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  • BAGHDAD, July 31 (KUNA) -- Jaafar Al-Mosawi, chief prosecutor of the trial of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, said on Monday if the death penalty against Hussein was executed, it would be hanging until death and not by a shooting squad.

    "It is a civil court not a military one," said Al-Mousawi, eliminating any legal exceptions due to the issue of age.

    He added that in case a final verdict, the execution can be activated within 30 days.

    Al-Mousawi said the next court session will be in mid-October to review the case's documents. He predicted that the last court session would be on October 26th, 2006.

    Saddam Hussein had asked the court judge in the previous hearing for an execution by a fire squad and not by hanging, based on claims that he was a "military man" and should die in a military way.

    Hanging will be Saddam Hussein's death penalty if convicted - Prosecutor

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    • Bombings and shootings across Iraq killed at least 52 people Tuesday, including 24 people in a bus destroyed by a roadside bomb. The attacks further damage the U.S.-backed government's efforts to establish control over the country.

      The bus, carrying many Iraqi soldiers, was struck in the northern industrial city of Beiji, killing everyone on board, said Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari.

      Police earlier said that 20 Iraqi soldiers were killed on the bus. Al-Askari confirmed that many of the passengers were soldiers, but said he did not know how many. He said the bus was not being escorted by U.S. troops, as earlier believed.

      Following the blast, a curfew was imposed in Beiji, 155 miles, north of Baghdad.

      In the Karradah neighborhood of Baghdad, a car bomb exploded during morning rush hour near a bank, killing at least 14 people and injuring 37, said police Lt. Col. Abbas Mohammed Salman.

      The target was well chosen because Iraqi security forces draw their salaries from the bank on the first day of every month. The blast set several cars on fire in the leafy Shiite neighborhood. Dismembered bodies were strewn on the sidewalk.

      Abdul Hassan Mohammed, a 62-year-old teacher, said he was walking to the bank to draw his pension when the bomb exploded. "A big explosion slammed me 4 meters (12 feet) into a wall. My friends took me to one of their stores, gave me water and asked me to relax ... I didn't get my pension," he told The Associated Press.

      Karradah has seen increasing violence in the sectarian fighting between Shiites and Sunnis in recent months. Last Thursday, rockets and mortars rained down in the neighborhood, collapsing an apartment house, shattering shops and killing 31 people. A car bomb also exploded at the same time.

      Elsewhere, a car bomb targeting a police patrol killed one policeman and six civilians in Muqdadiyah, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, said an official of a joint Iraqi-U.S. security force center. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release details.

      A roadside bomb narrowly missed a car belonging to the Ministry of Electricity, killing one civilian and wounding another in eastern Baghdad, police said. Gunmen in two cars raided a mosque west of Baghdad, killing a cleric and his brother.

      A suicide attack was foiled when soldiers fired at a car trying to slam into an army convoy in Baghdad. The car exploded, killing the driver but nobody else, police said.

      And two insurgents were killed when a roadside bomb they were planting on a highway detonated prematurely in Karma, 25 miles west of Baghdad, police said. In the northern town of Mosul, a drive-by shooting killed one civilian.

      On Monday, gunmen dressed in military fatigues burst into the offices of the Iraqi-American Chamber of Commerce and a nearby mobile phone company, seizing 26 people in a daylight raid in a mostly Shiite area of the capital. The same day, a millionaire businessman and his two sons were abducted from their car in Baghdad.

      All the victims were believed to be Iraqis. The Iraqi-American Chamber is an independent organization not affiliated with the U.S. government, and maintains branches throughout Iraq and in Amman, Jordan.

      The Interior Ministry denied that the kidnappers were police - despite the uniforms - and blamed the attack on "terrorists," Iraqi state television reported.

      U.S. officials estimate an average of 30-40 people are kidnapped each day in Iraq, although the real figure may be higher because few families contact the police. Security officials believe most of the ransoms end up in the hands of insurgent and militia groups.

      Many abductions are believed to be tied to the ongoing violence between Sunni and Shiite extremists who target civilians of the rival Muslim communities.

      On Monday, the government said that since February, 30,359 families - or about 182,000 people - had fled their homes due to sectarian violence and intimidation. That represented an increase of about 20,000 people from the number reported July 20.

