Russians say solar sail failed

MOSCOW - An attempt to launch the world's first solar sail spacecraft fizzled when a booster rocket failed less than two minutes after liftoff, showering debris over the Arctic Ocean, the Russian space agency said Wednesday.

The Cosmos 1 vehicle, a joint Russian-American project, was intended to show that a so-called solar sail can make a controlled flight. Solar sails are envisioned as a potential means for achieving interstellar flight, allowing spacecraft to gradually build up great velocity and cover large distances.

76 insurgents killed near Kabul

KABUL, Afghanistan - American warplanes pounded a suspected Taliban safe haven in the mountains of southern Afghanistan during an assault that killed up to 76 insurgents and 12 security forces, officials said Wednesday. Five American soldiers were wounded.

The bodies of those killed in Tuesday's fighting littered a rugged Afghan mountainside. The surge in violence has raised fears that an Iraq-style quagmire is developing here, just months ahead of key legislative elections.

Spy plane pilot dies in crash

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A U.S. Air Force U-2 spy plane involved in a mission in Afghanistan crashed while returning to its base in the United Arab Emirates, killing the pilot, the military said Wednesday.

Israel warns it may launch attack

JERUSALEM - A day after a tense summit, Israel warned the Palestinians on Wednesday it will launch airstrikes if militants attack during the evacuation of the Gaza Strip set to begin in August.

Palestinian leaders were facing their own violence Wednesday. Gunmen shot at a building where Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia was meeting militants, and an explosive device was detonated as he and his entourage left the Balata refugee camp in the northern West Bank. Qureia was not injured.

Car bomb kills 23

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Four car bombs exploded at dusk Wednesday, killing at least 23 people, including sidewalk diners and passengers at a bus station. The coordinated attacks served as a chilling reminder of how potent militants remain in the capital despite around-the-clock American and Iraqi troop patrols.

The U.S. military said three U.S. soldiers were killed a day earlier during combat operations west of Baghdad near the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi. At least 1,727 members of the U.S. military have died since the war began in 2003.

- From wire reports