WASHINGTON, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- An estimated 20,000 surface-to-air missiles capable of shooting down a commercial jet are missing from army weapons warehouses in Libya, officials said.
ABC News reported the disappearance of the missiles from unguarded warehouses has raised concerns al-Qaida, which is active in Libya, could get hold of them.
"Matching up a terrorist with a shoulder-fired missile, that's our worst nightmare," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director for Human Rights Watch, first warned about the weapons being taken after a trip to Libya six months ago. A few weeks ago, ABC News said, he photographed pickup trucks hauling missiles away.
"I myself could have removed several hundred if I wanted to, and people can literally drive up with pickup trucks or even 18-wheelers and take away whatever they want," Bouckaert said.
He said officials are concerned "some of these missiles could end up in the wrong hands."
"I think the probability of al-Qaida being able to smuggle some of the stinger-like missiles out of Libya is probably pretty high," said Richard Clarke, a former White House counter-terrorism adviser who is now consultant to ABC News.
The missiles are 4 to 6 feet long and can weigh 55 pounds each with a launcher. They work by targeting the heat generated by an aircraft's engine and and can be fired from a vehicle or shoulder and are accurate from more than 2 miles away, ABC said.
Rebel forces capture port in Sirte
SIRTE, Libya, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- Rebel fighters control the port in Sirte, one of the last bastions still loyal to former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, transitional council leaders said.
National Transitional Council Cmdr. Mustafa bin Dardef said "we now are controlling the port" after several clashes with Gadhafi loyalists, the Tripoli Post reported Tuesday.
Fighting for control of Gadhafi's hometown has picked up since Sunday when NTC fighters made a tactical retreat to allow NATO to conduct airstrikes.
NTC fighters have attacked Sirte from the east, south and west, officials said. Military leaders said NTC troops were preparing for another push to the center of the city Tuesday morning.
Although the whereabouts of Gadhafi were not known, the Post said one of his sons was reportedly in Sirte and leading troops loyal to the ousted leader.
Yemeni defense minister survives attack
SANAA, Yemen, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- Yemen blamed al-Qaida for a suicide bomber's attempt Tuesday to assassinate Defense Minister Mohammed Nasser Ahmed.
Ahmed escaped unhurt but the government said several of his guards were injured when the suicide bomber exploded a car bomb next to Ahmed's convoy in the southern port city of Aden, The New York Times reported.
The government immediately blamed the attempted assassination on "terrorists from al-Qaida."
The Times noted Yemeni security forces have been fighting in Zinjibar, the provincial capital of Abyan province about 30 miles east of Aden, against al-Qaida militants who took over the city in the spring.
Tuesday's attack, which witnesses said occurred in the Tuwahi district of the city as the convoy left a hotel, marked the second time in less than a month Ahmed has been targeted in the Yemen's tense south. Two of his bodyguards died in late August when the vehicle they were in hit a landmine in Abyan province.
The latest attack followed the return of President Ali Abdullah Saleh Friday after four months in Saudi Arabia. Saleh refuses to step down amid deepening civil conflict. Scores of people were killed when troops loyal to Saleh fired machine guns at protesters in Sanaa in recent days and armed tribesmen seeking his ouster retaliated.
Prosecutors told to investigate Berlusconi
NAPLES, Italy, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- A judge in Italy recommended Tuesday that prosecutors investigate Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in a case involving extortion.
The case revolves around large sums of money Berlusconi paid to a Bari businessman suspected of providing women for parties at the prime minister's homes, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.
Prosecutors charge Gianpaolo Tarantini extorted thousands of euros not to reveal the details of sex parties Berlusconi reportedly held in 2008 and 2009.
A judge in Naples released Tarantini from custody Tuesday and recommended prosecutors investigate Berlusconi and an online magazine editor for allegedly inducing Tarantini to lie to magistrates.
Berlusconi has said he made payments to Tarantini to help his family in a time of need.
The Italian prime minister is already on trial in Milan on charges of paying for sex with an underage prostitute.
Home prices up month-to-month
NEW YORK, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- U.S. home prices rose for the forth consecutive month in July, a closely watched housing index showed Tuesday.
The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller Home Price Index found prices rose 0.9 percent in the month in both a 10-city index and a 20-city index compared to June, but the chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Indices David Blitzer said the overall economic picture showed the housing market "is still bottoming and has not turned around."
Despite four month-to-month gains, 18 of 20 cities in the report show prices lower than they were in July 2010.
July's 10-city index is 3.7 percent below where it was 12 months earlier. The 20-city index is 4.1 percent below July 2010.
And a month ago, 19 of 20 cities monitored by the report were up on a month-to-month basis.
Still, 17 of 20 cities monitored saw prices go up in July, the report said.
Two Sun Belt cities saw prices fall. In Las Vegas, prices fell 0.2 percent. In Phoenix, prices dropped 0.1 percent. In Denver, prices broke even.
Prices rose highest month-to-month in Rust Belt cities. In Detroit, prices rose 3.8 percent. That was followed by a 2.6 percent rise in Minneapolis, a 2.4 percent rise in Washington and a 1.9 percent rise in Chicago.