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Nine Severed Heads Found in Iraq


Iraqi police say they have found nine severed heads wrapped in plastic bags near the town of Baquba, northeast of Baghdad. It is the second such discovery in recent days.

In the capital, an explosion near a taxi station in a central part of the city killed one woman and wounded at least one other person. At least five other people died in shootings and other attacks in Baghdad today.

Insurgent and sectarian violence has surged across Iraq in the past few days as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki struggles to fill two key cabinet positions. Intense wrangling by factions within the governing coalition have blocked a consensus.

In other news, Mr. Maliki said Tuesday he will order the release of 2,500 prisoners who were not involved in violence. He called it a move to promote national reconciliation.

On Monday, gunmen in police uniforms abducted 50 people from travel agencies in central Baghdad. At least two Syrian nationals are said to be among those taken.

Iraq's Interior Ministry denied any involvement in the incident and said it is investigating.

In other developments, a court in Baghdad sentenced an Iraqi man to life in prison for helping the kidnappers of British aid worker Margaret Hassan, who was killed in captivity in 2004. The court found Mustafa Salman guilty of aiding and abetting the kidnappers.

Hassan was director of CARE International in Iraq. Her body has not been found.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters

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