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Iraq Transition

Rumsfeld in Baghdad on surprise visit

Judge among 3 slain in capital

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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld landed Wednesday in Baghdad on a surprise visit.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld arrived in Baghdad Wednesday morning on an unannounced visit.

Rumsfeld is expected to meet with Jawad al-Maliki, the Shiite Muslim politician recently tapped as Iraq's prime minister.

Earlier this week, al-Maliki said he thinks U.S. troops could begin withdrawing in 18 months or less if his country's security forces get up to speed.

In an interview with CNN, al-Maliki, 55, also promised to tackle the problem of militias, the armed groups thought to be fueling sectarian violence. (Full story)

The Iraqi capital's plague of violence continued Tuesday with at least three killings, including that of a judge, authorities said.

Ibrahim Malik al-Hindawi, chief judge of Karkh Civil Court, was killed by gunfire from another vehicle as he drove through western Baghdad's Amriya neighborhood.

Elsewhere in the city, a civilian was killed and four others injured when a minibus exploded in the Sadr City area.

In another bombing, two police were injured on patrol when a car bomb went off near Yarmouk Hospital, police said.

Earlier Tuesday, a pair of car bombs exploded, killing at least one person and wounding six others, police said.

Later Tuesday, gunmen kidnapped an engineer working at a power station in eastern Baghdad.

And two days after 15 bodies were found dead of gunshots in the capital, two more bodies were discovered Tuesday afternoon in southern Baghdad. The latest had been shot in the head and could not be immediately identified by police. It was not known when they died.

Police said the bodies of 15 men found Sunday are believed to be those of Sunni Muslims. The men reportedly were heading to Anbar province to seek work with Iraqi security forces, police said.

The victims, whose bodies were discovered in two vehicles in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib section, all appeared to have died from gunshots.

Widespread killings that witnesses describe as sectarian in nature have raised fears that Iraq could descend into civil war.

Under Saddam Hussein, the minority Sunni Muslims wielded power, often through violence against Shiites and Kurds. In the current government, the Sunnis have a minority voice, and many officials think disaffected Sunnis are largely fueling the insurgency.

On Monday, at least eight people died and 90 others were injured in eight bombings across the Iraqi capital, authorities said.

Other developments

  • Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi surfaced Tuesday in a Web site video, defending the insurgent fight, exhorting followers to keep the faith and mocking the U.S.-led effort in Iraq. (Full story)
  • More than half of Americans believe the United States erred in sending troops to Iraq, a poll released Tuesday said, indicating that recent White House efforts to rally support for the war have not been successful. (Full story)
  • A retired CIA official has accused the Bush administration of ignoring intelligence indicating that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and no active nuclear program before the U.S.-led coalition invaded the country, CBS News' "60 Minutes" reported Sunday. (Full story)
  • CNN's Arwa Damon, Auday Sadik and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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