Violence continues in Iraq on third anniversary of United States-led invasion in Iraq

Killers marked the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq Monday with roadside bombings that killed at least seven policemen, and authorities reported finding 10 more bullet-riddled bodies dumped in the capital, one of them a 13-year-old girl.

The violence took up where it left off Sunday when at least 35 people died.

One of the roadside bombings Monday, just a few hundred meters (yards) from an Interior Ministry lockup in central Baghdad, killed at least three Iraqi police commandos and a prisoner, police Lt. Col. Falah al-Mohammedawi said. Four commandos were injured in the midday attack.

A second roadside bomb in a farming area in the so-called Triangle of Death south of Baghdad killed four policemen, police Capt. Muthana Khalid Ali reported from the area.

The 10 dumped bodies, apparently executed, were the latest gruesome discoveries tied to the underground sectarian war being conducted by Shiite and Sunni Muslims as they settle scores in the chaos that grips the capital.

As many as 700 people have been killed in sectarian violence since the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra and the subsequent series of car bombings and mortar attacks in the Sadr City slum on March 12.

Baghdadis voiced anger Monday when asked about their lives as the war entered its fourth year.

"Since (U.S.-led troops) came into Iraq , we get nothing," said Ali Zeidan. "Three years have passed by for the Iraqi people and they are still suffering psychologically ... and economically."

Five Shiite pilgrims headed to Karbala were the victims of a drive-by shooting in an attack by assailants with automatic rifles in the town of Iskandariyah , 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Baghdad . All were injured, police said.

As millions of pilgrims gathered in Karbala Monday to complete 40 days of symbolic mourning for Imam Hussein, the Prophet Muhammad's grandson, the Baghdad International Airport was ordered closed through Tuesday "to avoid any violence during the (religious) commemoration," said Transportation Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abdul-Wahab.

Authorities have closed the airport in the past citing the need for security during elections.

In the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Dora, gunmen opened fire on a former Baghdad mayor as he left his house Monday morning, causing serious injuries. Assailants killed one policeman and injured four police officers and two civilians late Sunday in three separate attacks on police patrols in the city of Mosul , 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of the capital.

On the political front, Iraqi leaders still had not formed a government more than three months after landmark elections for the country's first permanent post-invasion parliament, but they did announce an agreement on establishing a Security Council to deal with key matters while negotiations proceed.

The announcement was made Sunday after the fourth in a series of U.S.-brokered all-party meetings on forming a new government.

"It was a successful meeting, and we have agreed on forming a National Security Council whose powers will not contradict the constitution," Adnan al-Dulaimi, a Sunni Arab political leader, told The Associated Press.

The council, to be headed by President Jalal Talabani, was established as an interim measure as politicians struggle to agree on the makeup of a new government following the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections.

Al-Dulaimi said nine council seats would go to Iraq 's Shiite Muslim majority, while Kurds and Sunni Arabs each would control four seats and the secular bloc two. Talabani, a Kurd, would head the group.

The exact powers of the council, if any, were not explained. But it appeared to have been formed to ensure that politicians from minority blocs would at least be consulted in advance on important government and security decisions.

The political discussions on forming a government began last week under pressure from U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. Al-Dulaimi said the talks would not resume until Saturday because of Shiite and Kurdish holidays this week.

Returning to the White House after a weekend at the presidential retreat in Camp David , Md. , U.S. President George W. Bush offered an upbeat assessment.

"We are implementing a strategy that will lead to victory in Iraq . And a victory in Iraq will make this country more secure and will help lay the foundation of peace for generations to come," he said.

Nearly 1,500 U.S. and Iraqi soldiers on Sunday sought to root out insurgents from farming villages an hour's drive north of the capital. They have captured dozens of suspects in the air- assault operation that began Thursday.

A day earlier the U.S. military released more than 350 detainees in Iraq , a statement said.

The releases were based on recommendations made by a review committee consisting of U.S. officers and Iraqi officials from the ministries of human rights, justice and interior. The Combined Review and Release Board was created in August 2004 and has reviewed the cases of some 30,000 detainees at military facilities throughout Iraq .

The 133,000 American troops on the ground inside Iraq was nearly a third more than took part in the campaign to oust Saddam Hussein that began in the early hours of March 20, 2003 .

At least 2,314 U.S. military personnel have died in the war, which is estimated to have cost $200 billion to $250 billion so far. Bush says about 30,000 Iraqis have been killed, while others put the toll far higher, reports the AP.


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