al-Sadr statement on cease-fire to be read today

BAGHDAD - Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has decided whether to extend his Mahdi Army's cease-fire, and sent the message in sealed envelopes to be opened at the beginning of today's sermons, one of his officials said.

Although the content of the message, delivered Thursday to 200 loyal clerics around Iraq, was not known, there were strong indications from officials in his organization that the anti-U.S. firebrand would extend the six-month cessation of what had been an undeclared war against the U.S. military since 2004.

Snow grounds copter carrying senior senators

WASHINGTON - Helicopters carrying three senior U.S. senators made emergency landings Thursday in the mountains of Afghanistan because of a snowstorm.

Sens. John Kerry, Joseph Biden and Chuck Hagel were aboard the aircraft. No one was injured, according a statement from Kerry's office. The senators and their delegation returned to Bagram Air Base in a motor convoy, and have left for Turkey.

Morocco: Terror ring planned assassinations

PARIS - Morocco's government said it has dismantled a terrorist network that had plotted to assassinate Cabinet ministers and members of the North African kingdom's Jewish community.

Authorities believe the network has links to al-Qaida and local terror groups, the official MAP news agency said late Wednesday. A total of 32 people were arrested in sweeps this week, Moroccan newspapers said.

Morocco also has banned an Islamist political party, Al Badil Al Hadari, because some members were linked to the network, the Interior Ministry said.

Ferryboat sinking kills 10 in Brazil

SAO PAULO, Brazil - A ferryboat carrying more than 100 passengers collided with a barge loaded with fuel tanks and sank to the bottom of the Amazon River on Thursday, officials said. At least 10 people died, and another nine were missing and feared dead.

The Almirante Monteiro capsized at dawn near the isolated Brazilian town of Itacoatiara in the jungle state of Amazonas, state fire spokesman Lt. Clovis Araujo said.

He said 92 people were rescued by several small boats and the state's floating police station, a 32-foot vessel that travels up and down the river and was in the area at the time of the shipwreck.