraq since that address. (Posted 3:48 p.m.)

U.S. to let Iranian family members visit detained al-Quds suspects in Iraq

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States has agreed for the first time to allow family members to visit seven Iranians it is holding inside Iraq, a U.S. military official told CNN Tuesday.

The official said the visit could happen as soon as arrangements are made for the family members to travel into Iraq.

The United States says the seven men are members of Iran's Al-Quds force, an elite unit of the Revolutionary Guard, and are involved in financing and training insurgents as well as bringing in advanced armor-penetrating roadside bombs to attack American troops.

The United States previously considered allowing relatives to visit the men, but that plan was shelved when several British military members were seized by Iran earlier this year. (Posted 3:43 p.m.)

U.S. soldier dies of 'non-battle causes' in Iraq

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A U.S. soldier died Tuesday of "non-battle causes," the U.S. military said in a statement. No other information was available.

Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, 3,352 American military personnel have died in the war. (Posted 3:20 p.m.)

Anti-al Qaeda tribal leader says report about al-Masri's death is true

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- An Anbar province coalition of tribal fighters backed up the report that al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri was killed in fighting on Tuesday.

Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Reesha -- head of the Anbar Salvation Council, an anti-al Qaeda in Iraq tribal alliance -- provided details about the fighting in a phone interview with al-Iraqiya state TV.

His remarks counter a claim from the Islamic State of Iraq, an insurgent umbrella group including al Qaeda in Iraq, that al-Masri is "safe."

The prime minister's spokesman and the Interior Ministry passed along reports about the death earlier today, citing tribal sources. Iraqi authorities say they can't confirm the death until they identify the body.

The fighting is occurring in Niba'ie, northwest of Taji. Taji is just north of Baghdad. Abu Reesha said tribes from Niba'ie and the council killed al-Masri and eight of his aides "in a battle that started at 9:30 am today."

The fighting was ongoing overnight, with 200 al Qaeda fighters headed toward the area from Tarmiya, north of Baghdad. (Posted 3:05 p.m.)

On victory speech anniversary, Bush says failure in Iraq 'unacceptable'

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (CNN) -- Four years after declaring victory in Iraq in a much-ballyhooed speech from the deck of an aircraft carrier, President Bush said Tuesday a U.S. failure in the 4-year-old war "should be unacceptable to the civilized world."

The White House marked the anniversary by accusing congressional Democrats of using the date to present Bush with a $124 billion war-spending bill that calls for the withdrawal of American combat troops.

Bush has vowed to veto the bill. Speaking to U.S. and allied military officers at U.S. Central Command headquarters outside Tampa, he said the current push to pacify Baghdad and the western province of Anbar has produced progress, but will need several months to succeed. (Posted 2:42 p.m.)

Shadowy Iraq office accused of sectarian agenda

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq's prime minister has created an entity within his government that U.S. and Iraqi military officials say is being used as a smokescreen to hide an extreme Shiite agenda that is worsening the country's sectarian divide.

The "Office of the Commander in Chief" has the power to overrule other government ministries, according to U.S. military and intelligence sources.

Those sources say the 24-member office is abusing its power, increasingly overriding decisions made by the Iraqi Ministries of Defense and Interior and potentially undermining the entire U.S. effort in Iraq.

The Office, as it is known in Baghdad, was set up about four months ago with the knowledge of U.S. forces in Iraq. Its goal ostensibly is to advise Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the new commander in chief, on military matters.

According to a U.S. intelligence source, the Office is "ensuring the emplacement of commanders it favors and can control, regardless of what the ministries want."

Iraqi government spokesman Ali Dabbagh would not respond to questions about what authority the Office has, but he denied allegations that the Prime Minister's advisers were trying to push a Shiite agenda. (Posted 2:33 p.m.)

Murdoch's News Corp bids $5 billion for Dow Jones

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- News Corp. has made an unsolicited $5 billion takeover bid for Dow Jones & Co. - an offer that could prove tough for the Bancroft family that controls the publisher of The Wall Street Journal to turn down, analysts said.

Dow Jones released a statement Tuesday saying that News Corp - Rupert Murdoch's media empire that includes The New York Post, the Fox TV and movie business, and MySpace - has offered $60 a share for Dow Jones, a 65 percent premium to Dow Jones' closing price as of April 30.