      Bombings, shootings kill 52 in Iraq

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      • British soldier killed in Iraq mortar attack

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        • Audio report:

          The women's prison in Kadhmiya, a Shiite area in Baghdad, is one of three major prisons in Iraq that house several hundred female inmates. They've been convicted of crimes such as prostitution, murder and terrorism. Some are being held pending trial. Many say they've been abused and raped:

          Iraqi women claim abuse in prison

          (Windows Media Player)

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          • The penalty court in the Iraqi capital Baghdad issued on Tuesday death sentences for 26 persons charged with murders, kidnappings of civilian and military people and affiliation to terrorist groups, the Iraqi newspaper As Sabah reported in its online edition. According to the information some of the people convicted of murder and kidnapping were sentenced to hanging and three of them – a Libyan, Syrian and Dagestani – were sentenced to life imprisonment for affiliation to insurgent groups in the country.

            Iraqi court sentences 26 people to death over terrorism

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            • Slovakia plans to withdraw troops from Iraq

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              • A provincial governor said Tuesday that 45 people from his predominantly Shiite region have been kidnapped in a Sunni area of western Iraq while en route by bus out of the country.

                Asaad Abu Kilal, governor of Najaf, said the victims were traveling in six buses when they were waylaid near the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi, the main land route to both Syria and Jordan.

                "Now we have 45 people from Najaf whose whereabouts are unknown," he said. "We have informed the officials (in Baghdad) about the crimes on that highway."

                He said that if the Interior Ministry cannot find the victims "we will send special troops from Najaf" to help find them.

                A senior Interior Ministry official, Saadoun Abu al-Ula, confirmed that more than 45 people from the Najaf area had been seized on the highway but said the abductions occurred over the last two weeks.

                "It's been going on for the past two weeks," he said. "Like two or three people snatched a day."

                45 reportedly kidnapped in western Iraq

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                • Its difficult to feel any kind of emotion with regards to Iraq these days, one just feels totally numb. The deat, destruction and hurt inflicted upon her is literally unimageonable.

                  Politicians in the UK and the West and even the Arab world discuss Iraq as if from their seats they can imagine what exactly on the ground Iraq, the suffering has gone beyond even the wildest nightmare and imagination.

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                  • BAGHDAD, Iraq - Bombings and shootings killed more than 70 people in Iraq on Tuesday in a surge of bloodshed as U.S. forces prepare to take back Baghdad's streets from gunmen. The dead included 20 Iraqi troops, a U.S. soldier and a British soldier.

                    The American soldier, who was assigned to the 1st Armored Division, died "due to enemy action" in Anbar province west of Baghdad, the U.S. command said. In a separate statement, the military said a U.S. soldier from the 16th Corps Support Group died the day before in a roadside bombing south of the capital.

                    In further violence, officials confirmed that about 45 Shiite Muslims were kidnapped over the last two weeks on the main highway to Syria and Jordan. The highway passes through Sunni insurgent strongholds west of Baghdad.

                    The deadliest attack Tuesday occurred when a roadside bomb devastated a bus packed with Iraqi soldiers near Beiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad. All 24 people aboard were killed, Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari said. All but four of the dead were Iraqi soldiers, police said.

                    In Baghdad, 14 people died and 37 were wounded when a car bomb exploded at a bank where police and soldiers were picking up monthly paychecks, police Lt. Col. Abbas Mohammed Salman said.

                    The blast set several other cars ablaze and scattered dismembered bodies along the street as bystanders carried the injured to ambulances.

                    Abdul-Hassan Mohammed, 62, a retired teacher who had gone to the bank to pick up his pension, said the explosion slammed him about 12 feet into a wall.

                    "My friends took me to one of their stores, gave me water and asked me to relax," Mohammed said. "I didn't even get my pension."

                    It was the third major attack in less than a week in Karradah, a fashionable, mostly Shiite neighborhood in central Baghdad that is home to several prominent politicians. Last Thursday, 31 people were killed in an attack that included rockets, mortars and a car bomb.

                    On Monday, gunmen dressed in military fatigues abducted 26 people from the offices of the Iraqi-American Chamber of Commerce and a nearby mobile phone company.

