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Saturday, November 18

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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 Daylight.

Source: Palestinian militants launch 4 rockets into Israeli town, critically wounding teenager

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Four Israelis were wounded -- one critically -- when Palestinian militants fired four Qassam rockets into the Israeli town of Sderot Sunday morning, Israeli ambulance services said.

The critically wounded Israeli is a 17-year old man.

Sderot is located about 3 miles (5 km) from Gaza.

--From CNN's Avivit Dalgoshen (Posted 2:26 a.m.)

17 day laborers killed after suicide bomber tricks them

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Seventeen Iraqi day laborers were killed and 49 more were wounded after a suicide bomber pretending to solicit work from them detonated his explosives after they gathered around the bomber's car south of the capital Sunday morning, Hilla police said.

Hilla is about 62 miles (100 km) south of Baghdad.

Insurgents frequently target areas where day laborers gather. Just last week three civilians were killed and 7 were wounded when a car bomb and a roadside bomb detonated within minutes of each other near Tayaran Square, a busy area where day laborers gather located in central Baghdad, Baghdad emergency police said.

-- From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq (Posted 12:49 a.m.)

Illinois man dies after hospital standoff with police

AURORA, Ill. (CNN) -- An armed Aurora, Ill., man died Saturday afternoon after holding police at bay for more than four hours at a hospital where he was a patient, police said.

Aurora police initially said the man, 58-year-old Johnnie Russell, appeared to have shot himself in his room just before 1 p.m. However, late Saturday, police issued a statement saying he may have died from shots fired by officers.

"Although preliminary findings at the scene indicated that Russell died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound and that he fired a single shot at the officers, the subsequent investigation cannot confirm this," according to police spokesman Dan Ferrelli. No one else was injured.

An autopsy was planned Sunday by the Kane County coroner. Russell was admitted to Provena Mercy Medical Center Friday after complaining of pain, Ferrelli said.

The standoff began about 8:30 a.m. Saturday when an Aurora police officer was asked to assist hospital security with a combative patient, the spokesman said. (Posted 10:40 p.m.)

Bush calls bilateral relations with China 'very good'

HANOI, Vietnam (CNN) -- Chinese President Hu Jintao and President Bush agreed Sunday that their relations have improved with the help of frequent visits and communication.

That spirit of respect and dialogue will help resolve issues such as the nuclear goals of North Korea and Iran, Bush said. The leaders met on the last day of the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit (APEC).

Bush also was to visit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. At the end of the summit, all 21 Pacific Rim leaders are expected to release a statement expressing concern over North Korea.

On Saturday, Bush met separately with leaders of Japan and China. (Posted 10:08 p.m.)

New Mexico fairgrounds emptied after low levels of radiation found

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (CNN) -- About 500 people were evacuated from the New Mexico State Fairgrounds Expo as a precaution Saturday evening after low levels of radiation were detected, police said.

A Geiger counter registered the presence of radiation after two objects were discovered at the 236-acre fairgrounds in the heart of Albuquerque, said Lt. Juan Martinez, a spokesman for New Mexico state police.

The objects, one appearing to be a pipe bomb and another that appeared to be a paint can, were found under a car parked near the fairground's fine arts building, Martinez said. One object was marked "nuclear" and the other, "cobalt," he said.

Police believe the radiation was coming from Cobalt 57, a material used in the medical and plumbing industries. Cobalt-57 is a radioactive poison used in biological research. A bomb squad unit and hazardous materials teams were searching the area for any additional devices. (Posted 8:25 p.m.)

^llinois man dies after hospital standoff

AURORA, Ill. (CNN) -- An Illinois man died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound Saturday afternoon following a four-hour standoff with police at a hospital where the man was a patient, police said.

The 58-year-old Aurora man, who police did not name, was admitted to Provena Mercy Medical Center Friday complaining of pain, said police spokesman Dan Ferrelli. The standoff began about 8:30 a.m. when an Aurora police officer was asked to assist hospital security with a combative patient.

Police negotiated with the patient for hours. No one else was injured. (Posted 6:56 p.m.)

Freedom Towers' concrete core taking shape

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Construction of the Freedom Tower reached an early milestone Saturday as 40 to 45 truckloads of concrete were laid at the former site of the World Trade Center, representing the most substantial pour to date.

The continuous pour of about 520 cubic yards of concrete will represent the core of the Freedom Tower's elevator shafts, staircases and vertical utility units. The foundation of the entire project will require 8,000 cubic yards of concrete.

Jumbo steel columns, some of the largest in the world, will be fastened into the foundation to support the perimeter of the towers when they arrive in December. (Posted 3:42 p.m.)

SCIRI official, wife killed in Baghdad attack

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A senior official of one of Iraq's leading Shiite political parties was killed along with his wife when gunmen opened fire on their car in Baghdad Saturday, according to Iraqi police.

