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Remains found in former al-Qaida stronghold

It was the third such mass grave found this month. An estimated 33 bodies were found.

Associated Press
Published November 18, 2007


BAGHDAD - Remains of possibly dozens of people believed slain in sectarian violence were unearthed Saturday from a mass grave in a former al-Qaida stronghold in southern Baghdad - the third such find in Iraq this month.

Also Saturday, the Iraqi television station al-Baghdadiyah reported one of its reporters had been kidnapped Friday - the latest in a grim series of attacks that has made Iraq among the world's most dangerous countries for journalists.

The Committee to Protect Journalists says at least 123 journalists and 42 media support workers have been killed in Iraq since the war began in 2003.

The badly decomposed remains were found in Baghdad's mostly Sunni Dora neighborhood by Sunnis who have turned against al-Qaida in Iraq, police said.

Sunni extremists would often waylay travelers along the main highway leading to Shiite shrine cities in the south, kidnapping and killing Shiites.

The remains were placed in black plastic bags and transferred to a Shiite mosque in Dora, according to an unidentified police officer at the mosque, the Associated Press reported.

An Associated Press photographer at the Kazimain mosque counted 33 plastic bags, and police said each bag held the remains of one victim. But the remains were so badly decomposed that it was impossible to verify the number.

Relatives of people who had been missing in the area crowded into a courtyard outside the mosque, where the remains were laid out. But none of the remains had been identified by late Saturday.

Earlier this month, American and Iraqi officials said they found 29 bodies near Lake Tharthar north of Baghdad in the former al-Qaida stronghold of Anbar province. The next day, another 17 victims were discovered in a brushy area west of Baqubah, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad.

Last Tuesday, the International Red Cross said at least 375,000 people were missing in Iraq, many of them victims of Sunni and Shiite extremists who kidnapped and murdered members of the rival Islamic sect.

The wave of sectarian slaughter has receded somewhat in recent months as the U.S. troop presence in Baghdad has increased, as more Sunnis turn against extremist groups and as Shiite militias have toned down their operations.

U.S. Army officer faces bribery charge

During two tours of duty in Iraq, Capt. Cedar Lanmon allegedly accepted about $40,000 in bribes to steer government business to contractors, according to a criminal complaint filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, Wash. Army special agents investigated the allegations in cooperation with the FBI. On Friday, the Western Washington U.S. Attorney's Office filed the one-count complaint that accuses Lanmon of conspiracy to accept a bribe, money laundering of bribery proceeds and illegally importing an antiquity, a piece of ancient pottery from the city of Ur. Lanmon, who served in Iraq in 2004 and again in 2006, is now stationed at Fort Jackson, S.C., according to an Army spokesman. He made an initial court appearance in Tacoma on Friday and has not yet entered a plea. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Jennings said that a bribery conviction could bring up to 10 years in prison.

Fighting militants

Two soldiers and four militants were killed when Iraqi soldiers raided a Sunni village about 40 miles north of Baqubah looking for al-Qaida militants, the Iraqi army said Saturday.

The U.S. military said American troops killed seven suspected insurgents and detained 10 in raids across central and northern Iraq.

In Mosul, police detained 13 members of a new militant group, Jihad and Liberation, provincial police said. The group was arrested when Iraqi soldiers raided their hideouts in the eastern part of the city.

[Last modified November 18, 2007, 02:29:10]

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