"The Board of Directors and members and trustees of the Bancroft family, who hold shares representing a majority of the Company's voting power, are evaluating the proposal. There can be no assurance that this evaluation will lead to any transaction," Dow Jones said in its two-paragraph statement.

Officials at News Corp. were not immediately available for comment. (Posted 2:25 p.m.)

Demonstrators call for change in immigration laws

CHICAGO (CNN) -- From Los Angeles to New York, demonstrators urged Congress Tuesday to pass legislation that would give the estimated 12 million illegals in the United States a path to citizenship.

In Chicago, organizers predicted hundreds of thousands of demonstrators would march for two miles to Union Park, where estimates of last year's attendance ranged from 400,000 to 700,000.

Organizers of this year's events are focusing on raids by immigration officials that have separated some of the nation's illegal immigrants from their children, who are U.S. citizens if born in the United States.

Congress is set to take up the immigration issue beginning May 14. (Posted 2:23 p.m.)

Fidel Castro a no-show at May Day event

HAVANA (CNN) -- For the first time in more than 40 years, President Fidel Castro failed to make an appearance at the annual May 1 celebration of the International Day of the Worker held here in the capital.

Castro, 80, underwent intestinal surgery nine months ago and has not been seen in public since. He ceded power temporarily to his brother Raul, 75, who did attended the event, looking through binoculars at the throngs of marchers in the Plaza de la Revolucion Jose Marti.

Some observers had speculated that the communist leader may have recovered sufficiently to attend the event.

Despite his absence, the elder leader was not forgotten. "Viva Fidel! Viva Raul! Viva Cuba Libre! Socialism or Death!" exhorted Salvador Valdes Mesa, secretary general of the Cuban Workers Center, to applause.

Cuban television put the number of marchers at about 500,000. (Posted 2:05 p.m.)

Turkey's highest court annuls parliament's vote on new president

ANKARA (CNN) -- Siding with Turkish opposition parties concerned about Islamist leadership, Turkey's highest court ruled Tuesday that parliament's first round of voting for the next president was invalid, a court spokesman said on Turkish TV.

Opposition parties feared that Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, the only presidential candidate being considered by parliament, might not back Turkey's historically secular government.

There have been massive protests in recent days amid fears that the government will abandon secularism and turn the predominantly Muslim country into a religious state.

While Turkey is predominantly Muslim, the government system has been secular since 1923.

Government spokesman Cemil Cicek said parliament will convene Wednesday and announce the timetable for the four-round process to elect the next president. (Posted 1:59 p.m.)

Tainted wheat gluten in poultry feed on Indiana farms; no illnesses reported

NEW YORK (CNN) -- U.S. federal health officials say recalled pet food containing tainted wheat gluten imported from China was found in chicken feed on some Indiana farms that grow poultry for human consumption.

In a joint statement, the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture said Monday "the likelihood of illness after eating chicken fed the contaminated product is very low," and therefore no chicken recall has been issued.

No human illnesses have been reported related to the minimally tainted poultry feed, according to the agencies.

The report is the latest development in the FDA's investigation into the recall of more than 60 million cans of pet food after at least 17 cats and dogs died of kidney failure. (Posted 1:18 p.m.)

Frustrated Iraqi Sunni bloc mulls exit from government

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iraq's powerful Sunni political bloc is thinking about pulling out of the besieged Iraqi government, claiming the 1-year-old Nuri al-Maliki administration isn't letting Sunnis participate in some key decision-making processes.

The bloc is the Iraqi Accordance Front and it has 44 seats in the 275-member Council of Representatives, which is dominated by the Shiite-led United Iraqi Alliance. Its absence would unravel months of efforts to foster political participation by Sunnis in Iraq's government.

If members make good on their threat, they would leave both Cabinet ministries and parliament.

Even though their exit would still leave the ruling UIA and Kurdistan alliance government with a majority, their absence would reflect a deterioration of efforts to bring the Sunnis into government. There is also another Sunni party in parliament, with 11 members -- Saleh al-Mutleg's National Dialogue Front.

Omar Abd al Sattar, an Iraqi Islamic Party parliament member, told CNN the government has not even managed to deliver 1 percent of what it promised since taking office, pointing to the areas of security, economic development and national reconciliation. That party is the largest in the bloc. (Posted 12:57 p.m.)

