14 Iraqis killed in last shootings

A college student, a police officer, a shop owner, two street vendors and a taxi driver became the latest victims of one of the most common forms of deadly attack in the capital on Wednesday: drive-by shootings. The bodies of eight people who apparently had been kidnapped and tortured by death squads also were found in Baghdad and another area.

U.S. forces also killed seven insurgents in two operations outside the capital, and a bomb set fire to an oil pipeline south of Baghdad , officials said. Drive-by shootings often happen so quickly that Iraqi police can't tell whether they were motivated by sectarian hatred or personal vendettas. Insurgents, private militias and petty criminals also have been known to disguise themselves as policemen and soldiers, making it very difficult for Iraqi forces to identify or hunt down the killers.

On Monday, bombings and drive-by shootings killed at least 40 Iraqis in Baghdad and other areas of the country, as the national unity government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki tried once again to find candidates for Iraq 's three security Cabinet ministries who will not be vetoed by the rival political groups in his fragile coalition. Al-Maliki said Monday that his new government will begin next month trying to assume responsibility for the security of some of Iraq 's less violent provinces, with the goal of eventually allowing coalition forces to withdraw from such areas.

But that could be difficult to do, and an editorial cartoon in one of the Arabic language newspapers that Iraqis read said as much Wednesday. The cartoon in Asharq Al-Awsat, a Saudi newspaper based in London , showed al-Maliki sitting nervously atop a huge bull that he was about to ride bare back at a rodeo. Alongside him sat Uncle Sam, acting as the judge and looking at his watch to see how long al-Maliki would survive the ride.

U.S. President George W. Bush, facing political pressure at home for American troop cutbacks, said Tuesday that he would make a fresh assessment about Iraq 's needs for U.S. military help now that the new government has taken office in Baghdad .

"We haven't gotten to the point yet where the new government is sitting down with our commanders to come up with a joint way forward," Bush said at a news conference in Washington . "However, having said that, this is a new chapter in our relationship. In other words, we're now able to take a new assessment about the needs necessary for the Iraqis." Al-Maliki was scheduled later Wednesday to meet in Baghdad 's heavily fortified Green Zone with the prime minister, reports the AP.

N.U.