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PENTAGON REPORT SAYS IRAQ VIOLENCE IS SPREADING



Published: Sat, September 2, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Pentagon report saysIraq violence is spreading

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- An Iraqi boy, above, stood Friday in the ruins of a damaged residential building in Baghdad. Rocket attacks had occurred the night before.

Meanwhile, in Washington, a Pentagon report said Friday that sectarian violence is spreading in Iraq and the security problems have become more complex than at any time since the U.S. invasion in 2003. In a notably gloomy report to Congress, the Pentagon reported that illegal militias have become more entrenched, especially in Baghdad neighborhoods where they are seen as providers of both security and basic social services.

The report described a rising tide of sectarian violence, fed in part by interference from neighboring Iran and Syria and driven by a "vocal minority" of religious extremists who oppose the idea of a democratic Iraq.

Death squads targeting mainly Iraqi civilians are a growing problem, heightening the risk of civil war, the report said.

Ernesto loses steam

NORFOLK, Va. -- Ernesto weakened to a tropical depression Friday, but the storm still packed enough punch to dump more than half a foot of rain, knock out power to more than 300,000 customers and force hundreds of people from their homes. And it was far from finished.

The storm prompted flash flood watches for wide sections of Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and central New York.

"Nobody is relaxing until long after the storm has passed," Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said.

The storm was blamed for at least one traffic death in Virginia and one in North Carolina, where it swirled ashore late Thursday, a day after severe thunderstorms had already drenched the region.

Iranian plane crashes

TEHRAN, Iran -- A landing Iranian passenger plane skidded off the runway and raked its wing along the ground, sparking a fire that killed 29 of the 148 people on board Friday in the latest deadly crash of a Russian-made aircraft. Rescue workers in the northeastern city of Mashhad carried survivors on stretchers out of the gutted craft, which lay in a pool of water near the runway with its middle charred and its roof collapsed.

Photo of kidnapped boyis left at mother's door

DES MOINES, Iowa -- The mother of a boy abducted 24 years ago said she's bewildered by two photographs left at her front door, apparently showing her son and two other children bound and gagged.

The old photos appear to show 12-year-old Johnny Gosch with his mouth gagged and his hands and feet tied. The boy is wearing the same sweat pants Johnny was wearing when he disappeared while delivering newspapers on the morning of Sept. 5, 1982, his mother said.

"It's like reliving it," Noreen Gosch told The Associated Press on Thursday night. "But the bigger picture is, 'Why are they doing this?' "Whoever had these photos had them for 24 years. I don't understand why they would do this now. It must be some kind of message."

Gosch said investigators confirmed the photos were authentic and likely taken within "hours or days" of the abduction.

The photos were given to the state Division of Criminal Investigation's computer crime task force, West Des Moines police Lt. Jeff Miller said. He said police have not positively identified the boy in the photos as Johnny Gosch.

The other boys in the photo were unidentified.

Prank goes all the way

NEW YORK -- Dude, where's my car? And what's that No Parking sign doing here?

Several Brooklyn residents woke up to find their street empty -- because someone had posted a No Parking sign and police had towed their rides. The sign, which bans parking on a street in the neighborhood from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, mysteriously appeared Monday or Tuesday, residents said, and then police started ticketing and towing cars parked there. But the Department of Transportation says there aren't any parking restrictions there and it doesn't know who posted the placard, which looks official. Resident David Bourgeois said he had to pay $205 to retrieve his Mini Cooper, with a $60 ticket on the windshield, from a police pound Wednesday after it was hauled away. The DOT said it would try to dismiss the ticket -- and take down the No Parking sign.

Associated Press




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