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Iraq Transition

More than 80 dead in apparent reprisals

Bodies found around Baghdad in 30-hour period
A corpse is brought into Baghdad's Yarmouk Hospital on Tuesday. More than 80 bodies were found in the city.


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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Authorities said at least 86 bodies were found in the Iraqi capital during a 30-hour period ending midday Tuesday, sparking fears that sectarian reprisal killings are continuing at a grisly pace.

With Iraq's newly elected parliament set to meet Thursday, officials announced a vehicle curfew. Authorities will stop any car or truck in Baghdad between 8 p.m. (noon ET) Wednesday and 4 p.m. (8 a.m.) Thursday.

Police found 29 bodies, their hands bound and gunshot wounds in their heads, on the eastern side of the capital in a Shiite neighborhood.

Fifteen bodies also were found Tuesday morning in a truck in a Sunni neighborhood in western Baghdad, police said. The victims were all males between the ages of 25 and 40 who had been strangled, authorities said.

Another two bodies were discovered in southern Baghdad.

Police counted the recovery of 40 bodies during the 24 hours that ended at 6 a.m. Tuesday (10 p.m. ET).

"Police won't say this, but the indications are that these are sectarian killings," CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson said.

"You talk to some people here in Baghdad and they talk in their neighborhoods, mixed neighborhoods, of tit-for-tat killings. Sunni one day, Shia the next day...

"That's the perception in the city at the moment."

Sectarian violence has gripped the capital, home to 6 million Iraqis, and flared in other cities since the February 22 bombing of a revered Shiite mosque in Samarra.

The latest wave of killings follows Sunday's string of car bombs in Sadr City, Baghdad's huge Shiite slum, that killed at least 46 people and wounded more than 200 others.

Pace: Iraq at 'crossroads'

The U.S. military said Tuesday that two American soldiers were killed in action a day earlier in Iraq's volatile Anbar province. Since the Iraq war began almost three years ago, 2,311 U.S. troops have died.

While the Pentagon says it hopes to reduce the level of U.S. troops in Iraq later this year, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld suggested Tuesday the number may rise in the short term because of religious pilgrimages that have previously brought an increase in attacks.

"General Casey may decide he wants to bulk up slightly for the pilgrimage," he said of Gen. George Casey, the top-ranking U.S. military official in Iraq.

Rumsfeld denied suggestions that Iraq was in a civil war, but the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters at the same Pentagon briefing that the country is at a "crossroads."

"The path to civil war is available to the Iraqi people. And the path toward freedom and representative government is available to them," said Gen. Peter Pace. "They are standing at the crossroads right now and they're looking down both paths."

A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Monday found only 36 percent of Americans approved of Bush's performance in office -- a new low for his presidency in that poll -- and 57 percent said they considered the March 2003 invasion that toppled Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein a mistake. (Full story)

But Monday, Bush said U.S. forces were "making progress" in the war, building up Iraqi troops and finding ways to counteract the roadside bombs behind a large proportion of U.S. casualties.

Other developments

  • A roadside bomb killed one civilian and wounded seven others near a school on the main road in Khan bani Sa'ed, about 12 miles (20 kilometers) south of the provincial capital of Baquba, a spokesman with the Diyala Joint Coordination Center said.
  • Iraqi police in the northern city of Tikrit have detained an American security worker, authorities told CNN Tuesday. A U.S. military official said the man was stopped because he was traveling alone, a violation of procedure.
  • CNN's Arwa Damon and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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