House panel approves subpoena for former deputy attorney general

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- By a voice vote, a House Judiciary Subcommittee agreed Tuesday to issue a subpoena to former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to testify as part of its investigation into the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

The panel chairwoman, Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., said Comey has informed the committee he will appear at a hearing of the Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee set for Thursday.

"We believe that he can shed light on the Bush Administration's list of targeted U.S. attorneys," Sanchez said. Those leading the Capitol Hill probes into the firings are trying to determine how the list of attorneys was drawn up.

Comey announced his resignation in April 2005 but served for months afterward until a replacement was named. Through documents released and testimony given to Congress, Justice Department officials have said the process for choosing which prosecutors would be asked to leave began in January 2005.

Paul McNulty, who replaced Comey, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and former Justice Department Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson have testified they did not add names of specific prosecutors. (Posted 12:20 p.m.)

Iraq government spokesman: Tribes are source of al-Masri death report

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iraq's government spokesman on Tuesday said the report of the death of the al Qaeda in Iraq leader is coming from local tribes and not the government's intelligence services or military.

Ali al-Dabbagh, the spokesman for the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, told CNN that the government won't be able to confirm the death of Abu Ayyub al-Masri until it makes its own identification of the body.

U.S. officials have not confirmed the death, and a statement from an Islamist umbrella insurgent group -- Islamic State of Iraq -- with whom al-Masri is affiliated has denied the report.

The information about al-Masri's death emerged after a confrontation between the tribes, which are Sunni, and al Qaeda in Iraq on Tuesday at a bridge in an area under Sunni tribal control, al-Dabbagh told CNN.

Al-Masri -- an Egyptian who is also known as Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Muhajer -- succeeded Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq after he was killed in a U.S. airstrike in June. (Posted 11:48 a.m.)

British soldier killed in accident in Iraq

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A British soldier in southern Iraq was killed in a cycling accident Tuesday, the Defense Ministry said. He was from the Royal Signals in Iraq.

"The soldier was riding a bicycle in the Contingency Operating Base at Basra Air Station when he was involved in a road traffic accident," the ministry said.

Turkish court OKs cancellation of vote

With the death, 147 British military personnel have died in the Iraq war. Twelve died in April, making it the deadliest month for the British military since the start of the Iraq war in March 2003, when 27 British troops died. (Posted 11:35 a.m.)

(CNN) -- A spokesman for Turkey's constitutional court announced Tuesday that the court has accepted the cancellation of the first-round of voting in parliament, paving the way for new elections.

Massive protests have been held because of fears that the only presidential candidate being considered -- Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul -- might not back Turkey's historic secular government.

While Turkey is predominantly Muslim, it has been designed since 1923 to remain secular. (Posted 11:25 a.m.)

Rifts, fighting among local, foreign Sunni insurgents have emerged

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Reports of tensions in Iraq between Sunni militants and the Sunni-dominated al Qaeda in Iraq and an anti-al Qaeda backlash have been emerging in Iraq this year, particularly from Anbar province -- long a favored turf for indigenous Sunni insurgents and foreign fighters infiltrating Iraq from Syria.

One anti-al Qaeda group that has emerged is a coalition called the Anbar Salvation Council, and the United States and Iraq are touting the group as a positive development in the war against al Qaeda in Iraq. Anbar is the vast Sunni-dominated province in western Iraq.

These developments come amid unconfirmed reports that Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, was killed in fighting Tuesday between al Qaeda militants and Sunni tribal fighters from Abu Ghraib and Falluja.

Tribal leaders have reported a death to Iraqi authorities, but the government is waiting to examine the body before it officially confirms it is al-Masri.

Al-Jazeera, the Arabic-language news network, reported last month that Ibrahim al-Shammari, a spokesman for the Islamic Army in Iraq, said his group -- also in the Islamic State of Iraq -- does not plan to work with al Qaeda in Iraq.

Among the reasons, he said, are that al Qaeda has targeted its members and that their goals are divergent. (Posted 9:07 a.m.)

Bush visits CentCom to discuss operations in Iraq, Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush will address top military commanders from some of the countries supplying troops to operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, at a two-day conference that starts Tuesday.

The conference, held at the headquarters of the U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla., will focus on current and future military operations, according to a CentCom spokesman.

Commanders also will discuss future troop requirements. Adm. William Fallon, Centcom commander, is the official host of the meeting. Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, is also attending. (Posted 8:28 a.m.)

