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Friday, March 24

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.

Tortured bodies found in Baghdad; bomb blast kills 4 others

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Six tortured and strangled bodies were found by U.S. soldiers inside a parked car in the al-Khadraa section of western Baghdad Friday evening, Baghdad police said.

A bomb, hidden inside a booth used by traffic police, exploded at 6:40 a.m. Saturday as a minibus passed by in southeast Baghdad's al-Waziriya neighborhood, police said.

Four Iraqi civilians were killed and two were wounded by the blast, police said. Also Saturday morning, an unidentified body was found in the al-Saydiya neighborhood of southwest Baghdad. Police said it showed signs of torture and there was a gunshot to the head. (Posted 2:07 a.m.)

Justice Dept. responds to congressional eavesdropping questions

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Justice Department late Friday told Congress the controversial NSA monitoring program aimed at eavesdropping on terrorists does not specifically carve out exceptions for communications which are ordinarily considered privileged including calls between doctors and their patients or lawyers and their clients.

The Justice Department sought to quietly respond to dozens of pending questions from lawmakers by releasing the extensive written answers after the close of business on Friday. But critics promptly seized on the administration replies, and, in particular, targeted the issue of intercepting privileged phone calls.

In response to a question from House Judiciary Committee Democrats inquiring whether any communications involving doctor-patient or attorney-client calls were captured by the NSA program, the Justice Department did not rule it out. "

Although the Program does not specifically target the communications of attorneys or physicians, calls involving such persons would not be categorically excluded from interception," the Justice Department said, so long as the government had "probable cause to believe that at least one party is a member or agent of Al Qaeda or an affilated terrorist organization".

The ranking Committee Democrat Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., pointedly criticized the notion.

"In one of the few revealing answers the Department suggests that communications between attorneys and clients or doctors and patients may be captured through warrantless wiretaps," Conyers said in a written statement. (Posted 12:15 a.m.)

Security Council moves to extend, expand Sudan peacekeeping mission

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- The U.N. Security Council agreed Friday to extend its peacekeeping mission in war-torn Sudan for at least six months, as well as speeding up preparations to expand the operation by taking over an African Union peacekeeping effort in the country.

Under the resolution adopted Friday, the U.N. mission in Sudan, which began last year, would be extended until at least Sept. 24, "with the intention to renew it for further periods."

The resolution also gives Secretary-General Kofi Annan one month to develop a plan for the United Nations to assume responsibility for the African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, the western Sudanese province where war and famine have claimed tens of thousands of lives over the last three years. (Posted 10:02 p.m.)

Explosive devices placed at Colorado buildings; man sought

(CNN) -- Five homemade explosive devices were placed at buildings -- at least two of them homes -- in Grand Junction, Colo. Friday, and police were trying to locate a Grand Junction man in connection with the incidents. No one was injured.

Police were able to detonate three of the devices before they exploded. The devices were found at different addresses between about 4:30 a.m. and 9:45 a.m. (6:30 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. ET)

Local, state and federal authorities Friday afternoon named a 54-year-old man a person of interest in the case, but gave no specifics. Meanwhile, a security sweep was conducted at Grand Junction's Walker Field airport, and the airport's control tower was evacuated and a sweep conducted there, according to the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration. (Posted 10:01 p.m.)

Child's body found in New Orleans home

(CNN) -- Authorities on Friday found the body of a small girl in the splintered remains of a home in the Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood of New Orleans.

Cadaver dogs working the area detected a scent, and the Army Corps of Engineers used heavy machinery to pull back the debris so the body -- that of a young girl with pigtails, wearing a backpack -- could be recovered.

More than 1,100 deaths in Louisiana have been blamed on Katrina, which struck Aug. 29 near the Louisiana-Mississippi state line. The storm also killed more than 200 people in Mississippi and 15 across Florida, Alabama and Georgia.

At least a dozen bodies have been found in the city since cadaver dogs resumed their work March 1. -- From CNN Correspondent Sean Callebs (Posted 7:24 p.m.)

Report: Russia may have given Iraq information on U.S. strategy after 2003 invasion

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As U.S. troops moved toward Baghdad in April 2003, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was receiving information about U.S. strategy and troop movements purportedly provided to him by Russia's ambassador to Iraq, according to a new Pentagon report.

