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News Briefs

Five Servicemen Wounded In Taliban Prisoner Revolt
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- washington

Five U.S. servicemen were injured seriously by “friendly fire” Monday in the effort to quell a revolt by Taliban prisoners in northern Afghanistan, the Pentagon said, and reports persisted that a CIA operative was dead or missing.

The servicemen were wounded when a U.S. satellite-guided bomb missed its target after the team had called in airstrikes in support of Northern Alliance forces, Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters.

They were said to be in serious condition Monday at a U.S. military field hospital in Uzbekistan. Medical teams planned to move them to Landstuhl, Germany, for further treatment when their conditions stabilized, Myers said. Their identities were not released.

CIA spokesman Bill Harlow said he would not discuss reports that a CIA officer or contract employee was among the casualties of the prison uprising. He said, however, that the situation at the prison remained uncertain and the agency was not sure whether the individual was dead or missing.

FBI Probing Disappearance Of Infectious Disease Expert

One of the United States’ more prestigious infectious diseases scientists, mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Prize, has disappeared under mysterious circumstances in Memphis, Tenn.

Because Harvard University biologist Don C. Wiley’s work involved such deadly microbes as influenza, HIV and Ebola, the FBI and Memphis police are pursuing his disappearance as possibly linked to bioterrorism.

William Woerner, chief of the FBI’s Memphis office, told reporters Monday that the bioterrorism link may be a stretch. Wiley is not known to have worked on living anthrax viruses. But, Woerner said, given the current atmosphere in the United States, coupled with the baffling nature of Wiley’s disappearance on Nov. 16, the FBI is not discounting the possibility that someone targeted Wiley because he thought Wiley might be a source of either microbes, or vital information about dangerous viruses.

Wiley was one of the world’s leading experts on the detailed chemical mechanisms viruses use to gain entry into human cells, and on the ways human antibodies distinguish between nasty invaders -- such as flu viruses -- and a person’s own cells and proteins.

Afghan Leaders Prepare for Talks
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- koenigswinter, germany

Afghan political leaders settled into a secluded Rhine Valley guest house Monday and began behind-the-scenes maneuvering ahead of Tuesday’s U.N.-sponsored talks on creating a transitional administration for their nation.

Delegates from three of the four factions invited for talks caucused with conference host Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. special envoy for Afghanistan, and huddled in small groups in the rooms where German hosts have them sequestered in hopes that “cabin fever” will force an agreement.

“They’ve been talking to each other, and we are encouraging this,” U.N. spokesman Ahmed Fawzi said of the impromptu negotiations among delegates waiting for the last stragglers, members of the Northern Alliance, to arrive at the secluded Petersberg guest house overlooking the foggy, rain-dappled Rhine River near Bonn.

The talks originally were scheduled to begin Monday. The day off forced by the delayed arrival of those coming from Kabul left the rest of the approximately 30 political figures with time on their hands.