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Bodies of 60 Iraqis show signs of torture

Sectarian violence rages in Baghdad; car blast kills 10

BAGHDAD -- Iraqi police found 60 bodies dumped across Baghdad in the 24 hours up to yesterday morning, the apparent victims of sectarian death squads blamed for escalating violence that threatens to pitch the country into civil war.

Most of the victims had been shot in the head execution-style, an Interior Ministry official said. The deaths squads roam Baghdad torturing and killing at will.

A bomb placed under a car outside a bakery in the mostly Sunni Arab southern Baghdad district of Doura exploded at midday, reducing the shop to rubble and killing 10 people, many of whom had been queuing outside to buy bread, police said.

Iraq has been gripped by Sunni-Shi'ite bloodshed since the bombing of a revered Shi'ite Muslim shrine in February. The United Nations estimates 100 Iraqis die violently every day.

The violence rages on largely unchecked despite US efforts to build up Iraq's fledgling security forces, a major security crackdown in the capital, and a series of peace plans by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's four-month-old government.

Three Marines were killed Monday in fighting in western Anbar Province, the US military said yesterday .

A fire broke out at an ammunition dump at a US base in southern Baghdad yesterday, causing a series of explosions that rocked the capital, the US military said. The cause of the fire, which lit up the night sky, was not immediately known.

US officials had predicted a surge in violence during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began in late September, and a US military spokesman, Major General William Caldwell, said the trend was likely to continue for the next two weeks.

``It is clearly tough at the moment," he said in Baghdad.

Maliki's government is under growing pressure, particularly from Washington, to rein in sectarian militias, several of which are tied to parties within his own government and are accused of infiltrating the police to provide cover for killings.

In a bid to ease the violence and bridge mistrust, Maliki has announced a plan to form committees in Baghdad districts that would include representatives of political parties, religious leaders, and military and police officials.

An all-party committee overseeing the plan would discuss proposals for joint checkpoints in Sunni and Shi'ite districts last night, a senior government official said.

In the flashpoint southern Shi'ite city of Diwaniya, US and Iraqi troops killed 11 militants, many dressed as Iraqi police, in clashes around a mosque on Monday night, the US military said in a statement yesterday.

The military said the fighting erupted after militants opened fire on a routine joint US-Iraqi patrol, but a senior representative of radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in the city said the troops had been trying to arrest him.

``They shot at us. One of my guards has two or three grenades, and the other has a machine gun. They returned fire and set fire to one of the Humvees. We then withdrew peacefully, thank God," Khudair al-Ansari said.

The fighting follows fierce street battles in the city.

The US military said 30 militants were killed and a US tank severely damaged when American and Iraqi troops entered Diwaniya on Sunday to detain a ``high-value target."

The 60 bodies found in Baghdad were all men, some of whom had been blindfolded or bound, said the Interior Ministry official, who did not want to be named. Signs of torture included bruising and broken limbs.

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