                    The British soldier was fatally wounded in a mortar barrage before dawn Tuesday on a British base in the southern city of Basra, the British Defense Ministry said. Britain has lost 115 soldiers in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

                    There was no claim of responsibility for the barrage. But it followed a crackdown by the British on Shiite militias that have infiltrated security forces in the city and threaten the authority of the government in Baghdad.

                    In the southern city of Najaf, Gov. Assad Abu Kilal said 45 people from his province had disappeared while traveling by bus through the Sunni-dominated area west of Baghdad. He demanded the government stop the kidnappings or he would send his own forces to protect the road.

                    A senior Interior Ministry official, Saadoun Abu al-Ula, confirmed that more than 45 people from the Najaf area were seized but said "it's been going on for the past two weeks — like two or three people snatched per day."

                    Late Tuesday, an Internet statement by the al-Qaida-affiliated Mujahedeen Shura Council claimed "the resistance" captured 37 Najaf policemen Monday near Ramadi as they returned from a training course in Jordan. It was unclear if they were from the group cited by the Najaf governor.

                    U.S. officials have also grown alarmed over the rise in Sunni-Shiite violence and the role of sectarian militias. Those tensions are now considered a greater threat than the Sunni insurgency to the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

                    The U.S. military is moving at least 3,700 soldiers from Mosul to Baghdad and is gearing up for a new security operation to wrest control of the capital from Shiite militias, Sunni insurgents, kidnap gangs, rogue police and freelance gunmen.

                    U.S. officials have described the Baghdad campaign as a "must-win" for al-Maliki, whose government has been unable to curb the rise in violence since it took office May 20. American troops will work alongside U.S.-trained Iraqi forces.

                    As part of the campaign against militias, U.S. troops on Tuesday arrested a Baghdad-area representative of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Mahdi Army is among the most feared armed groups.

                    The arrest of Sheik Ahmed al-Ashmani was reported by al-Sadr's staff, which said 10 other members of the cleric's movement were detained. There was no confirmation from the U.S. military.

                    Meanwhile, gunmen ambushed a minibus carrying employees of a power station to their homes in the Shiite district of Sadr City, killing five passengers and wounding six, police said.

                    A car bomb killed seven people, six of them civilians, in Muqdadiyah, about 60 miles northeast of Baghdad and a flashpoint of Sunni-Shiite tensions. Three Iraqi soldiers were killed Tuesday evening when a suicide car bomber attacked a checkpoint in the northern city of Tal Afar, the Iraqi army said.

                    An Iraqi journalist working for the Iranian government-run Al-Alam television was slain in western Baghdad. Adil al-Mansuri, an Iraqi in his 20s, was stopped by gunmen Monday and shot, according to a colleague, Aysar al-Yasiri.

                    A Sunni Arab politician, Mohammed Shihab al-Dulaimi, was kidnapped Tuesday in Baghdad, his associates said. Al-Dulaimi is the spokesman for a coalition of political groups that rejected the results of the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections.

                    The other victims reported by police died in a series of shootings and bombings, mostly in Baghdad.

                    Attacks across Iraq kill more than 70

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                    • Roadside bomb, gunmen kill 20 Iraqi soldiers in northern Iraq

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                      • Iraq's Shia vice-president has vowed to bring the issue of a Shia federal state before parliament.

                        Adel Abd al-Mahdi, a senior official in the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and Iraq's vice-president, pledged on Monday that the Shia Iraqi Coalition - the biggest bloc in the Iraqi parliament - will raise the issue of a Shia federal state within two months.

                        Abd al-Mahdi was speaking at a gathering commemorating the third anniversary of the death of Baqir al-Hakim, the former leader of SCIRI who was killed by a bomb in Najaf in 2003.

                        "We suggest continuing the establishment of regions. We are going to submit the project to the parliament in the coming two months," he said.

                        Abd al-Mahdi acknowledged the government's failure in terms of public services and economy.

                        "Achieving public services that Iraqis hope for will help us in fighting terrorism. We have to hit terrorism by providing services and achieving a good economy," he said.

                        Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, chairman of SCIRI and brother of the late al-Hakim, led another ceremony on Saturday, also commemorating the third anniversary of his brother's death.

                        He gave a speech in which he highlighted "a number of important issues that we should take care of and give them priority in our daily movements".

