In Iraq, a ceasefire may be emerging in Najaf between Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the U.S. According to one of Sadr’s aides, Sadr is now offering to withdraw and disarm his militia from Najaf under the condition that the U.S. pull its troops from the holy city and for criminal charges against him to be dropped. A senior official in the Shiite Dawa party confirmed that a preliminary agreement has been reached. The deal comes less than a day after U.S. forces arrested one of Sadr’s top lietenants, Riyadh al-Nouri, in a pre-dawn raid on Wednesday. Members of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council traveled to Najaf today to help finalize the truce. Three Shiite members of the Council announced they would stage a sit-in at a mosque in nearby Kufa until the U.S. troops leave the city. We go now to Najaf for a report from independent filmmaker James Longley
UN officials are accusing the Bush administration of trying to undermine the work of UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in Iraq by leaking the name of a possible new Iraqi prime minister. US officials had said on Tuesday that a former nuclear scientist named Hussain Shahristani who was jailed under Saddam Hussein, was the leading contender of the post. But UN officials denied the reports. The scientist himself announced on Wednesday that he is not interested in the position. In other Iraq news, some members of the Iraqi Governing Council have rejected President Bush’s call to level the notorious Abu Ghraib because they described the destruction as a waste of resources. Meanwhile the New York Times reports the military has gleaned little intelligence from prisoners held at Abu Ghraib.
And the Financial Times reports the U.S. looking for help from private companies because it is running out of bullets. The military owns a single ammunition factory in Lake City Missouri but the war on Iraq is quickly draining the supply. The military estimates it needs between 300 and 500 million more bullets a year. One defense analyst said "We’re using so much ammunition in Iraq there isn’t enough capacity around."
In a major speech Wednesday, former vice president Al Gore called for the resignations of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and CIA Director George Tenet. He said "We simply cannot afford to further increase the risk to our country with more blunders by this team." He also said three of Rumsfeld’s deputies should also resign: Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz; undersecretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith; and undersecretary of defense for intelligence. Stephen Cambone.
Attorney General John Ashcroft announced the formation of the 2004 threat task force to deal with the possibility of another major attack by al Qaeda on U.S. soil He said "Credible intelligence from multiple sources indicates that al Qaeda plans to mount an attack on the US in the next few months. This disturbing intelligence indicates al Qaeda’s specific intention to hit the US hard." The government did not elevate the terror threat level. The government released the names and photos of seven suspects, six of whom have been on wanted lists before. The one new person is an American named Yahiye Adam Gadaha who grew up on a goat ranch in California and converted to Islam after a period when he was obsessed with heavy metal music. The government claims the man attended an al Qaeda training camp.
And a new report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies concludes that the occupation of Iraq has helped al Qaeda recruit new members. The think tank estimated there are potentially 18,000 members of al Qaeda around the world.
Israeli police have arrested the British reporter who exposed Israel’s nuclear weapons program 20 years ago when he secured an exclusive interview with nuclear whistle blower Mordechai Vanunu. In the article in the Sunday Times of London, Vanunu exposed details confirming that Israel had a secret nuclear weapons program. This led Israel to the arrest and imprisonment of Vanunu for 18 years. He was released a month ago. Now Israel has arrested the journalist behind the piece, Peter Hounam, who traveled to Israel more than a month ago ahead of Vanunu’s release and was working on a documentary for the BBC about the nuclear whistleblower. The government has placed a gag order on all information about his arrest. According to the London Independent, Hounam’s arrest only became known to the public because Hounam was briefly able to break away from the arresting officers to tell someone in his hotel what happened. He grabbed the hair of a female guest in the hotel lobby to get her attention and said "tell people, tell The Sunday Times that I am being arrested". Hounam’s lawyer said "The man was arrested without reason, out of a ceaseless security obsession with Vanunu." The arrest may have come because the Sunday Times is planning to run this weekend the first major extensive interview with Vanunu since his release.
In Haiti and the Dominican Republic massive floods and landslides has led to the death of nearly 2,000 people over the past few days. The death toll skyrocketed Wednesday, when more than 1,000 bodies were found in a single town called Mapou in southeastern Haiti.