Skip to main content
  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print

The CNN Wire: Wednesday, July 11

Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

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.

Lebanon army launches final assault against militants

From CNN's Anthony Mills in Beirut

(CNN) -- The Lebanese army pounded a Palestinian refugee camp Thursday in a final bid to oust Islamist militants entrenched inside the camp, located near Tripoli in northern Lebanon, a high ranking Lebanese security source told CNN.

Fighting around the coastal Nahr al-Bared camp has been simmering on and off for about eight weeks, but fresh army reinforcements have been brought into the area as part of a final assault, the source said. (Posted 2:23 a.m.)

Israeli soldier killed during army, militant clashes

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- An Israeli soldier was killed and two others were wounded when army forces clashed with armed militants in central Gaza overnight, Israel Defense Forces said Thursday.

The army crossed into Gaza during an operation targeting a terror infrastructure in El-Bureij refugee camp, the IDF said.

The operation is ongoing.

--From CNN's Michal Zippori (Posted 1:45 a.m.)

Firefighters union hits Giuliani's 9/11 leadership

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The country's largest U.S. firefighters union Wednesday blasted former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's performance in the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center, aiming a blow at the cornerstone of Giuliani's presidential campaign.

Survivors of the attack and relatives of some of those who died in the twin towers blamed Giuliani for a lack of radio gear they said could have saved the lives of more than 100 firefighters who had been ordered to evacuate the north tower before it collapsed.

And they criticized Giuliani for placing his emergency command center in the World Trade Center complex before the attacks, after the towers had been the target of a previous bombing in 1993.

Giuliani's campaign responded by accusing the union of being a partisan group, with a history of supporting Democrats. The campaign released a statement from a retired firefighter, Lee Ielpi, who accused IAFF leaders of being "clearly out of step with their membership." (Posted 9:30 p.m.)

Officer says accused Marine followed rules in Haditha killings

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A hearing officer has recommended dropping murder charges against one of eight Marines accused of killing civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha, citing forensic evidence and inconsistent statements from Iraqi witnesses.

Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt is one of four members of a Marine squad accused of going on a rampage in the western Iraqi town in November 2005, killing up to two dozen civilians after a comrade was killed by a roadside bomb. In addition, four Marine officers were accused of failing to investigate and report the civilian deaths.

But Lt. Col. Paul Ware, a hearing officer at Camp Pendleton, Calif., concluded in a report to a top Marine commander that Sharratt was acting "in accord with the rules of engagement and use of force" when he shot and killed three members of an Iraqi family in their Haditha home. (Posted 8:14 p.m.)

Government report: Al Qaeda strongest since 9/11 attacks

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Despite a campaign of military action and counterterrorism operations, al Qaeda is the strongest it has been since the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a new U.S. government analysis concludes, according to a senior government official who has seen it.

The five-page intelligence analysis remains classified and was prepared for senior U.S. policymakers. It was not issued in response to a specific threat.

Counterterrorism officials familiar with the new report tell CNN it also deals with the issue of al Qaeda's resurgence in the tribal areas of Pakistan, which has been of great concern to U.S. officials for some time. In a House Armed Services Committee hearing Wednesday, several senior intelligence officials talked about how the terror group has found a safe haven in that area and said it has not been helpful in the war on terror.

Two intelligence officials said the conclusions of this report are similar to what is expected to be contained in a new National Intelligence Estimate about terror threats to the U.S. homeland that is anticipated to be released later this summer. A NIE is the intelligence community's collective analysis of pressing national security issues.

-- From Justice Correspondent Kelli Arena (Posted 8:09 p.m.)

Report: Government able to take initial steps toward building dirty bomb

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Government investigators created a bogus company to obtain a genuine license for radioactive materials, altered the license and took initial steps a terrorist could have taken to collect enough materials to build a moderate-sized dirty bomb, according to a report obtained by CNN.

The report, to be the subject of a Senate hearing Thursday, exposed holes in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's licensing system, which the NRC says it has since plugged.

Investigators with the Government Accountability Office -- the investigative branch of Congress -- said that in only 28 days, they created the bogus company without leaving their Washington offices, were able to get an NRC license for the purchase of construction equipment that contains nuclear materials, altered the license to make it appear it could be used for an unrestricted amount of nuclear material and got commitments from two suppliers for machines containing radioactive material.

