Police on Wednesday confirmed the kidnapping of more than 40 Shiites along a notoriously dangerous highway just north of Baghdad, as the death toll from a suicide bombing at a wedding party rose to 23, including nine children.
At least eight other people were found dead or killed in new attacks Wednesday, including one person killed in a car bomb attack on Baghdad's central market of Shurja that also wounded five, police Lt. Ali Hassan said. He said the death toll in the market attack was likely to rise.
The abductions Tuesday near the town of Tarmiyah marked a further outbreak of sectarian violence in a region where scores were killed last month in bloody attacks and reprisal killings among formerly friendly Shiite and Sunni neighbors in the city of Balad.
Unarmed men checked identification cards and seemed to be looking for familiar faces among travelers stopped in heavy traffic, said an eyewitness, who asked to be identified only by the pseudonym Abu Omar for fear of reprisals.
Armed gunmen stood nearby during the abductions, just out of sight of U.S. soldiers who were disarming a roadside bomb further down the road, Abu Omar said. He and other Sunni travelers were allowed to travel onward after showing their ID cards, he said.
At least 40 travelers were missing and feared abducted, said an officer at the Joint Cooperation Center in the city of Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
In other developments:President Bush says the upsurge in violence in Iraq does not disprove his contention that U.S. forces are winning there. Interviewed on the Rush Limbaugh Show, the president insisted whenever the enemy in Iraq "confronts" U.S. troops, they lose. He says the only way America can lose the conflict is if those troops go home before the mission's complete. Mr. Bush's comments come days ahead of an election in which Iraq's the top issue — and he's accused Democrats of wanting to "cut and run." An American soldier was killed in fighting in Anbar province, a key insurgent stronghold, the U.S. military announced on Wednesday. The soldier died on Tuesday, meaning that 104 American service members were killed in combat in October, the fourth deadliest month since the Iraq war began in March 2003.Gunmen abducted a top Iraqi basketball official and a blind athletic coach, both Sunnis, on Wednesday, a day after U.S. and Iraqi forces lifted a blockade on Baghdad's Shiite militia stronghold of Sadr City. The attack took place at a youth club on relatively prosperous Palestine Street in eastern Baghdad near the Sadr City district, which is controlled by anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. The militia has been linked to scores of abductions and torture killings of Sunnis.Police said U.S. and Iraqi forces on Tuesday night stormed an office in the southwestern hamlet of Ahrar belonging to the al-Sadr organization, sponsors of the feared Mahdi Army militia linked to sectarian murders and other violence. Troops were supported by U.S. air cover and arrested five followers of radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, said Lt. Mohammed al-Shammari of the provincial police. There were no reports of casualties.Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki flexed his political muscle Tuesday and won U.S. agreement to lift military blockades on Sadr City, and another Shiite enclave where an American soldier was abducted. U.S. forces, who had set up the checkpoints in Baghdad last week as part of an unsuccessful search for the soldier, drove away in Humvees and armored personnel carriers at the 5 p.m. deadline set by al-Maliki. The American checkpoints disappeared within hours of Malikis order, reports CBS News chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan, and along with them, American hopes of stopping their missing soldier being transported out of Baghdad — if he is even still alive.Insurgents and Shiite militia groups continued attacks on U.S. forces and Iraqis who work with them. An Iraqi translator with U.S. forces, Haidar Muhsin, was shot dead late Tuesday in front of his home in Diwaniyah, the second translator killed in the southern city in recent days. An Iraqi-American linguist with the U.S. army was abducted in Baghdad last week and remains missing.In fresh attacks Wednesday, unknown gunmen riding in a private car shot dead policeman Izzaddin Abbas in central Baghdad as he was riding his motorcycle home, police Lt. Bilal Ali Majeed said. A clerk with the Ministry of Industry was shot and killed in northeastern Baghdad as he was driving to work, police Lt. Thayer Mahmoud said. A policemen was also among three people shot dead in the northern city of Mosul, said Brig. Sa'eed Ahmed of the provincial Police Information Office. Mosul police had also discovered the charred body of an apparent murder victim, Ahmed said.The bodies of three people who were shot after being blindfolded and bound at the wrists were found dumped in the capital's eastern districts, Capt. Mohammed Abdul Ghani, of the city's Rashad Police Station said. Scores of such bodies have been found in recent months, most believed to have been abducted and tortured by sectarian death squads.