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Iraq Transition

Death toll from mosque attack rises to 81

Car bomb kills 5 near Shiite shrine

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An Iraqi at a funeral procession in Najaf Saturday mourns for a victim of Friday's mosque bombing.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Shiite mourners carrying dozens of coffins filled Baghdad's streets Saturday, as families buried victims of the massive suicide bomb attack at a Shiite mosque a day earlier.

An Iraqi Health Ministry official Saturday said the death toll had risen to 81 people, with 160 wounded, in the attack on the Buratha Mosque in northern Baghdad.

The mosque is affiliated with the prominent Shiite party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and its imam is Sheikh Jalaluddin al-Saghir, a parliament member affiliated with the Shiite-led United Iraqi Alliance.

The coalition won a plurality in the December 15 parliamentary elections.

The funerals coincided with a car bomb that killed five Iraq civilians and wounded 17 in Musayyib, 40 miles south of Baghdad, also near a Shiite shrine, according to police. Police do not believe, however, that the Marqad Awlad Shiite shrine was the target.

The bomb went off on a road often used by coalition forces and Shiite pilgrims traveling to the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala. On Thursday, a bomb near the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf killed 10 people and wounded more than three dozen others. (Full story)

In addition, a mortar round that landed on a house in central Baghdad killed two civilians and wounded two others, police sources told CNN.

Attacks ahead of Iraqi Freedom Day

These recent attacks come just ahead of Iraqi Freedom Day on Sunday, the third anniversary of the toppling of the Saddam Hussein regime, and amid fears that Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence could degenerate into civil war.

Hostilities have been inflamed since the February 22 bombing of the Askariya Mosque, a revered Shiite shrine, in Samarra.

U.S. and British officials have urged Iraqi leaders to end a political stalemate and quickly form a national unity government to ensure the establishment of law and order. Shiite leaders meanwhile are urging calm among their people.

On Saturday, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. George Casey -- the top U.S. military and civilian officials in Iraq -- issued a joint statement, saying the "legitimate security forces must quell sectarian violence."

Their remarks were in reference to Iraq's militias, which have been blamed for a number of reprisal attacks against Sunnis. Among such militias are SCIRI's Badr Brigades, Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army, and the Kurdish pesh merga.

The United Iraqi Alliance and a Kurdish coalition have dominated the transitional government since January 2005.

At the heart of the political stalemate is the UIA choice of Ibrahim al-Jaafari as prime minister of the permanent government. Sunnis, Kurds and secular Shiites oppose al-Jaafari's nomination and want another candidate. Al-Jaafari has refused to step aside.

CNN's Aneesh Raman and Auday Sadik contributed to this report.

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