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Iraqi Marketplace Bomb Kills 24

A bomb blast Wednesday at Baghdad's largest and oldest wholesale market district killed at least 24 people and injured 35.

Police say the blast occurred at just before 10 a.m. at the Shurja commercial center. Shurja is one of Iraq's largest markets, where wholesalers sell food, clothing and house products to businessmen and shoppers.

Earlier, an explosives-rigged bicycle blew up near an army recruiting center in a city south of Baghdad Wednesday, killing at least 12 people.

The bombs comes a day after a grisly discovery: at least two dozen bodies found dumped in two Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad. Eleven of the bullet-riddled corpses, hands and legs bound, were found near a school in the Maalif section of the Iraqi capital. Thirteen other bodies were found behind a mosque, all, say police, dumped after being handcuffed, tortured and shot in the head.

In other developments:

  • Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Tuesday the world faces "a new type of fascism" and likened critics of the Bush administration's war strategy to those who tried to appease the Nazis in the 1930s. Speaking to several thousand veterans at the American Legion's national convention, Rumsfeld portrayed the administration's critics as suffering from "moral or intellectual confusion" about what threatens the nation's security.
  • Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office says 50 gunmen loyal to firebrand anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr were killed in Monday's clashes in Diwaniyah with the Iraqi army, which lost 23 troops. Tuesday, the streets were calm, as a deal between Shiite militiamen and the Iraqi government ended a fierce 12-hour street battle. South of the city, however, at least 27 people were killed, in an oil pipeline explosion police suspect could have been caused by people siphoning out gasoline.
  • One of Iraq's deputy prime ministers said Tuesday that attacks overall are declining. Barham Salih acknowledged an uptick in violence in the past few days, but predicted that by the end of the year, half of the country's provinces will be controlled by Iraq's security forces.
  • U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, an architect of America's heavily criticized prisoner of war policy, met with Barham Saleh, Iraq's deputy prime minister, in Baghdad in a visit he said was to promote "the rule of law." He said that Iraq's future would depend on its enforcing the rule of law, but only its people and political leaders could decide what type of law that would be.
  • Four U.S. soldiers and one marine have died in Iraq, two in fighting in the restive Anbar province, one after being hit by a roadside bomb in Baghdad and two from non-hostile causes, the U.S. military said Tuesday.
  • The U.S. military also said that soldiers from the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, part of 12,000 additional troops brought into Baghdad to crack down on violence in the city, seized a weapons cache in a southern Baghdad school. Another unit helped free two Iraqi kidnap victims.
  • Monday's fighting in Diwaniyah was some of the worst in recent months between the Iraqi army and Shiite militiamen loyal to al-Sadr. At least 10 civilians were killed before the cease-fire was reached.

    "Life is back to normal, the shops are open and Iraqi police and soldiers are deployed everywhere in Diwaniyah," said police Lt. Raid Jabir, contacted by telephone.

    Leaders of the tribes to which the dead combatants belonged held reconciliation talks Tuesday to prevent retaliatory attacks, Jabir said.

    Coalition helicopters were flying over the area on Tuesday, said Sheik Abdul-Razq al-Nidawi al-Sadr representative in Diwaniyah.

    Abbas Gahat, a grocer in Diwaniyah reached by telephone, said all shops were open in the city, although some were damaged. "Life is back to normal as if nothing took place," he said.

    Jabir said the police and Iraqi army had deployed throughout the city and the militiamen had withdrawn from all the areas they had seized.

    The violence ended after the provincial governor, accompanied by eight provincial council members, traveled to the holy city of Najaf, west of Diwaniyah, to meet with al-Sadr.

    Al-Sadr's influence has gradually been increasing in Shiite-dominated Diwaniyah. He is already popular in large parts of southern Iraq, particularly in Najaf and the surrounding area. He also wields considerable influence in some areas of Baghdad, especially in the slum of Sadr City.

    The Mahdi Army twice confronted U.S. forces in 2004. Al-Sadr's movement holds 30 of the 275 seats in parliament and five Cabinet posts, and the cleric's backing had helped al-Maliki win the top job earlier this year.

    Many Sunnis have expressed disappointment that al-Maliki has not moved to curb Shiite militias, especially the Mahdi Army.

    American forces also have been wary of confronting the militia because of al-Sadr's influence over the government and the Shiites, who are in a majority in Iraq.

    In the town of Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, three mortar shells, two rocket-propelled grenades and a bomb exploded at an al-Sadr office almost simultaneously, killing two guards and destroying the building, Diyala Province police in the city said. Baqouba is ethnically mixed but has a Sunni majority.

    It was not immediately clear whether there was any connection to the fighting in Diwaniyah.

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