                        Al-Hakim repeated his claim for a Shia federal region consisting of nine Iraqi governorates stretching from Babylon, 100km south of Baghdad, to Basra at the tip of southern Iraq.

                        He said: "Federalism is constitutionally secured. We have to work seriously on this issue, and figure out the necessary mechanism to switch to federalism. Dear countrymen, this issue is important to your governorates' security, safety and reconstruction."

                        He urged his followers to follow the example of Kurds in northern Iraq who declared their federal state earlier this year.

                        "Kurdistan was devastated by wars and suffered the same amount of negligence you suffered, but now – thanks to federalism - it has started to enjoy progress and prosperity more than any part of Iraq," he said.

                        Al-Hakim urged the Iraqi government to give the Iraqi governorates their constitutional rights to decide their state of rule.

                        Iraqi official calls for Shia region

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                        • BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Three roadside bombs exploded in central Baghdad on Wednesday near a group of labourers seeking work, killing three people and wounding nine, police sources said.

                          The attack came a day after bombings and shootings killed up to 61 people in Iraq, including at least 26 soldiers.

                          Workers have come under frequent attack in an insurgent campaign with a wide range of targets designed to topple the U.S.-backed Iraqi government.

                          Roadside bombs kill three in Baghdad

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                          • Many of the Shiite Muslim religious leaders who strongly backed the formation of the Iraqi government now are condemning it, warning that the country could descend into full revolt.

                            Their statements, observers said, reflect their effort to distance themselves from an increasingly unpopular government, one they once encouraged voters to risk their lives to support. In the process, they hope to win back support from the populace, the majority of which is Shiite.

                            The signs of defection are troublesome for U.S. and Iraqi officials, and another possible sign that the American strategy is threatened. The Shiite leaders have pushed for formation of the government more aggressively than any other Iraqi group, and their frustrations come just as American and Iraqi officials had encouraged Sunni Muslims to participate in the nascent political process.

                            "The government formed after the fall of the regime hasn't been able to do anything, just make many promises. And people are fed up with the promises," said Sheik Bashir al Najafi, one of the top four Shiite leaders and one of several who suggested there could be a revolt. "One day we will not be able to stop a popular revolution."

                            Religious leaders who spoke of revolt didn't specify what form it would take. But residents here said they thought it could be rogue militias and armed factions fighting Iraqi troops, and possibly U.S. forces, for control of the country. Alternatively, some said, southern Shiite residents could battle a mostly Sunni insurgency.

                            Many Shiites have refrained from engaging in all-out war because of repeated pleas from the Shiite leaders' council, the Marjaiyyah, to show restraint. The recent statements from religious leaders suggest that stance could be changing.

                            "The Marjaiyyah will support the government as long as the government serves the people," Abdul-Aziz al Hakim, the leader of the United Iraqi Alliance, the largest Shiite political bloc, said in an interview with McClatchy Newspapers. "This was a warning."

                            As religious leaders attempt to distance themselves from the government, a tactical debate is emerging among residents about which Shiite leaders best represent their sect's interests.

                            Many Shiite religious leaders are encouraging reforms in the government and in how the army and police secure the country. Militia supporters reject that and say the government's inability to secure the country means that residents should defend themselves.

                            Both tactics are born of a growing feeling that the government is grossly ineffective and the country is approaching total bedlam.

                            In the Shiite holy city of Karbala, which voted overwhelmingly for the government last December, police Officer Ahmed al Khafaji said he'd never seen residents there so angry with it.

                            The religious leadership "is blamed because they asked us to choose those political leaders, so they have to do something. They have to," Khafaji said. "The statement issued by Sheik al Najafi is a clear example that everyone is dissatisfied with the government."

                            During Iraq's two elections for parliament - in January and December of last year - the Shiite religious leaders encouraged voters to support the United Iraqi Alliance. Voters came out in droves and supported the slate, even as they admitted they didn't know the candidates. As a result, the United Iraqi Alliance won 128 of the parliament's 275 seats, allowing the slate to name the prime minister.

                            Since the beginning of this year, the number of killings per day has grown from 70 to 100, nearly all in sectarian strife. And while the government has promised sweeping security reforms, many people say their quality of life has worsened. Safe travel has become more difficult, fuel prices have soared and militias have overtaken more neighborhoods in a street-for-street battle for the capital.

