Iraq: end of legislative boycott; at least 46 people killed

The easing of tensions in the government came on a day of violence elsewhere. Bombings and shootings killed at least 46 people nationwide.

Gunmen also seized an Iraqi diplomat on leave from his post in Iran as he was driving near his Baghdad home. Iraq's Foreign Ministry said Wissam Jabr al-Awadi was a consul in the Iranian city of Kermanshah, a city with a large Kurdish population near the border with Iraq.

The Iraqi Accordance Front suspended its participation in parliament meetings earlier this month after one of its members, Tayseer al-Mashhadani, was kidnapped in a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad. Many Sunnis blamed anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, although the organization has denied any involvement.

Al-Sadr has called for unity. A leading Sunni politician said the bloc was responding, in the first sign of accommodation by both sides amid a sharp rise in sectarian tensions, the AP reports.

Earlier this month, Sunni politician Ayad al-Samaraie said a group claiming to be holding al-Mashhadani demanded the release of 25 Shiites detained by U.S. forces in return for her freedom. The group also purportedly called for a timetable for withdrawing coalition troops, the release of all detainees, and a halt to attacks on Shiite mosques.

Al-Sadr aide Awas al-Khafaji denied that the Mahdi Army was behind the violence and accused the U.S. of trying to stoke sectarian tensions. He also warned that members of the armed group will defend themselves if attacked as the government has launched an apparent crackdown against the illegal militias.

A series of brazen attacks struck the Baghdad area and northern Iraq, killing at least 46 people and wounding 66.

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