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Sunday, June 3

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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.

Taliban commander detained

(CNN) -- Afghan National Security forces, working with coalition forces, have detained a wanted Taliban commander during an operation in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan, a coalition military statement released Sunday said.

According to the statement, Mullah Sher Mohammad, a Zharie-Panjwayi region Taliban commander, was taken into custody during a Friday raid on a compound in the village of Kanowzai, based on intelligence information.

"Sher Mohammad will no longer terrorize Afghan civilians living in Panjwayi," said Combined Joint Task Force-82 representative Maj. Chris Belcher.

According to the statement, Sher Mohammad led groups of Taliban fighters in attacks on Afghan fighters in Maywand, Zharie, and Panjwayi, resulting in the injuries and deaths of dozens of Afghan civilians. The coalition also said he is responsible for the kidnapping of four interpreters and the subsequent deaths of three of them. (Posted 1:50 a.m.)

New FBI crime figures to show wide disparities among cities

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Monday release of the FBI's first crime statistics for 2006 will show a 1.3 percent increase in crimes nationally, but the levels of violent crimes committed in the 253 largest cities showed large disparities, federal and state law enforcement officials said.

The number of murders, armed robberies and aggravated assaults increased in several medium-sized cities, according to preliminary figures for cities with populations of 100,000 or more. Officials attributed the increase to the movement of organized drug-trafficking and youth gang activities from some major metropolitan areas -- where police task forces cracked down on violent offenders -- to these smaller cities.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales dismissed the national significance of the new crime figures.

"In general, it doesn't appear that the current data reveal nationwide trends," Gonzales said. "Rather, they show local increases in certain communities."

But Bush administration critics cited the the statistical uptick in violence as evidence of federal failures to address crime.

In 2006, the FBI announced that total violent crime had increased 2.3 percent in 2005, the first such increase in 15 years.

From CNN Justice Producer Terry Frieden (Posted 11:20 p.m.)

Leading Dems spar over Iraq in New Hampshire debate

MANCHESTER, N.H. (CNN) -- Democratic presidential hopefuls traded barbs over the war in Iraq Sunday night in New Hampshire, with former Sen. John Edwards blasting two leading rivals over their handling of a recent war spending bill.

Edwards supported a vetoed bill that would have set a March 2008 goal for the withdrawal of American combat troops, and said the Democrats elected to Congress last year "were given a mandate by the American people" to oppose the war.

Edwards voted for the October 2002 resolution that authorized the invasion of Iraq, but now calls that vote a mistake. Obama, of Illinois, opposed the war before taking office in 2005, shot back that "I opposed this war from the start." (Posted: 9 p.m.)

Pakistani government blocks private television channel

LAHORE, Pakistan (CNN) -- The Pakistani government has blocked the transmission of the Geo News TV channel, a company official said Sunday. GEO News Managing Director Nasir Baig Chugtai told CNN that viewers called the Geo office asking why the transmission of "Meray Mutabik," a popular prime-time show, was halted.

During the last few programs, the show's anchor, Shahid Masood, criticized the government for recent bans and threats to journalists.

None of several government officials contacted by CNN would discuss the issue. Information Ministry sources said cable operators were told Sunday night to block GEO TV's transmission, based on high-level orders.

On Sunday morning in Lahore, cable operators had warned national and international broadcasters that their channels would be blocked if they aired anything critical of the the Pakistani government.

Political parties, civil societies and journalist organizations condemned the bans and demanded the government allow the country's news media to operate without restrictions.

The Pakistan Broadcasters Association reviewed the restrictions during a meeting Sunday, after which they called the curbs an attack on the fundamental, constitutional right of expression.

The meeting participants passed a resolution requesting the government to show respect for the freedom of expression as guaranteed in the Constitution.

On Sunday, government officials told CNN that journalist Noor Hakkem and four other people were killed Saturday in a roadside bomb blast in Bajaur agency, the Pakistani tribal area near the border with Pakistan. Hakeem was a correspondent for Daily Pakistan and vice president of the Tribal Union of Journalists.