                            That, coupled with the announcement that U.S. forces must re-enter Baghdad to seize control of it from rogue armed groups, has reinforced feelings among Iraqis that their government and its American-trained military and police forces have failed.

                            In the Shiite holy city of Najaf, religious leaders are calling on the government to arm its army better. "The solution is up to the honesty and conviction of the politicians," Sheik Mohammed Yaquoubi told a group of religious students in Najaf last month. Militias are dangerous because no one knows for "whom these armed groups, which spread the killings, destruction and horror," work for.

                            Even the usually reclusive top Shiite leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani, has chimed in, calling for national unity and reconciliation. In a statement last week, Sistani encouraged the Iraqi people "of all different sects and ethnicities to be aware of the size and danger that threatens the future of the country."

                            But in Shiite strongholds such as Najaf and Karbala, residents said they felt misled by the government and the Shiite religious leaders who backed it during the election. Some said they wished they could take back their votes.

                            "The failure of the Islamist political parties broke the trust between the Marjaiyyah and the people," said Amman al Janafi, a 39-year-old dentist from Najaf. "Even if Ayatollah Sistani himself were nominated in the next elections, I would not vote for the slate. The Marjaiyyah has lost the influence they had a year or two ago."

                            Shiite government leaders said they recognized the discontent, but privately admit they are in a quandary. If they say they agree with the statements of the religious leaders, who have huge influence over their base, they are conceding failure. If they disagree, they'll alienate voters.

                            Most are embracing the religious leaders' sentiments and promising that change is imminent.

                            Adel Abdul Mehdi, a Shiite and one of the country's two vice presidents, said the government was forming an economic plan that would rid the streets of militiamen. And he said that while the religious leadership was right to call the situation dire, much of the country was safe.

                            "If the government is doing something bad, no one should support them," Mehdi said in an interview with McClatchy. "We are shifting our attention from the constitutional and political actions toward economic, investment and reconstruction" programs.

                            Regardless, Vali Nasr, an adjunct senior fellow who specializes in Shiite Islam at the Council on Foreign Relations, a U.S. foreign policy-research center, said the new position of the Marjaiyyah and their followers was precarious. Saying the government has failed "is a dangerous conclusion because then the country goes to Plan B. What is Plan B?" Nasr said. "Chaos."

                            Shi'ite leaders distance themselves from Iraqi government

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                            • Col. Michael Steele, whose heroics were portrayed in the movie "Black Hawk Down," is under investigation for allegedly encouraging his men to go on a killing spree. The investigation begins just as the Army has started to make its case against four soldiers who are charged with murdering three Iraqi civilians while under Steele's command, ABC News has learned.

                              The soldiers' defense is that they were under orders to kill all military-age males.

                              ABC News has learned that Steele has already been reprimanded for the incident.

                              The hearing for the four soldiers that began today will determine if they should stand trial on murder charges. The killings took place as part of Operation Iron Triangle, which targeted a suspected al Qaeda training facility northwest of Baghdad, Iraq, in the city of Samarra.

                              Army prosecutors said the four American soldiers detained three Iraqi men and then killed them, unarmed, in cold blood.

                              The defendants claim that they acted in self-defense, claiming they were under orders to kill all military-age Iraqi men, whether or not they were armed.

                              Military sources familiar with the case said it appears that the soldiers in this unit at least believed their commander had issued an order to shoot to kill all Iraqi men during this operation.

                              Steele has a storied military career and it was his unit that came under attack in 1993 in Somalia, as was portrayed in the movie "Black Hawk Down." During the current conflict, Steele has been heard boasting about his unit's record of killing insurgents. Last November he said, "We are absolutely giving the enemy the maximum opportunity to die for his country."

                              A source familiar with the investigation said Steele kept a "kill board" tallying the number of Iraqis killed by units under his command, and in some cases he gave out commemorative knives to soldiers who killed Iraqis believed to be insurgents.

                              Steele has not commented publicly about the allegations against him. But a source close to him said that he categorically rejects them.

                              U.S. army commander investigated in Iraq killing spree

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                              • Another U.S. soldier killed in Al Anbar

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