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News Wrap: Mexican Airliner Briefly Hijacked

September 9, 2009 at 12:00 AM EST
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In other news, a Mexican airliner with 112 passengers on board was hijacked Wednesday, and British troops rescued a New York Times reporter in Afghanistan.
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JIM LEHRER: In other news today, a Mexican airliner with 112 people onboard was briefly hijacked from Cancun to Mexico City. The crew and passengers, including some Americans, were released unharmed after landing. Mexican police arrested up to eight men, and news accounts said they were Bolivians who wanted to speak to the Mexican president. The hijackers allegedly threatened to blow up the plane, but police found no bomb on board.

British commandos in Afghanistan freed a New York Times reporter in an early morning raid. But Stephen Farrell’s Afghan translator and a British soldier were killed in the action. We have a report narrated by Paul Davies of Independent Television News.

PAUL DAVIES: The special forces have disappeared with the Briton they came to rescue. Here, local Afghans deal with the aftermath of an operation that succeeded, but only at a cost.

The body they’re transporting is that of an Afghan journalist who was also a captive, but was not so fortunate.

This is the man who was freed alive: Stephen Farrell, a British reporter employed by the New York Times, a specialist in frontline journalism. It was four days ago he and his colleague, Mohammed Munadi, were taken at gunpoint from their car near the town of Kunduz, a kidnapping that was kept secret at the time. Only now can the story be told.

It was early on Saturday the two reporters were abducted by Taliban fighters. Their driver managed to escape and raised the alarm a short time later. The abduction was kept secret while special forces prepared their operation.

Before dawn today, they moved in, but a British soldier, the Afghan journalist, and a local woman died in the rescue.

In an account published on the New York Times Web site, Farrell describes what happened. “We were all in a room,” he says. “The Talibs all ran. It was obviously a raid. We thought they would kill us. We thought, should we go out? There were bullets all around us. I could hear British and Afghan voices.”

Farrell and his colleague were in Kunduz gathering evidence of the accidental slaughter of Afghan civilians by NATO warplanes. There are reports he ignored warnings of Taliban activity.

The prime minister was woken early this morning to be briefed on the special forces rescue, its success and its cost.

JIM LEHRER: Germany, France and Britain pressed the U.N. today to call a meeting on Afghanistan’s future. Britain offered to host the international conference, with one part held in Kabul, the other in a major international city yet to be named. The aim would be to set timelines for handing over responsibilities to Afghan authorities.

In Iraq, eight people from the same family died after a car bomb exploded in Kirkuk. Iraqi police said the vehicle was parked outside a house owned by a Sunni tribal leader. They said the bomb apparently went off as it was being rigged in the car.

Iran has now submitted a package of new proposals on its nuclear standoff with the U.N. The Iranian foreign minister handed the package today to the United States and five other world powers. There was no word on what the proposals included. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, said the Iranian ideas need to be “a serious, substantive and constructive response.”

Economic conditions across most of the U.S. showed improvement in a new government survey today. The Federal Reserve reported it found signs that economic activity is stabilizing in all but 1 of its 12 districts.

On Wall Street, stocks moved ahead for a fourth straight day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained nearly 50 points to close at 9,547. The Nasdaq rose 22 points to close at 2,060.