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Iraq Transition

Talabani: More than 50 bodies pulled from Tigris

Twenty Iraqi soldiers killed in stadium, official says


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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqis made two grisly discoveries Wednesday, finding more than 50 bodies in the Tigris River and 20 Iraqi soldiers shot to death west of the capital, officials said.

Iraq President Jalal Talabani said, "More than 50 bodies have been brought out from the Tigris, and we have the full names of those who were killed and those criminals who committed these crimes."

Talabani, who held a news conference to discuss Iraq's fledgling government, made the remarks after he was asked about the search for hostages from the Madain region, which is southeast of Baghdad.

There were claims last week from Shiite officials that Sunni militants kidnapped dozens of Shiite residents from the area, but Iraqi forces found no captives when they went to the region.

Talabani said outgoing interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi will lead the investigation into the bodies found in the river.

Allawi's staff was among a group of government officials who, when contacted by CNN, said they were not aware of the discovery until Talabani mentioned it.

But Iraqi emergency police later told CNN that the Interior Ministry confirmed the discovery of the bodies in the southern province of Wasit. Among the dead were children and women, they said.

Meantime, in Haditha, insurgents shot and killed 20 Iraqi soldiers Wednesday morning, a police official said.

The soldiers, dressed in civilian clothes, were abducted from a vehicle and taken to the Haditha soccer stadium, where they were shot to death, the official said.

The soldiers were traveling to the al-Haklaniya police station just south of Haditha, the official said.

The U.S. Marine Corps issued a statement saying it couldn't confirm the reports.

However, it did say that there are reports from Haditha that "insurgents ransacked a television and radio station that provided emergency information, news and entertainment to the local population."

Haditha is about 150 miles west of Baghdad.

Allawi escapes bombing

Allawi escaped an assassination attempt Wednesday night when a car bomb exploded at a checkpoint on the main road leading to his party's headquarters in central Baghdad, said his spokesman, Thair al-Naqib.

Al-Naqib said Allawi was not wounded when the bomb exploded shortly before 11 p.m. (3 p.m. ET), but several guards and policemen were killed. Allawi, described as being in "good spirits," returned to his residence.

The spokesman said other assassination plans were afoot and blamed Wednesday's attack on "foreign agents." There was no information on how far Allawi was from the Iraqi National Accord's headquarters when the bomb exploded.

A series of bombings rocked the Baghdad region earlier Wednesday, killing an Iraqi child and an adult, and wounding at least eight other people, police said.

The capital has been besieged by insurgent bombings in recent days.

The deadly bombing occurred Wednesday morning on the road to Baghdad International Airport. A car bomb exploded near a U.S. military convoy, killing the two Iraqis and wounding at least five others, including a U.S. soldier, police said.

In the two other bombings that followed soon after in southern Baghdad, three Iraqi civilians were wounded near a police patrol and 15 cars were damaged outside a police station, police said.

Tuesday night, two U.S. soldiers were killed in a suicide car bomb attack on a U.S. military convoy near an apartment complex in western Baghdad. The total number of U.S. troops who have died in Iraq stands at 1,562.

Four other soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter were injured.

Iraqi assembly to meet

Talabani, who met with other politicians Wednesday, said he hoped a new government would be announced Thursday.

Newly elected politicians have been debating the details of the new government, nearly three months after the elections January 30 that chose a 275-member transitional National Assembly.

The main goal of the transitional government is to write a permanent constitution that will be put to voters in a referendum later this year. If and when that is approved, a permanent government will be elected.

The assembly also has yet to approve a Cabinet.

CNN's Ayman Mohyeldin, Kianne Sadeq and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.


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