According to the report, the Russians claimed to have collected the information from sources inside the U.S. Central Command, headquartered in Doha, Qatar.

However, one of the Pentagon officials involved in putting together the report, Brig. Gen. Anthony Cucolo, told CNN Friday that there has been no corroboration of a Russian mole inside Central Command. Also, key details in the information purportedly forwarded to Hussein by the Russians were wrong -- and, anyway, the Iraqi dictator ignored the intelligence in formulating his losing war strategy, Culolo said.

The revelation about a possible Russian pipeline to Hussein was part of a historical analysis put together by the U.S. Joint Forces Command, designed to look at combat operations from the Iraqi perspective in order to learn lessons for future operations. An unclassified version of the report was released Friday by the Pentagon. -- CNN Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre contributed to this report. (Posted 6:20 p.m.)

Terrorist sentenced in 1982 bombing; secret plea deal announced

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Jordanian terrorist was sentenced to seven years in prison in the 1982 bombing of a Pan Am flight Friday after a secret plea deal made more than three years ago was announced.

Mohammed Rashed, a member of the "15 May" terrorist group, pleaded guilty Dec. 17, 2002, in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 830 on Aug. 11, 1982. A Japanese teenager was killed and 15 other passengers injured, but the Tokyo-to-Honolulu flight was able to land safely in Honolulu. The plea deal was kept under seal as Rashed cooperated with prosecutors, officials said. He was sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in Washington, and the plea agreement was unsealed.

In exchange for the shorter sentence, prosecutors said, Rashed has agreed to provide information about other bombings by the now-defunct group and testify at future trials if needed. Two others indicted in the Pan Am bombing -- Abu Ibrahim and Christine Pinter -- are still fugitives. Including the sentence of an additional seven years, Rashed will serve a total of nearly 25 years behind bars for the bombing in U.S. and Greek prisons. -- From CNN Justice Producer Terry Frieden (Posted 6:03 p.m.)

Missing girl found 10 years later; charges filed

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The family of a Pennsylvania woman who surfaced this week, 10 years after she was reported missing after running away from home at the age of 14, was keeping quiet Friday, while the man she claims she lived with during that time will remain in jail over the weekend, charged with sexual assault and other crimes.

Tanya Kach said her relationship with Thomas Hose began when she was an eighth-grade student at Cornell Middle School in McKeesport, Pa. She told police she had been living with and having sex with the 48-year-old man since she disappeared at 14. Police are planning to charge another woman with assisting Kach in her plot to run away.

Kach told her story Tuesday to a deli owner she had befriended, and he contacted police. Hose was charged Wednesday with one count of sexual assault and three counts of deviate sexual intercourse. Kach has been reunited with her father and stepmother. (Posted 5:02 p.m.)

Police urge potential witnesses in missing boys case to come forward

(CNN) -- Police investigating the disappearance of two pre-teen Milwaukee boys said Friday they have reason to believe there are individuals who have important information, and urged them to come forward.

"We believe there's someone out there that has the information that would help us solve this case," said Milwaukee Police spokeswoman Anne Schwartz. That belief, she said, stems from information developed through investigation and what she called "extensive" canvassing and interviews.

Quadrevion Henning, 12, and his friend Purvis Parker, 11, were last seen Sunday afternoon as they headed off to play ball at a park not far from their homes. Despite extensive searches and numerous tips, police are mystified by their disappearance.

Schwartz refused to release specifics. She told CNN police believe there are "young witnesses" who have not come forward. -- CNN's Jonathan Freed contributed to this report. (Posted 4:48 p.m.)

GOP groups criticize White House over judicial nominee's withdrawal

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Conservative legal groups have blasted the White House and Republican Senate leaders following the unexpected withdrawal of a Michigan judge who faced a controversial nomination to a federal court seat.

Judge Henry Saad of the Michigan Appeals Court told the White House late Wednesday he was withdrawing his nomination to the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, based in Cincinnati. The White House quietly confirmed the announcement the next day. Saad had been nominated three times to the seat, the first time in 2001, but faced repeated opposition from his home state senators, Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, both Democrats.