From those machines, enough radioactive material -- Americium-241 and Cesium-137 -- could have been extracted to create a dirty bomb -- a non-fissile bomb that nonetheless would create chaos by distributing radioactive material over an area, congressional staffers said.

-- From CNN Producer Mike M. Ahlers (Posted 7:30 p.m.)

Uneasy GOP senators press Hadley, as Republicans win test vote

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Republican support in the Senate for President Bush's Iraq war policy held sufficiently Wednesday to block a Democratic move to place limits on deployments of U.S. troops, but nervous GOP lawmakers gave Bush's point man an earful during a mission to the Capitol to shore up the troops.

Republican senators had what was described as "vigorous" exchange with National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, in which some lawmakers expressed frustration about the Bush administration's Iraq policy and pushed for adoption of the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group.

Meanwhile, three Republican senators have now signed on to a more sweeping Democratic proposal calling for American combat troops to leave Iraq by next April, which the White House has vowed to veto.

Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Gordon Smith of Oregon have co-sponsored an amendment from Democratic Sens. Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Carl Levin of Michigan that would require a pullout to begin within four months of passage.

However, in order to get the amendment over procedural hurdles in the Senate, Reed and Levin will likely need to find at least eight more Republican votes before their proposal comes to a vote later this week or early next week. (Posted 6:48 p.m.)

Typhoon nears U.S. Air Force base on Okinawa

(CNN) -- A strong typhoon churning in the western Pacific Ocean is forecast to make a near-direct hit on a U.S. Air Force base on the Japanese island of Okinawa, a major hub for U.S. forces in the Pacific, forecasters said Wednesday.

Typhoon Man-yi is forecast to turn north and then northeastward, coming within four miles of Kadena Air Base Friday morning, the Hawaii-based Joint Typhoon Warning Center reported.

On Wednesday, Man-yi was equivalent to a Category 3 hurricane -- a major storm. By the time it reaches Okinawa, it is forecast to be packing winds equivalent to those of a Category 4 hurricane -- about 135 mph, with gusts of up to 170 mph.

Kadena Air Base is home to the Air Force's largest combat wing -- the 18th Wing -- along with a variety of associate units. Nearly 18,000 Americans are stationed there, according to the Air Force. (Posted 6:27 p.m.)

Former first lady Lady Bird Johnson dies

AUSTIN, Texas (CNN) -- "Lady Bird" Johnson, the woman who became first lady during the one of the darkest days in United States' history, died Wednesday, family spokesman Tom Johnson said. She was 94.

She was the widow of Lyndon Baines Johnson, sworn in as the nation's 36th president on November 22, 1963, just hours after President John F. Kennedy's assassination.

The former first lady was born Claudia Alta Taylor in 1912 in Karnack, Texas, a small town near Louisiana's border. She got her unusual nickname while still a toddler from her African-American nurse who proclaimed the child was as "purty as a lady bird." (Posted 6:27 p.m.)

House committee to delve into claims of political interference with Office of Surgeon General

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The chairman of a House oversight committee Wednesday requested documents from the Secretary of Health and Human Services related to possible political interference with the work of the Surgeon General's office.

Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told Secretary Michael Leavitt that former Surgeon General Richard Carmona had told lawmakers that "political appointees edited his public remarks, blocked him from developing or issuing several reports or calls to action, and denied travel requests on political grounds."

Waxman set a deadline of July 25 for Leavitt to respond.

Waxman's letter followed the testimony Tuesday from three former surgeon generals -- Carmona, David Satcher and C. Everett Koop -- that the office has been increasingly politicized in recent years, particularly during the Bush administration. (Posted 5:18 p.m.)

GOP senators have 'vigorous' exchange with Hadley on Iraq

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Republican senators had a "vigorous" exchange Wednesday with National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, in which some GOP lawmakers expressed frustration about the Bush administration's Iraq policy and pushed for adoption of the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group.

Emerging from the hour-long private meeting in the Capitol, several senators said they urged the president to begin planning now for a repositioning of U.S. involvement in Iraq after the American commander there, Gen. David Petraeus, releases a progress report in September.

In December, the Iraq Study Group, chaired by former Republican Secretary of State Jim Baker and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton, recommended adopting a more limited role for U.S. troops in Iraq and shifting them to more secure positions.