Fidel Castro a no-show at May Day event

HAVANA (CNN) -- President Fidel Castro was not among the dignitaries introduced Tuesday to tens of thousands of Cubans who gathered in the Plaza de la Revolucion Jose Marti to celebrate the International Day of the Worker.

Castro, 80, underwent intestinal surgery nine months ago and has been in frail health. He has ceded power temporarily to his brother Raul, 75, who was in attendance.

Some observers had speculated that the communist leader may have recovered sufficiently to attend the event, as he has for years. (Posted 8:24 a.m.)

Interior Ministry: intelligence indicates al Qaeda in Iraq leader killed

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri died early Tuesday in fighting between rival militant groups north of the Iraqi capital, according to an Interior Ministry spokesman.

"We received intelligence reports of al-Masri getting killed in clashes between al-Qaeda in Iraq and other militant groups, at dawn today, in al-Niba'ie in Taji, north of Baghdad," Brig. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf said.

According to Khalaf, the reports are based on "very strong intelligence," but added al-Masri's body has not been seen and stressed that the reported battle was an internal fight between rival militant groups -- no Iraqi troops were involved.

The U.S. military and U.S. Embassy had no details on the alleged developments.

"I have no confirmation of what is being reported in the Iraqi Media," said military spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver.

In February, Iraq's Interior Ministry claimed Iraqi security forces wounded al-Masri in another clash north of Baghdad, but the U.S. military cast doubt on that report. The ministry never backed away from its claim.

Al-Masri succeeded Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq after he was killed in a U.S. airstrike in June. (Posted 5:40 a.m.)

Interior Ministry: civilian deaths drop by more than 370 in April

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- In a steep decline from the previous month, 1,501 Iraqi civilians lost their lives in sectarian and insurgent violence in Iraq during April, the Iraqi Interior Ministry said Tuesday.

That compares to casualty figures that saw 1,872 civilians killed in March and 1,646 in February.

There were 2,334 Iraqi civilians wounded during April, compared to 2,708 the month before, the ministry said. (Posted 4:50 a.m.)

Gunmen attack minibuses, kill at least 14

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- At least 14 people were killed in a pair of attacks on minibuses south of Baghdad, a Babil province police official told CNN Tuesday.

Police patrols found 11 people shot to death and three others critically wounded near Iskandiriya on Monday night. According to police, the survivors said they played dead to keep from being shot again by gunmen. The bus was traveling from Hilla to Baghdad.

On Tuesday, a mortar attack in Iskandiriya injured three people.

Also on Tuesday, gunmen killed three people and wounded five others when they opened fire on a minibus in Lattifiya. (Posted 4:10 a.m.)

Australian men arrested on terror-related charges

(CNN) -- Australian authorities arrested two Melbourne men Tuesday on terror-related charges in connection with their alleged support of a Sri Lankan separatist group. Both were expected to appear in Melbourne Magistrates Court later in the day.

According to a statement from the Australian Federal Police and the Victoria Police Joint Counter Terrorism Team, the men, ages 32 and 36, are accused of supporting the overseas activities of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which has been waging a separatist battle against the Sri Lankan government for a Tamil state since the 1970s.

"There is no evidence that there was a plan to carry out a terrorist attack in Australia," Australian Federal Police National Counter Terrorism Manager Frank Prendergast said.

The 32-year-old man was charged with being a member of a terrorist organization and knowingly making funds available to a terrorist organizations.

The 36-year-old man was arrested following the execution of eight search warrants in Melbourne and two in Sydney Tuesday morning. (Posted 2:45 a.m.)

Bombs explode at rail stations in 3 cities

DHAKA (CNN) -- Bomb blasts rocked three railway terminals across Bangladesh Tuesday morning, authorities said. There were no injuries and there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

All of the bombs exploded around 6:30 a.m. in the capital, Dhaka, Sylhet and Chittagong. (Posted 1:50 a.m.)

4 insurgents die in battle with Afghan National Police, coalition

(CNN) -- Afghan National Police (ANP), backed by coalition air power, killed four insurgents Monday during an attack on the Spera District Center in eastern Afghanistan's Khost province, a coalition military statement said.

"The ANP defended the district center from a group of approximately 11 attacking insurgents from 12:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.," the statement said.

According to Khost police chief Col. Wazir Badshah, one Afghan policeman and one tribal soldier were wounded in the fighting. (Posted 1:20 a.m.)


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