Ali Kadhim al-Adadh, a leader in the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and a professor at Baghdad's University of Technology, was driving in western Baghdad's Yarmouk neighborhood at around 3:30 p.m. when gunmen attacked his car.

SCIRI is the leading party in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's ruling coalition.

^--CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq in Baghdad contributed to this report. (Posted 12:33 p.m.)

Downing Street: Blair did not call Iraq a "disaster"

LONDON (CNN) -- A spokeswoman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair downplayed the significance Saturday of Blair's apparent agreement with the suggestion that the Iraq has been a disaster.

The uproar began when interviewer David Frost, on Al Jazeera English, suggested Iraq had been "pretty much of a disaster" since the 2003 invasion. "It has, but you see what I say to people is why is it difficult in Iraq?" Blair responded.

A Downing Street spokeswoman, in a statement to CNN Saturday, said Blair himself "does not use the word 'disaster.'" "What he does it set out that the violence in Iraq is of course highly regrettable, tragic and very, very difficult, but that this violence is a result of malicious external intervention, not some planning error three years ago," she said.

According to the Al Jazeera English Web site, Blair said "It's not difficult because of some accident in planning, it's difficult because there's a deliberate strategy -- al-Qaeda with Sunni insurgents on one hand, Iranian-backed elements with Shia militias on the other -- to create a situation in which the will of the majority for peace is displaced by the will of the minority for war." (Posted 11:06 a.m.)

Video purportedly from group claiming to have kidnapped western contractors

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iranian-run Arabic-language satellite news station, al-Alam, aired a video Saturday the station said was from a group claiming to have kidnapped five private Western contractors during their passage across Iraq's southern border Thursday.

The video showed a man wearing a white head scarf wrapped around his face but did not show any evidence of the abductees or that his group, Islamic Mujahideen Battalion, had them. During al-Alam's broadcast the man's voice was inaudible. Al-Alam's anchor said the video was from the group that said they claimed to have kidnapped four Americans, one Austrian and had killed four other Americans.

CNN is unable to independently verify the authenticity of the video.

Security sources in Basra said not much is known about this Shiite group that surfaced about six months ago and has threatened to attack security companies passing through southern Iraq from Kuwait. (Posted 9:07 a.m.)

3 Iraqi police killed in Baquba battle

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Three Iraqi police officers were killed and three others were wounded during seven hours of fighting between gunmen and Iraqi police, backed by the Iraqi army, Saturday morning in the northern Iraqi city Baquba, a local police official said.

Iraqi police said a number of gunmen were killed, but no precise estimate was given. The clashes took place in three western and northwestern Baquba neighborhoods.

Baquba, located about 37 miles north of Baghdad, is one of the regular hotspots in Iraq.

--From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq in Baghdad (Posted 8:24 a.m.)

British finance minister makes surprise visit to Basra

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- British Finance Minister Gordon Brown made a surprise visit to Iraq to meet with government officials and the British military at their 7,000-member contingent based in Basra on Saturday, British military commander Mike Baker said.

Brown announced during his visit Britian would invest an additional 100 million pounds (about $189 million) into Operation Sinbad -- a security and reconstruction effort in the southern Iraqi city.

Brown is expected to replace Britain's current prime minister, Tony Blair next year.

--From CNN's Erin McLaughlin in Baghdad (Posted 12:36 p.m.)

Securiforce contractors in Friday 'incident' in Basra accounted for

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Authorities on Saturday accounted for all five of the private security contractors from a British-based company who were involved in a convoy "incident" Friday in southeastern Iraq that left one man dead and four others wounded.

The four surviving contractors were hospitalized and by Saturday two had already undergone surgery for gunshot wounds, said the vice president of Securiforce -- the company the contractors worked for.

The British Foreign Office said one of the Britons involved was shot and wounded and was being treated at a British military hospital, where the Britons have a logistics base.

The convoy consisted of employees from Securiforce, a company with operational headquarters in Kuwait that contracts out security personnel for organizations and individuals.

The group was crossing the border from Kuwait into Iraq when they were stopped at a checkpoint by "people in uniform," Securiforce Vice President Stephen Thomas said Saturday.

"It is unclear whether those people were entitled to wear them or not," Thomas said. (Posted 5:37 a.m.)

Sri Lankan sea battle between rebels leaves 1 sailor dead, 5 wounded

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (CNN) -- One Sri Lankan sailor was killed and five were wounded after a sea battle between the Sri Lankan navy and Tamil Tiger rebels erupted off Sri Lanka's northwest coast Friday, military sources said.

In addition to the wounded and killed, two navy patrol crafts were sunk and four rebels boats were "disabled" during the clashes, the source said.

The military sources said rebels ships dispersed after the Sri Lankan air force bombed the area.

The violence comes one day before the Sri Lankan president celebrates his first year in office. Mahinda Rajapaksa will be celebrating the anniversary under heavy security in the southern part of the island.

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a rebel group formed in 1976 that advocates overthrowing the government.

--From CNN's Iqbal Athas (Posted 3:04 a.m.)



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