From CNN's Syed Mohsin Naqvi (Posted: 7:10 p.m.)

14 soldiers killed in Iraq over weekend

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Fourteen U.S. soldiers were killed and 18 wounded by bombs and small-arms fire in Iraq on Saturday and Sunday, the U.S. military said.

Four U.S. soldiers were killed when a roadside bomb struck their vehicle while they conducted a "combined cordon and search operation" northwest of the Iraqi capital Sunday, the military said. A roadside bomb explosion killed one U.S. soldier and wounded three others and their Iraqi interpreter in Baghdad Sunday, the military said.

Two of the wounded soldiers returned to duty later Sunday, the military said. Another U.S. soldier was killed and two were wounded Sunday when a roadside bomb detonated during combat operations in an eastern section of Baghdad, the military said. (Posted: 3:07 p.m.)

Nicaraguan president to visit Tehran for talks

TEHRAN (CNN) -- Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega plans to travel to Iran's capital city for talks aimed at expanding cooperation with Tehran, Iran's state-run IRIB network reported Sunday.

He was to depart Managua Sunday for a four-day trip that comes almost five months after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stopped over in Managua during a tri-nation tour of Latin America to witness Ortega's swearing in as president.

Prior to visiting Iran, Ortega is scheduled to visit Libya and Algeria. After visiting Iran, he is to visit Italy as part of his four-day trip. (Posted: 3 p.m.)

Gates in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates arrived Sunday on a previously unannounced trip to Kabul, said CNN's Jamie McIntyre, who was traveling with the secretary. (Posted: 11:53 a.m.)

Somalia's PM unhurt and safe after bomb blast outside his home

MOGADISHU, Somalia (CNN) -- Somalian Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi survived a suicide vehicle bomb blast that heavily damaged his home Sunday, his spokesman said.

A Toyota Land Cruiser loaded with explosives crashed through the security gate of the prime minister's Mogadishu home and exploded, killing six guards and damaging the house that also serves as the prime minister's office, spokesman Abdullahi Odka said.

He said the prime minister was at home at the time, but he was unhurt. An African Union spokesman said Gedi was taken from the residence to an undisclosed location. (Posted: 11:50 a.m.)

Somalia's PM 'safe' after vehicle bomb explodes outside his home

MOGADISHU, Somalia (CNN) -- Somalian Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi survived a vehicle bomb blast that heavily damaged his home Sunday, his spokesman said.

A Toyota Land Cruiser loaded with explosives crashed through the security gate of the prime minister's Mogadisuhu home and exploded, killing guards and damaging the house that also serves as the prime minister's office, spokesman Abdullahi Odka said.

Odka said he saw at least six bodies in uniforms lying on the ground outside of the house, but it was not clear if all of them were dead. He said the prime minister was at home at the time, but he was "safe." It was not clear if this meant the prime minister was unhurt. (Posted: 11:31 a.m.)

Interfax: Nigerian gunmen kidnap 6 Russian workers

MOSCOW (CNN) -- Six Russian employees of a Russian-owned aluminum smelting operation in Nigeria were abducted Sunday in an apparent effort by gunmen to collect ransom, Russian ambassador to Nigeria Igor Melikhov told Interfax.

Russia's official state news agency said the kidnappings happened in the southern Nigerian town of Ikot-Abasi, some 700 km (435 miles) from Lagos. Melikhov said the gunmen, riding in two mini-buses, also fatally shot a Nigerian driver.

"We can say with a high degree of probability that the purpose of the abduction was to get ransom," he said. (Posted: 11:15 a.m.)

Market blast kills 10 north of Iraqi capital

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- At least 10 people were killed and 27 others wounded when a car bomb exploded in an outdoor market east of Baquba in Balad Ruz Sunday morning, a Diyala Province security official told CNN.

Within Baquba, gunmen shot and killed two civilians in a market, the official said. (Posted 8 a.m.)