Some conservatives lamented his withdrawal, saying Republican leaders lacked the political will to push the nomination. "Even the best of men can take just so much," said Jan LaRue, chief counsel for Concerned Women of America. "No nominee should expect that 'his side' is going to hang him up as a political piqata and stand by while partisan hacks flail away at him. But that's what happened to Judge Henry Saad." -- From CNN Supreme Court Producer Bill Mears (Posted 4:48 p.m.)

Afghan government source: Convert expected to be released 'in the coming days'

(CNN) -- An Afghan government official said Friday an Afghan man threatened with execution because he converted from Islam to Christianity is expected "to be released in the coming days."

The source, who has detailed knowledge of the case, made the remark as the Afghan Cabinet gets ready to meet Saturday to discuss the case. That meeting was confirmed by President Hamid Karzai's spokesman.

Western nations have been urging the Afghan government -- which came to power after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 that toppled the Taliban regime -- to free the man, Abdul Rahman. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Friday that the United States is working with the Afghans to favorably resolve the case. (Posted 2:41 p.m.)

Kansas meatpacker sues USDA over Mad Cow testing

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Kansas meatpacker sued the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Thursday over rights to test all of its cattle for Mad Cow Disease, company CEO John Stewart announced.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef alleges the USDA is violating the law and infringing on the company's ability to serve its customers by preventing it from testing its cattle. The company is particularly concerned about testing at the behest of Japanese consumers, and claims in its lawsuit that "despite repeated assurances to the contrary over the last two years, the USDA has not been successful in convincing a large number of beef importing countries that they should accept U.S. beef..."

Creekstone claims to have lost $100 million as a result of the Japanese ban on U.S. beef and other bans from foreign buyers, which it says account for 30 percent of its profits. -- From CNN News Assistant Stacey Francisco (Posted 2:29 p.m.)

Police: Wife of slain Tenn. minister confessed to killing

SELMER, Tenn. (CNN) -- The wife of a slain Tennessee minister has confessed to killing him, police in Selmer said Friday.

Investigator Roger Rickman said the Alabama Bureau of Investigation (ABI), which is taking part in questioning Mary Winkler, informed police of the confession. Winkler, 32, faces a charge of first-degree murder.

Matthew Winkler, a 31-year-old popular preacher in the small town of Selmer, Tenn., was found dead Wednesday night. Congregants looking for him entered the family's home -- the church parsonage -- and found his body, shot in the back.

The discovery triggered a search for his wife and three young children. An Amber Alert for the children led a police officer in Orange Beach, Ala. -- about 350 miles from Selmer -- to spot the family's mini-van Thursday evening. He pulled the van over. Mary Winkler was detained and questioned, and remains in custody. (Updated 2:42 p.m.)

Employee of U.S. contractor charged with attempting to bribe Iraqi official

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An employee of a government contractor in Iraq has been arrested and charged with attempting to bribe an Iraqi official in order to win a $1 million contract, the Justice Department announced Friday.

A translator for Titan Corporation, Faheem Mousa Salam, is charged with offering a $60,000 bribe to an Iraqi police official to arrange the sale of 1,000 armored vests and a sophisticated map printer to an Iraqi police training group.

Salam, 27, of Livonia, Michigan was taken into custody when he arrived at Dulles International Airport Thursday upon returning from Iraq. Salam is scheduled to make an initial court appearance in U.S. District Court in Washington later Friday.

If convicted Salam faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $100,000 fine. -- From Justice Producer Terry Frieden (Posted 1:14 p.m.)

Mad cow's second calf has been traced, officials say; never entered the food chain

(CNN) -- Alabama and federal officials said Friday a second calf born to a red cow with mad cow disease has been traced and never entered the food chain.

Officials had said earlier that the Alabama cow had at least two calves, one of which was sent to the government's laboratory in Ames, Iowa for testing. That calf is currently being monitored for the disease. (Posted 12:40 p.m.)

British service member dies in Afghanistan

(CNN) -- The British Defense Ministry on Friday announced the death of a British soldier in Afghanistan.

He is Cpl. Mark Cridge, who died on Wednesday in Camp Bastion in Helmand province.

The ministry said "initial inquiries do not indicate hostile action."

He was in a unit "providing communications" from the camp.

