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Iraqi general killed in ambush

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A top commander in Iraq's army was shot to death on a western Baghdad road Monday in one of a string of attacks that killed at least 10 other people, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.

Maj. Gen. Mubdar Hatim was the commander of the Iraqi army's 6th Division, which had taken over responsibility for security in portions of Baghdad over the past several months.

He was shot and killed in an ambush after visiting troops in the Baghdad district of Khadamiya, the U.S. command in Baghdad said.

In a statement issued Monday night, Maj. Gen. J.D. Thurman, the commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Baghdad, called Hatim "a true Iraqi patriot."

"He was my friend and a brother," Thurman said. "His legacy will live on. He leaves behind a professional and capable fighting force that will continue the fight for Iraqi freedom."

The U.S. military vowed that his killing "will neither impede the 6th Iraqi army division from continuing its mission of securing Baghdad nor derail the formation of the government of Iraq."

Monday's attacks in Baghdad and two other Iraqi cities, including several car bombs in and around the capital, wounded at least 56 people.

The country has been beset by a wave of sectarian killings that have killed several hundred people since the February 22 bombing of a revered Shiite Muslim mosque in Samarra, north of Baghdad.

In Monday's deadliest attack, a car bomb exploded in a marketplace in Baquba, killing at least six people and wounding 23 others, police and hospital officials said.

Three children were among the dead, according to officials in Baquba, about 35 miles (60 kilometers) north of the Iraqi capital.

Also Monday, at least five car bombs exploded in Baghdad, killing three people and wounding 28 others. At least three of the blasts appeared to target police patrols.

In one, a blast struck a patrol of Iraqi police commandos near al-Mustansriya square in eastern Baghdad, killing one person, wounding nine -- including two police commandos -- and damaging six civilian cars, emergency police said.

Another bomb targeted an Iraqi police patrol in Musbah Square in central Baghdad, killing one officer and wounded three people, including two policemen.

In Mahmoudiya, about 17 miles (30 kilometers) south of Baghdad, a car bomb near a police patrol killed one person and wounded five others, a Baghdad emergency police official told CNN.

Countdown begins

Iraq's two-month window to build a permanent government will begin in six days, President Jalal Talabani said Monday.

Talabani said the first session of the 275-member parliament will be Sunday. The constitution initially required the first session by the end of February following December's elections. Talabani had extended that time until March 12.

In a process that could prove difficult, the legislative body will have up to two months to choose a presidential council made up of a president and two vice presidents. That council will select Iraq's leader, the prime minister.

Current Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari is the choice of the Shiite-led United Iraqi Alliance, the country's most powerful political coalition, to form the new government. But al-Jaafari is under fire from Kurdish, Sunni and secular politicians, many of whom want him to step out of the race. (Full story)

Other developments

  • A U.S. soldier was killed Sunday in Iraq's Anbar province, west of Baghdad, the military said. According to the military, the soldier "died due to enemy action" in the province. Since the start of the war in 2003, 2,302 U.S. troops have died in Iraq.
  • Human rights group Amnesty International has condemned the detention of prisoners in Iraq, saying some 14,000 people are being held without charges or trials and that torture continues despite the Abu Ghraib scandal. (Full story)
  • CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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