Bush instead sent 30,000 more U.S. troops into Iraq to try to control the violence there.

-- From CNN's Evan Glass and Dana Bash (Posted 5:17 p.m.)

Feds: Pizza man involved in plot that led to his death

ERIE, Pa. (CNN) -- The pizza deliveryman who robbed a bank nearly four years ago and then died when a bomb affixed to his neck exploded shortly afterward was a conspirator in the robbery plot, federal authorities said Wednesday.

Brian Wells, 46, died Aug. 28, 2003, when the bomb exploded as he sat in a parking lot after being stopped by police shortly after he robbed the PNC Bank in Summit Township using a note demanding cash and saying he had a bomb. The case drew national attention and was the subject of intense investigation and questions about whether Wells was a willing participant or a murder victim.

Part of the plan was that, if Wells died during the heist, "he could not be a witness against the other co-conspirators," U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan told reporters. (Posted 4:23 p.m.)

Military: Insurgents blow up Anbar house, killing 11

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- At least 11 people were killed Wednesday when insurgents locked them into a house in the village of Karmah and destroyed the building with explosives, the U.S. military said.

The house was owned by someone involved with the Provincial Security Forces, the military said, adding that Iraqi police rescued five people from the building's rubble, but all five later died of their wounds.

Karmah is in Anbar province, about 28 miles (45 km) west of Baghdad and 9 miles (15 km) east of Falluja. (Posted 3:31 p.m.)

Despite Chertoff's rumbling gut, White House says no credible terror threats

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Despite the "gut feeling" of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, the White House said Wednesday that there is no specific, credible evidence of an imminent terrorist attack on the United States.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Chertoff had not shared his "gut feeling" with anyone at the White House, and the chairman of the House committee that oversees Homeland Security urged the secretary to detail his peptic premonitions in a classified briefing with Congress.

Chertoff told the Chicago Tribune on Tuesday that the nation faced a period of "increased risk" of terrorism this summer, citing an increase in public statements from the al Qaeda terrorist network, "increased activity in South Asia" -- where the network's leaders are believed to be hiding -- and a history of previous summer attacks.

"We've struck at them and degraded them, but they rebuild," he told the newspaper. "All these things have given me kind of a gut feeling that we are in a period of increased vulnerability." (Posted 2:21 p.m.)

Fire damages unoccupied Miami airport tower

MIAMI (CNN) -- An unoccupied control tower at Miami International Airport caught fire Wednesday afternoon, sending black smoke billowing over the facility, an airport spokesman said.

The fire is believed to have been sparked by construction work around the tower, which assigns aircraft on the ground to airport gates, spokesman Greg Chin said.

The facility is part of an expansion of the north side of the airport, and is not in use, he said.

There were no injuries reported. (Posted 2:19 p.m.)

Latest incidents of violence in Iraq

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Here is the latest rundown of attacks in Iraq, according to police and an Iraqi Interior Ministry official: Baghdad

-- A car bomb targeting a U.S. military convoy exploded in the central Alwiya district, killing one civilian and wounding two others on Wednesday.

-- Iraqi soldiers shot dead a would-be suicide bomber driving a car aiming to attack their checkpoint in Saydiya district in southwestern Baghdad on Wednesday.

-- Four Iraqi police were killed and two others were wounded when gunmen attacked an Iraqi police patrol in Sleikh neighborhood in northern Baghdad, Tuesday around 8 p.m. local time.

-- Iraqi police found 30 bullet-riddled bodies across the capital on Wednesday, some of them blindfolded, with their hands tied to their backs and showing signs of torture.

This brings the total of unidentified bodies found in the capital during July to 221. Salaheddin province (NW of Baghdad)

-- At least 20 gunmen stormed the house of Samarra's deputy mayor Abboud Hamid, shot him several times and killed him. The attack happened around 2 p.m. in Samarra's Sikak neighborhood.

-- The U.S. military found 12 unidentified bodies on a highway between Samarra and Tikrit and handed them over to the Tikrit general hospital on Tuesday. Babil province (south of Baghdad)

-- Four people were killed and 15 others were wounded when three mortar rounds landed on a residential area in Iskandariya on Tuesday around 8 p.m. local time. (Posted 1:27 p.m.)

