Dozens of Shiite villagers in the north were massacred by Sunni extremists, two officials said Tuesday, while a car bomb exploded across the street from the Iranian Embassy in the heart of Baghdad and killed four civilians.
Meanwhile, Shiite legislators loyal to anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr decided to end their five-week boycott of parliament, one of their leaders said. The Shiite protest along with a separate Sunni boycott had blocked work on key benchmark legislation demanded by the U.S.
Police Col. Ragheb Radhi al-Omairi said 29 members of a Shiite tribe were massacred overnight in Diyala province when dozens of suspected Sunni gunmen raided their village near Muqdadiyah, about 60 miles northeast of Baghdad. The dead included four women, al-Omairi said.
Al-Omairi said he had not seen the bodies and it was unclear whether they had been retrieved.
An Iraqi army officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not supposed to release the information, said the attack occurred in the village of Diwailiya and that at least 10 bodies were mutilated in the hour-long raid.
The village is in the same province as Baqouba, where fighting escalated Tuesday. U.S. and Iraqi troops regained control of western Baqouba last month, but al Qaeda and other Sunni insurgent elements remain active in the rest of the city. The al Qaeda front Islamic State of Iraq had declared Baqouba its capital.
The leader of the 30-member Sadrist bloc in parliament, Nasser al-Rubaie, said the decision to end the boycott was taken after the government agreed to rebuild a Shiite mosque in Samarra which was destroyed in two bombings and to secure the highway from Baghdad and the shrine.
Pressure is now expected to mount on the Sunnis to end their boycott, which began over the ouster of the Sunni speaker of parliament last month. Sunni leaders say agreement is near on ending the protest.
Both protests have paralyzed work in Iraq's fractious, 275-member assembly as pressure is growing in the United States to bring an end to the U.S. military role here.
However, the Sadrists also oppose a number of bills sought by the government, including legislation to regulate the oil industry.
That could make it tougher for key benchmark legislation to win approval.
In other developments:The United States is ready to hold new direct talks with Iran on the deteriorating security situation in Iraq, the State Department said Tuesday. The Bush administration accused Tehran of supporting Shiite insurgents there. "We think that given the situation in Iraq and given Iran's continued behavior that is leading to further instability in Iraq, that it would be appropriate to have another face-to-face meeting," spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters. He said no date for the talks, which would be held in Baghdad, had yet been arranged.A suicide driver detonated his vehicle Tuesday near an Iraqi army patrol in Zayouna, a mostly Shiite area of eastern Baghdad, killing 10 people, including six civilians, police said. Police said 11 people, including seven civilians, were wounded.A car bomb exploded across the street from the Iranian Embassy in the heart of Baghdad Tuesday, killing four civilians, police said. The blast occurred a few hundred yards north of the U.S.-controlled Green Zone, sending a huge cloud of black smoke over the city. Three civilians also were wounded, said police.CBS News correspondent Allen Pizzey reports suicide attacks killed more than 4,000 Iraqi civilians in the past six months, and according to Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie a key U.S. ally, Saudi Arabia, bears much of the blame. (Read more)The U.S. command said American soldiers had killed about a dozen insurgents during a three-hour gunfight Monday in the Fadhil district, a Sunni enclave in the center of Baghdad. The battle began when paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division came under fire from the Islamic Bank building, the military said. One U.S. trooper was slightly wounded, the U.S. said.Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Monday he hoped Iraqi forces would have enough training by the end of the year to take over security duties from the Americans. But former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton, co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group, told NBC on Monday he doubted al-Maliki would be able to secure the country and allow American forces to leave soon.The U.S. command said American soldiers had killed about a dozen insurgents during a three-hour gunfight Monday in the Fadhil district, a Sunni enclave in the center of Baghdad. The battle began when paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division came under fire from the Islamic Bank building, the military said. One U.S. trooper was slightly wounded, the U.S. said.