Iraqi security forces tangle with Mehdi militia in Diwaniya

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- At least 20 people were wounded Sunday when fighting broke out between Iraqi security forces and Mehdi Army fighters loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Diwaniya, an Iraqi interior ministry official told CNN.

The fighting, which broke out about 9 a.m. (1 a.m. ET) 100 miles south of Baghdad, wounded two Iraqi police officers, the official said.

Al-Sadr's Mehdi Army militia is part of a politically powerful Shiite movement thought to be in the middle of the Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence in Iraq.

-- From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq and Jomana Karadsheh (Posted 8 a.m.)

7 U.S. soldiers killed this weekend, military says

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Seven U.S. soldiers died in separate attacks in Iraq on Saturday and Sunday, the U.S. military announced Sunday.

In western Baghdad one Multi-National Division-Baghdad soldier was killed and two others were wounded in an explosion while conducting combat operations Saturday.

A U.S. Task Force Marne soldier was also killed by small arms fire Saturday while on patrol south of Baghdad, the military said.

A second Task Force Marne soldier was killed Saturday while on a dismounted patrol southwest of Baghdad by a suicide bomber.

"The patrol attempted to question two suspicious people near a mosque," the military said. "When soldiers approached the two men, one person detonated himself, killing one soldier."

Saturday was a deadly day for U.S. Task Force Lightning Soldiers.

One U.S.Task Force Lightning soldier was killed Saturday by an explosion that occurred near his vehicle while conducting operations in Iraq's northern Diyala Province.

The military also said the explosion wounded four U.S. soldiers.

A second Task Force Lightning soldier died Sunday from wounds sustained when an explosion struck near his vehicle during operations in Diyala the previous day.

Two soldiers were also wounded.

In northern Iraq's Nineveh Province, two Task Force Lightning Soldiers were killed when their patrol was targeted by a bomb during military operations Saturday.

Task Force Lightning soldiers patrol the northern stretches of Iraq, including Diyala.

With the deaths, 3,487 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq since the start of the war. (Posted 7:55 a.m.)

Western jihadists killed in northern Somalia

From journalist Mohamed Amiin

(CNN) -- Six Islamic militants -- including a British and American -- were killed in northern Somalia over the weekend during joint local and U.S. military attacks targeting militants, a regional official told reporters during a Sunday news conference.

The six killed include foreign nationals from the United States, Sweden, Eritrea, Britain, Yemen and Pakistan, according to Minister of Finance in the Puntland State of Somalia, Mohamed Ali Yusuf.

Their nationalities were confirmed by their passports, he said.

They were killed in a dual-phased operation Yusuf characterized as a success. It started with a ground offensive led by local forces and was followed by U.S. strikes.

There was no immediate word from the U.S. military on Sunday. (Posted 7:52 a.m.)

Olmert: Attacks on militants will continue as long as it brings results

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- As long as it brings results, Israeli security forces will continue to combat Palestinian militants in Gaza and the West Bank despite a seeming decrease in rocket attacks, Israel's prime minister said Sunday.

Speaking at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said "in light of what seems to be a decrease in the firing of Qassam rockets...we are not negotiating" with the Palestinian militants.

Israeli security forces, he said, "will continue to act against terrorists in the south, in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank relentlessly."

He underscored that "no one has immunity" and added "this activity will continue as long as it brings results."

His comments came mere hours after a mortar shell attack wounded four Israeli soldiers north of Gaza in Israel, close to Erez crossing, the army said. Another shell landed in Nativ Haasara Sunday morning, but no one was wounded.

-- CNN's Shira Medding contributed to this report (Posted 6:36 a.m.)

Iraqi ministry official: U.S. warplanes bomb Sadr City

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Five people were killed and three others were wounded during a five-hour Iraqi army operation, backed by U.S. forces, conducted overnight Saturday in two districts of eastern Baghdad's sprawling Sadr City neighborhood, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official told CNN on Sunday.

According to the ministry official state-run Iraqiya TV, U.S. warplanes bombarded houses in Sadr City's Habibiya district.

