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Libyan militant due in DC court...Ukraine insurgents release observers...NASA tests flying saucer

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Libyan militant charged in the 2012 Benghazi attacks faces his first U.S. court appearance this afternoon. The U.S. attorney's office says Ahmed Abu Khattala (hah-TAH'-lah) will go before a magistrate judge in the federal courthouse in Washington D.C. Abu Khattala is charged in connection with the attacks on Sept. 11, 2012, that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christ Stevens, and three other Americans.

BAGHDAD — The Iraqi government has launched its biggest push yet to wrest back ground lost to Sunni militants. Soldiers backed by tanks and helicopter gunships began an offensive to retake the northern city of Tikrit today. After watching much of Iraq fall to fighters led by the al-Qaida breakaway Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in recent weeks, military officials are seeking to portray the push as a step that puts the army back on the offensive.

MOSCOW (AP) — The Interfax news agency is reporting that pro-Russian insurgents have released four European observers who they have held captive for weeks. The news agency quotes the press service of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic as saying that the observers are en route to the eastern city of Donetsk. The rebels released another group of the observers earlier this week.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A high-altitude balloon carrying a saucer-shaped vehicle for NASA has taken off from a Hawaii island to test technology that could be used on Mars. Since the twin Viking spacecraft landed on the red planet in 1976, NASA has relied on the same parachute design to slow landers and rovers after entering the thin Martian atmosphere. The new vehicle and parachute are designed to deliver heavier spacecraft and eventually astronauts.

NEW CASTLE, Del. (AP) — Delaware State Police say two people have been rescued from a single-engine plane that wound up in the Delaware River this morning. They report that the two people do not appear to have life-threatening injuries and have been transported to shore for medical evaluation. There's no word on what caused the plane to go down.

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