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Teacher's slaying a reminder sectarian violence persists

Sunni man shot while heading to Shi'ite area

BAGHDAD - A Sunni schoolteacher was hijacked as he drove to visit his sister in a predominantly Shi'ite area of Baghdad yesterday. His body was found an hour later, a grim reminder that sectarian violence persists in the capital despite a recent decline.

Iraqi police blamed Shi'ite gang members for the killing.

Ahmed al-Janabi, a 45-year-old father of three, was stopped at a southwest Baghdad intersection by gunmen in two cars. They drove him away in his own car after inspecting his national ID and food ration card. His name doomed him: the Janabi tribe is mainly Sunni.

Police found his body in the car in a nearby neighborhood, with three gunshot wounds to his eyes, according to an officer at the hospital where police delivered the body.

The officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared becoming a target himself, said the attackers were Shi'ite militia members. Janabi's sister was married to a Shi'ite man.

Northeast of the capital, women in black and other relatives gathered at another morgue to claim the bodies of eight men found dumped in the city of Baqubah. Two were Shi'ite brothers who had been abducted at a fake checkpoint near the city two days ago, police said.

Such sectarian killings usually blamed on so-called death squads run by Shi'ite militias have been a daily occurrence in Iraq since a February 2006 bombing of a Shi'ite shrine north of Baghdad sparked a wave of retaliatory violence. The shrine attack was believed to have been the work of Al Qaeda in Iraq, a Sunni extremist group.

The number of sectarian killings has fallen dramatically since a joint US-Iraqi security crackdown began in Baghdad in February. Killings declined further beginning in August, when radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr ordered his Mahdi Army militia fighters to cease attacks for up to six months.

At least 284 bodies with bullet wounds and bearing the hallmarks of attacks by sectarian death squads have been found nationwide this month, including 135 in Baghdad. That compared with 507 bodies found last month and a peak this year of 1,079 in January, 944 of those in Baghdad.

At Ali al Salem Air Base in Kuwait yesterday, Laura Bush told about 700 US service members that the American people stand by them in the Iraq war and the security situation in the country was improving due to their efforts.

The troops greeted Bush with applause when she entered a terminal at the base. "I am the one who should be applauding you for what you've done," said Bush, who has been on a tour of the Mideast, mainly aimed at raising awareness of breast cancer.

"We are seeing signs of progress as thousands of Iraqis are stepping up to work with coalition soldiers," Mrs. Bush told the troops from various branches, who were either coming from the war-torn country or heading there.

"Iraqis are providing intelligence and information on Al Qaeda and other violent groups in their neighborhoods and bringing security and stability to their communities," she said.

In Rome yesterday, a court threw out the case of an American soldier charged in the 2005 shooting of an Italian intelligence agent in Iraq.

The court granted the defense's argument that Italy had no jurisdiction in the case against Specialist Mario Lozano, who was on trial in absentia on charges of murder and attempted murder.

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