Witnesses told CNN explosions could be heard in Sadr City and U.S. helicopters could be seen hovering overhead. In addition, U.S. warplanes, they said, were seen bombing houses.

When contacted while the operation was ongoing the U.S. military declined to comment, stating it does not comment on ongoing operations. Following the operation the military could not be reached immediately.

The operation started Saturday around 9:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m. ET) and ended Sunday at 2:30 a.m. (Saturday 6:30 p.m. ET), the ministry official said.

-- From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq (Posted 2:26 a.m.)

Castro seen on Cuban TV, first time in 4 months

HAVANA (CNN) -- For the first time in four months, Cuban leader Fidel Castro was shown standing and talking in video footage that aired Sunday on state-run Cuban TV.

Castro, 80, was seen laughing, smiling and standing without assistance in an apparent meeting with Vietnamese Communist Party chief Nong Duc Manh.

Nothing of significance was said during the filmed encounter, CNN's Shasta Darlington in Havana reported.

While there are no doubts of Castro's slow recovery, as evidenced in an increasing number of editorials published in Cuban newspapers, he has not shown signs of resuming his power over the communist island.

In the past 10 months Casto has appeared in numerous videos and photos wearing a track suit. Commiserate with his previous appearances, during Sunday's televised appearance he donned a red and black track suit with white piping -- a sign that he was not meeting with Manh in any formal, official capacity, according to Darlington.

"If he were to resume power he would be wearing an olive green uniform," she reported on CNN. "Since he handed power July 31 last year to Raul we have only seen him in track suits." (Posted 1:56 a.m.)

NATO soldier, translator killed in ambush in eastern Afghanistan

(CNN) -- One NATO soldier and a civilian NATO translator were killed when their convoy was ambushed Saturday in eastern Afghanistan, NATO's International Security Assistance Forces said Sunday.

Seven other NATO soldiers were wounded by the small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades used during the attack. They were evacuated and are receiving treatment at a medical facility.

"Their conditions are unknown at this time although none are considered life threatening," a NATO statement said.

The soldiers' nationalities and the exact location of the operation were not released. (Posted 1:03 a.m.)

Report: 2 dead, more than 200 injured in China quake

(CNN) -- Two people were killed and more than 200 others injured early Sunday when a strong quake rattled southwestern China's Yunnan Province, China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The China Earthquake Administration put the quake at magnitude 6.4, according to Xinhua. The U.S. Geological Survey said it was magnitude 6.2. It struck the province at 5:34 a.m. Sunday (5:34 p.m. Saturday ET), the USGS said.

Xinhua reported the temblor shook the old town of Hani and Yi Autonomous County of Ning'er in Pu'er City. Fifteen people were seriously injured in the county, Xinhua said, citing rescue sources. Some houses in the region collapsed, and some roads were destroyed. The quake also affected communication networks and water and power services to the county, Xinhua said. (Posted 11:20 p.m.)

FBI adds child murder suspect to Top 10 list

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Honduran man suspected in the strangling death of a 5-year-old girl seven years ago in Philadelphia was added to the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" list, the agency said Saturday.

Alexis Flores, a convicted felon, is linked to the death of Iriana DeJesus on Aug. 3, 2000, by DNA evidence, the agency said in a statement. He also goes by the names Mario Flores, Mario Roberto and Alex Contreras. He is believed to be 31 years old, although he has used dates of birth ranging from 1975 to 1982, the FBI said.

Flores is believed to have lived in the apartment building where the girl's body was found. She had been reported missing six days earlier, and was last seen with a Latino man who told people he was from Honduras and was looking for work and a place to stay, the FBI said.

Authorities had few leads into the slaying until Philadelphia FBI agents were notified earlier this year that a DNA sample from an Arizona convict matched evidence in the girl's death, the FBI said. Flores was convicted of forgery in Arizona and deported to Honduras following his release from prison in 2005. (Posted 10:50 p.m.)



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