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News Wrap: Terror Plot to Attack Canada-U.S. Rail Line Thwarted

April 22, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
In other news Monday, police in Canada say they broke up a plot to derail a passenger train. Two men have been arrested and charged with planning a terror attack. Also, the FBI testified no ricin has been found at the home of Paul Kevin Curtis. Curtis is accused of sending tainted letters to President Barack Obama and a senator.

KWAME HOLMAN: Police in Canada say they have broken up a plot to derail a passenger train. They announced today two men have been arrested and charged with planning a terror attack. The suspects live in Toronto and Montreal, but are not Canadian citizens. They allegedly had direction and guidance from al-Qaida, but the plot still was in the planning phase.

JAMES MALIZIA, Assistant Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner: While the RCMP believed the accused had the capacity and intent to carry out these criminal acts, there was no imminent threat to the general public, rail employees, train passengers, or infrastructure.

KWAME HOLMAN: Authorities said the plot had no connection to the Boston bombings.

So far, there’s no sign of the poison ricin at the home of a Mississippi man accused of sending tainted letters to President Obama and a U.S. senator. Paul Kevin Curtis has denied involvement with the suspicious mailings. At a hearing today, an FBI agent testified a search found no ricin or materials used to make it. A defense lawyer suggested Curtis might have been framed.

The death toll from six days of heavy fighting in and around Damascus, Syria has grown to at least 100. And anti-government activists warned today the number could be closer to 500. Meanwhile, dark plumes of smoke rose over the capital city as government troops pressed an offensive. They’re trying to push back rebel forces.

There was word today fierce fighting in northeastern Nigeria killed at least 185 people over the weekend. The Red Cross reported the death toll, based on local accounts. Nigerian authorities said the number was terribly inflated. The fighting erupted Friday between government soldiers and Islamist extremists known as Boko Haram. In Afghanistan, the Taliban took at least 11 civilians hostage after a transport helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing. Officials said eight Turks and a Russian were among the captives. The civilian helicopter landed in strong winds and heavy rain in Logar province. The Taliban largely control that region.

Flight delays hit airports up and down the East Coast today as 1,500 air traffic controllers were required to take unpaid leave. Airports in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington had delays of 15 minutes to two hours.

In Washington, transportation Secretary Ray LaHood blamed federal budget cuts from the ongoing sequestration.

SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION RAY LAHOOD, United States: Safety is not compromised. Planes are going to be guided in and out of airports safely. We will never compromise safety. This is a people-centric system. Planes are guided by people. Planes are guided by pilots. And when you furlough some people, there will have to be slowdowns. And that’s what we warned about several months ago.

KWAME HOLMAN: The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered furloughs for all 47,000 agency employees. Each employee loses one day of work every other week.

Flooding in the Midwest eased slightly today, but prospects of more rain and snowmelt raised concerns for the days ahead. The heavy rain of last week already has caused a number of swollen rivers to burst their banks. Two levees failed early today along the Wabash River in southwest Indiana. Crews also worked to recover more than 100 barges that broke free in the Mississippi River. The flooding is blamed for at least three deaths.

President Obama will attend a memorial service Thursday for the 14 people killed in the Texas fertilizer plant explosion. White House officials said today the president already planned to be in Texas to help dedicate the George W. Bush Presidential Library. Most of the victims in the explosion in West, Texas, were firefighters and medical technicians.

A U.S. Army sergeant pleaded guilty today to killing five other Americans in Iraq in 2009. Sgt. John Russell admitted he gunned down four U.S. soldiers and a Navy officer at a mental health clinic near Baghdad. At the time, Russell was nearing the end of his third tour in Iraq. The guilty plea means he will avoid a death sentence.

Folk singer and guitarist Richie Havens has died. His family said he suffered a heart attack today. Havens came from the New York folk scene in 1960s. And in 1969, he performed at the original Woodstock festival, welcoming thousands of people to the event. Richie Havens was 72 years old.

Wall Street managed to rally a bit today, after big losses last week. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 19 points to close at 14,567. The Nasdaq rose 27 points to close at 3,233.

Those are some of the day’s major stories — now back to Gwen.