Democrats fall short in test vote on U.S. troop rotation changes

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A procedural vote -- seen as a test of whether Democrats have gained enough momentum from disaffected Republican senators to begin forcing changes in the U.S. strategy in Iraq -- failed by four votes Wednesday.

But Democrats said the planned to offer more amendments and similar procedural votes are expected in coming weeks.

Senators lacked the four votes needed to bring to the floor a Democrat-sponsored amendment that would have restricted U.S. troop rotations in Iraq and Afghanistan to ensure troops more time at home.

The tally for the procedural motion was 56 to 41. Sixty votes were required for cloture, or to cut off debate on the measure so a vote could be held.

Under the proposal by Jim Webb, D-Va., military personnel who return from deployments would have had to remain stateside for at least as long as they spent overseas, before they could be sent back.

Bush vetoed a Democratic-led effort to set a date for withdrawal from Iraq in May. That push is being renewed this week in Congress, with proposed changes to the National Defense Authorization Act for the 2008 budget year.

There are increasing calls from Republican lawmakers to begin a drawdown of U.S. troops.

The Senate vote comes one day before the White House is to deliver an interim report to Congress on how well the Iraqi government is meeting political benchmarks.

Under the amendment by Webb, for National Guard and Reserve members, the time between deployments would have to be at least three times as long as the time spent in deployment.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has urged Republicans who criticize Bush's policy to join Democrats in supporting amendments such as Webb's.

"If Republicans don't believe that our courageous men and women in uniform deserve more rest, including mental health down time, they can vote "no" on this amendment," Reid said on the Senate floor before the vote.

"If they don't agree that constant redeployments and recruiting shortages are straining our armed forces, they can vote "no" on this amendment. But to block this amendment, to not even give it an up-or-down vote shows that some of my Republican colleagues are protecting their president rather than protecting our troops," he added.

Seven Republicans voted for cloture, and Democrat-Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut cast a dissenting vote. (Posted 1:18 p.m.)

Not guilty plea entered in JFK fuel tank case From CNN NY's Chris Browne:

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Russel DeFreitas, accused of plotting to blow up fuel tanks at John F. Kennedy International Airport, pleaded not guilty Wednesday in federal court in Brooklyn.

Federal Magistrate Lois Bloom granted an extension so that the other three defendants appearing in the indictment can be extradited from Trinidad and the evidence reviewed.

"We are conducting our own investigation and we are very pleased with what we have found," said Andrew Carter, DeFreitas' lawyer.

DeFreitas (de-FREE-tas) will reappear Aug. 2, the day his codefendants -- Kareem Ibrahim, Abdul Kadir and Abdel Nur -- are to be extradited.

Ibrahim is from Trinidad. Nur and Kadir are from Guyana. The three men have declared they are innocent. DeFreitas is a naturalized U.S. citizen native to Guyana.

The four men are charged with plotting to blow up fuel lines at the international hub in Queens, N.Y.

DeFreitas, 63, who was arrested June 2, and the other men face charges of "conspiring to unlawfully deliver, place, discharge and detonate an explosive device in, into and against a public transportation system" -- JFK Airport -- and against its fuel tanks and pipelines with the intent to do bodily injury, according to a complaint filed in federal court.

Such destruction would cause extensive damage and likely result in "major economic loss," the complaint says.

Some of their conversations were allegedly secretly taped by an informant working for the FBI. (Posted 12:18 p.m.)

Senate defeats procedural vote on U.S. troop rotations

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senators on Wednesday refused to bring to a vote a Democrat-sponsored amendment that would set time limits between U.S. troop rotations in Iraq and Afghanistan, to give troops more time at home.

The tally was 56 to 41, failing to receive the 60 votes required to cut off debate on the amendment so a vote could be held.

Under the proposal by Jim Webb, D-Va., military personnel who return from deployments would have had to remain stateside for at least as long as they spent overseas, before they could be sent back. (Posted 12:04 p.m.)

Lantos rips into State Department for passport delays From CNN's Charley Keyes

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Rep. Tom Lantos, ripped into the State Department Wednesday for widespread delays in issuing passports, calling them "a travesty" and "a national embarrassment" reminiscent of the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina.

"The U.S. passport system is broken and Americans are paying a painful price," the California Democrat said in a statement prepared for a hearing Wednesday. "Our constituents have been reduced to begging and pleading, waiting for months on end, simply for the right to travel abroad."

Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, Maura Harty, in her prepared statement to the committee, said, "We have heard the message."

"The current situation is untenable and we are committed to turning it around," she said. "We are taking the steps necessary to correct the current situation and re-establish passport service that is reliable, predictable and secure."

The government underestimated the impact of post-9/11 security laws that require all Americans wishing to travel into or out of the country to have passports.

In June, the State Department eased some of the planned requirements. For example, Americans who don't have a passport but can show they have applied for one can return through September by air from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda or countries in the Caribbean. And passport requirements for sea and land travelers from the region were delayed until 2009.

Harty spelled out for the committee a list of steps the State Department has taken to dig out from underneath the passport backlog. Hundreds of new employees have been dispatched to work in passport centers in New Orleans and New Hampshire; more than 1,000 new staff have been recruited; State Department employees are volunteering; and some Foreign Service Officers have been called back from overseas assignments or pulled out of language courses to help.(Posted 12:01 p.m.)

Sources: Pizza deliveryman was part of bomb plot

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Authorities will announce Wednesday that Brian Wells, the pizza deliveryman who died when a bomb attached to his neck detonated, was involved in the plot that took his life, two sources with knowledge of the investigation said.

The sources would not divulge more details because of the news conference planned for Wednesday afternoon in which charges against two other persons allegedly involved in the case will also be announced.

Wells died Aug. 28, 2003, in Erie, Pa., after he claimed gunmen had grabbed him, locked the bomb around his neck and ordered him to rob a bank. After the robbery, he was detained, sat on the pavement and recounted to police the story. A bomb squad was called, but the device detonated before the squad arrived.

Two sources told CNN one of the individuals who will be indicted is Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, who has been linked to the case for years. Investigators have said the body of her boyfriend was found in a freezer in a home close to where Wells made his final delivery. Diehl-Armstrong is in prison after pleading guilty but mentally ill in the murder of her boyfriend.

One of the sources told CNN the other person expected to be charged is Kenneth Barnes, whom the source described as a fishing buddy of Wells. (Posted 11:41 a.m.)

British cleric flees Baghdad amid reported threats

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A British cleric trying to negotiate the release of five British hostages seized in Baghdad has returned to the United Kingdom amid reports that extremists were distributing threatening pamphlets in the Iraqi capital that labeled him a spy, according to the cleric's office and the British Embassy in the Iraqi capital.

Canon Andrew White recently made headlines when he told reporters earlier this month that a man he met in Jordan said, "Those who cure you will kill you" -- months before the attempted terror attacks in London and Glasgow believed to have been carried out by foreign-born doctors.

He said the man -- an Iraqi Sunni whom White referred to as "the devil" -- made the comment as part of a litany of hostile statements about the United States and Britain and their role in Iraq.

The pamphlets threatened to kill the five British hostages if White did not cease his attempts to find their whereabouts and leave Iraq, according to a report posted on al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper. CNN is checking this report.

According to the newspaper's account, the pamplets were dropped in Sadr City and Karrada, two Shiite Baghdad neighborhoods.

Rosie Tapper, a spokeswoman for the British embassy, rejected the assertion that White was a spy, saying he "is a religious man who was speaking to other religious leaders in the interest of the safety of the British hostages."(Posted 11:35 a.m.)

Assemblyman withdraws bill that would have required pets be spayed

(CNN) -- The assemblyman who proposed requiring that Californians spay or neuter their pets has temporarily withdrawn his proposed bill from consideration after becoming the object of personal attacks, he said Wednesday.

"I think we could have worked collaboratively toward a solution but instead it became a matter of name calling and everything under the sun to get people afraid of the measure and just finally created too much noise and too much fear," said Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys.

But Levine said he remains committed to the issue. In California, about half of the 1 million dogs and cats taken each year to shelters are euthanized at a cost to taxpayers of $300 million, he said.

"Both from a fiscal and a humanitarian viewpoint, that is just wrong," he said. "It's a failure here in California, and we need to do better. How we do it, I'm not sure."

Levine invited his opponents "to put down the rhetoric and come and help me and I think, together, we can solve the problem."

Levine said he made the decision to pull the bill on Tuesday afternoon after determining that the bill would not pass in a planned Wednesday vote, despite support from shelter workers and directors.