Explosion at French college kills professor, seriously injures one other person

PARIS (CNN) -- An explosion at the National College of Chemistry in Mulhouse (mul-OOZE) in the Alsace region of France killed a professor and seriously injured one other person Friday.

French rescuers said initially 15 to 20 people were missing but they were later accounted for.

Classes were in session at the time of the explosion around 12:25 p.m. local time (6:25 a.m. ET) on the second floor of a three-story building. Officials said the cause of the blast is still unknown. -- From CNN Correspondent Chris Burns (Posted 11:09 a.m.)

Union leaders fail to get French prime minister to suspend controversial new labor law

PARIS (CNN) -- The leaders of five unions met Friday with French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin over the fate of a controversial new labor law but failed to persuade him to suspend it.

After the meeting, the leaders left, telling reporters they had failed to get Villepin to withdraw the law.

The union leaders called for a strong turnout March 28 for a planned "day of action" including strikes and demonstrations against the new law. Villepin told French radio, "Together we must successfully find an answer to the fears of youth."

Nigerian leader visiting President Bush next week

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo will visit President Bush next week, the White House said Friday.

When they meet Wednesday, the two leaders "will discuss a broad range of regional and international issues including continuing cooperation in the areas of Darfur, regional security, energy security, fighting corruption, strengthening democratic institutions, and the need to bring Charles Taylor to justice," the White House said in a statement.

Liberia's newly installed president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, has asked Obasanjo to hand over Taylor, the former Liberian president in exile who faces war crimes charges. (Posted 9:45 a.m.)

Danish soldier killed in roadside bombing near Basra

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A Danish soldier was killed and another was wounded on Thursday night in a roadside bombing near Basra, the British military told CNN on Friday.

The soldiers were on patrol when the explosive detonated. The incident took place at 6:40 p.m. about 15 miles north of Basra.

Danish forces are under the British military command based in Basra.

This brings the number of Danes killed in the Iraqi war to three.

Baghdad Bureau Director Cal Perry contributed to this report (Posted 8:27 a.m.)

12 killed in Iraq violence -- 5 at mosque in Diyala province, 7 in Baghdad; Iraqi soldiers search for insurgents around Kirkuk

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Insurgents on Friday killed 12 people in scattered strikes -- the bombing of a Sunni mosque north of the capital and a couple of attacks in Baghdad.

In addition to the 12, seven people were found slain in Baghdad.

The violence erupted a day after a dramatic period in the capital, where U.S. and Iraqi forces have bolstered their presence while politicians work to form a national unity government.

Attackers on Thursday set off three car bombs that killed 33 people and wounded more than 60 others, and coalition forces rescued the three abducted Christian humanitarian workers. (Posted 8:19 a.m.)

Freeing of aid workers in Iraq spurs hope for abducted journalist Jill Carroll

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- The freeing of the three Christian aid workers in Iraq has raised hope and strengthened resolve that kidnapped journalist Jill Carroll can also be freed from captivity.

"Although their case is unrelated to Jill's, their release gives us new hope that Jill, too, will soon be freed," Carroll's family told The Christian Science Monitor.

"We send our best wishes to these three men and their families, knowing that their reunion will be a joyful one." (Posted 7;41 a.m.)

EU leaders place 'restrictive measures' on Belarus over 'flawed' elections

BRUSSELS (CNN) -- European Union leaders on Friday placed "restrictive measures" on the Belarussian government over what it says were "fundamentally flawed" elections on March 19, calling for the international community to shun the administration of President Aleksandr Lukashenko.

"On a continent of open and democratic societies, Belarus is a sad exception," the EU leaders said. Belarus is a former Soviet republic.

The leaders are calling for the immediate release of those detained "for exercising their freedom of assembly and expression." -- From European Political Editor Robin Oakley (Posted 7:10 a.m.)

Iraqi soldiers conduct big search for insurgents in Kirkuk area

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iraqi soldiers on Friday were conducting a search for "suspected terrorists" in and around the northern city of Kirkuk, the U.S. military said.

In an offensive dubbed Operation Scorpion, soldiers from 1st and 5th battalions of the Iraqi Army's 2nd Brigade "systematically" moved through five villages, "searching for selected targets based on Iraqi-generated intelligence." (posted 7:08 a.m.)

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