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Iraqi government hangs 13 militants

First executions of insurgents since Hussein's ouster

BAGHDAD -- Iraq hanged 13 insurgents yesterday, the first executions of militants since the ouster of Saddam Hussein nearly three years ago.

But only one of those put to death was identified in the Cabinet statement: Shukair Farid, a former policeman in the northern city of Mosul who allegedly confessed to working with Syrian fighters to enlist fellow Iraqis to kill police and civilians.

Donald H. Rumsfeld is pressed on possibility of Iraqi civil war. A12

Farid had ''confessed that foreigners recruited him to spread the fear through killings and abductions," the government said.

The death sentences were handed down in separate trials and were carried out in Baghdad, according to a judicial official.

''The 13 terrorists were tried in different courts, and their trials began in 2005 and ended earlier this year," an official of the Supreme Judiciary Council said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he feared reprisal from insurgents.

In September, Iraq hanged three convicted murderers, the first executions of any convicts since Hussein's ouster in April 2003.

The men, considered common criminals rather than insurgents, were convicted of killing three police officers, kidnapping, and rape.

Capital punishment was suspended during the formal US occupation, which ended in June 2004, and the Iraqis reinstated the penalty two months later for those found guilty of murder, endangering national security, and distributing drugs, saying it was necessary to help put down the persistent insurgency.

Death sentences must be approved by the three-member presidential council headed by President Jalal Talabani, who opposes executions. In the September hangings and again in the executions yesterday, Talabani refused to sign the authorization himself but gave his two vice presidents the authority.

Also yesterday, the US military said it would begin moving thousands of prisoners out of Abu Ghraib prison to a new lockup near Baghdad's airport within three months and hand the notorious facility over to Iraqi authorities as soon as possible.

Abu Ghraib is known worldwide as the site where US soldiers abused some Iraqi detainees and, earlier, for its torture chambers during Hussein's rule.

The sprawling facility on the western outskirts of Baghdad will be turned over to Iraqi authorities once the prisoner transfer to Camp Cropper and other US military prisons in the country is finished. The process will take several months, said Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson, a US military spokesman in Baghdad.

Abu Ghraib currently houses 4,537 out of the 14,589 detainees held by the US military in the country. Iraqi authorities also hold prisoners at Abu Ghraib, though it is not known how many.

Violence raged on as a series of explosions yesterday rocked Baghdad, including a car bomb that struck a Sunni mosque and a shooting that killed a total of 17 civilians and wounded 31 as a dust storm enveloped the capital.

The US military reported the death of another Marine, killed Wednesday in insurgency-ridden Anbar province. At least 2,305 US service members have died since the war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

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