A spokesman for Levine said that, had the bill been defeated, Levine would have had to introduce a new bill next year. By withdrawing the current version, which has already passed the Assembly, he can simply tweak it and bring the modified bill to a Senate vote in January, the spokesman said.

Under the bill, owners who did not have their animals spayed or neutered by four months of age could have been ticketed and fined up to $500.

The bill is based on a Santa Cruz ordinance enacted in 1995. Officials say that, since then, the county shelter has seen a 2/3 drop in the number of animals, and none have been euthanized.

Opponents said dog owners should have the right to keep their dogs unaltered.

The bill would have exempted breeding, rescue, law enforcement, guide and show dogs. But critics said those provisions were not sufficient.

"Anything that restricts the gene pool at an earlier age may eliminate a particularly valuable dog form the breeding population before he or she is identified," said bill opponent Douglas Surber in an interview last month.

-- CNN's Chris Lawrence contributed to this story. (Poster 11:19 a.m.)

Snowe 2nd Republican to back Democratic troop-withdrawal proposal

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine will co-sponsor a Democratic troop-withdrawal amendment that would bring U.S. troops home from Iraq by April 30, 2008, CNN learned from an aide Wednesday.

The senator from Maine became the second Republican to sign on as sponsor of the proposal by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., that calls for a withdrawal to begin within 120 days of the bill's passage. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., also backs the measure.

Snowe indicated Tuesday she was leaning toward supporting it.

A vote on the proposal is expected late this week or early next. (Posted 11:04 a.m.)

U.S., Iraqi forces take out 'very big' al Qaeda hideout in Diyala; 20 dead, 20 in custody

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iraqi and coalition forces -- with the help of Iraqi civilians -- carried out a massive raid on an al Qaeda hideout northeast of Baghdad, killing 20 al-Qaeda terrorists and detaining 20 others, the U.S. military announced Wednesday .

U.S. airstrikes pounded river crossings and a bridge in the town of Sherween -- involving eight 2,000-pound bombs and 14 500-pound bombs -- in an effort to isolate the al Qaeda militants who had infiltrated the town of Sherween.

Staff Maj. Gen. Abdul Kareem, commander of Iraqi Security Forces in Diyala province, said Operation Saber Guardian, which began early Tuesday, caught the terrorists off guard.

"This operation was very important for the people of Sherween because we were able to find a very big hideout for the terrorists," he said. "It was a very big surprise for the terrorists and the people that support them."

The U.S. military news release said residents of the town "played a vital role in this operation as they fought side-by-side the ISF (Iraqi Security Forces) to help them capture and kill known terrorists."

Maj. John Woodward, executive officer of the U.S. troops involved in the operation, said the raid will have a significant political impact in Diyala, where the U.S. military says al Qaeda terrorists have fled since the massive security crackdown in Baghdad.

Woodward said the raid will help "facilitate Sunni resistance fighting in the Muqdadiya area as the people have grown tired of the destruction al-Qaeda offers." (Posted 10:56 a.m.)

Senators nearing key procedural vote on U.S. troop deployments

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senators are to decide late Wednesday morning whether to end debate and advance to a vote on a Democrat-sponsored amendment that would limit U.S. troop deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The vote is being seen as a test of whether Democrats have gained enough momentum from disaffected Republican senators to begin forcing changes in the U.S. strategy in Iraq.

Bush vetoed a Democratic-led effort to set a date for withdrawal from Iraq in May. That push is being renewed this week in Congress, with proposed changes to the Department of Defense authorization bill, which contains agency policies for the 2008 budget year.

The procedural motion requires 60 votes for passage under Senate rules, and many political observers predict that despite many Republican defections from President Bush's "troop surge" policy in Iraq, the effort will fail. There are increasing calls from Republican lawmakers to begin a drawdown of U.S. troops.

The Senate vote comes one day before the White House is to deliver an interim report to Congress on how well the Iraqi government is meeting political benchmarks.

Under the amendment by Jim Webb, D-Va., military personnel who return from deployments would have to remain stateside for at least as long as they spent overseas before they could be sent back.

For National Guard and Reserve members, the time between deployments would have to be at least three times as long as the time spent in deployment. (Posted 10:43 a.m.)

1 dead, 19 missing after passenger ship disappears off coast of Indonesia

(CNN) -- At least one person is dead and 19 others missing after a passenger ship disappeared between the islands of Ambon and Buru in eastern Indonesia, a port official told CNN.

It's not clear how many people were aboard the ship.

Officials predict there will be more survivors, because the area in which the ship went missing is dotted with several small ports and islands where people could take refuge. (Posted 9:31 a.m.)

Pakistani troops nearly done with room-to-room search at Red Mosque

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistani forces were almost finished combing through the many rooms of the Red Mosque complex Wednesday in search of unexploded grenades and anti-government militants still straggling behind inside, an army spokesman said.

Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad told reporters "the whole area has to be sanitized" before anyone can enter the compound because "we don't want unexploded grenades or mines or any other explosives lying around."

He said the first phase, which focused on clearing the area of militants and ensuring innocent women and children were not inside, was finished and the second phase, the combing operation, was about to end.

Arshad declined to comment on the number of militant corpses found inside the mosque and underscored the need to clear the entire complex before discussing those exact figures. (Posted 7:37 a.m.)

Coalition forces conduct raid, air strike to weed out 'secret cell terrorists'

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- The U.S. military said coalition forces arrested one "suspected secret cell terrorist" in an early-morning raid conducted Wednesday in southwest Baghdad.

The military said the man detained is believed to be affiliated with the Jaish al-Mahdi, a terror group suspected of launching attacks on civilians and coalition troops in the capital.

On Tuesday, coalition forces killed three "suspected secret cell terrorists" during a precision air strike launched near al-Majar al-Kabir, a predominately Shiite town close to the Iranian border, the military said Wednesday.

The "suspected terrorists" are thought to have links to Iranian elements responsible for providing funds, weapons and military assistance to the secret cells.

The military said the air strike "targeted these specific individuals" following "numerous intelligence sources and tips from local Iraqis." (Posted 5:23 a.m.)

German woman kidnapped in Iraq now free

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A German woman held hostage in Iraq since February was freed Tuesday but the fate of her adult son -- who was also kidnapped -- was not immediately known, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a statement issued Wednesday.

The woman, identified as Hannelore Marianne Krause, is now in Germany's embassy in Baghdad after being held captive for 155 days.

Steinmeier said he was "very relieved" Krause was released, yet there still remains "a great deal of uncertainty" about her son, who "remains in captivity."

"Rest assured we will do everything in our power to reach her son, Sinan," the foreign minister said.

In early March Iraqi militants holding Krause and her son hostage demanded that Germany withdraw its troops from Afghanistan to ensure their safety.

--From CNN's Diana Magnay in Berlin (Posted 4:45 a.m.)

Maoist rebel hideout uncovered, Indian security officials killed

(CNN) -- Maoist rebels killed at least 20 Indian security personnel members during a pitched battle in the densely forested terrain of eastern India's Dantewada district Monday night, Dantewada District Police Superintendent Rahul Sharma told CNN.

The violence sparked after a team of about 115 armed police officers, led by India's Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), uncovered a rebel hideout located about 440 km south of the state capital, Raipur.

The police superintendent said while security officers were attempting to flush out the rebels, the well-trained Maoists opened fire on them with automatic weapons and a heavy gun battle ensued.

--From CNN's Tess Eastment (Posted 2:31 a.m.)

White House says Bush will veto Iraq withdrawal timetable

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush will veto a defense appropriations bill now being debated on the Senate floor if lawmakers include an amendment setting a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, the White House said Tuesday.

Senate Democratic leaders have said they plan to bring forward an amendment from Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Carl Levin, D-Mich., that calls for beginning a redeployment of U.S. troops in as little as four months, to be completed by next spring. House Democratic leaders announced late Tuesday that they would bring a similar proposal to a vote by the end of the week.

But in a policy statement issued Tuesday by the Office of Management and Budget, the White House said the proposed Reed-Levin amendment infringed on Bush's authority as commander-in-chief and was "equivalent to setting a date for failure." "If the president were presented a bill that includes such provisions, he would veto the bill," the statement said.

Senate Democrats are trying to attach the withdrawal timetable to the appropriations bill that funds the Defense Department for fiscal year 2008. However, to overcome procedural hurdles in the Senate, the Reed-Levin amendment would likely need backing from at least 10 Republicans, and -- despite recent cracks in GOP solidarity on the Iraq war -- it is unclear whether the proposal would draw enough GOP votes. (Posted 10:41 p.m.) E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print