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Baghdad police find 43 bodies

Car bombs kill 14 as al-Rubaie says sectarian strife on decline

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Police reported discovering 43 bodies scattered across Baghdad this weekend, but Iraq's national security adviser told CNN Sunday that "sectarian-motivated violence" is isolated and beginning to decline.

"I think we are back to the -- almost to the same level as before the golden mosque explosion," Mowaffaq al-Rubaie said, referring to the February 22 bombing of the Askariya Mosque in Samarra that inflamed already smoldering Shiite-Sunni hostilities.

Since that attack, hundreds of bodies have been found, most shot in the head, many of them showing evidence of torture, all dumped in Baghdad neighborhoods or other cities.

Of those, 88 bodies turned up in the first week of May.

Al-Rubaie admitted the recent killings in Baghdad were the result of "a surge" in sectarian violence after the mosque bombing, but credited calls from the country's leaders -- both political and religious -- with helping to stem the strife.

He also said that despite daily reports of deadly attacks across Iraq, "in general, the violence is getting lower and lower, and I think it's generally reduced."

"Probably more than 80 percent of the country is secure, and people are going to their jobs normally, while some pockets, neighborhoods in Baghdad, are troublesome," al-Rubaie said.

On Sunday, a car bomb in a crowded commercial area in Karbala killed at least five people and wounded 18 on Sunday, and two morning car bombs in Baghdad claimed the lives of nine victims, hospital and police officials said.

Karbala -- which lies some 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Baghdad -- is home to two of Shiite Islam's holiest shrines and has been targeted by insurgent bombings in the past.

The first blast in Baghdad, at an Iraqi army base, killed eight people and wounded 15. The second exploded about 10 minutes later near a government agricultural building, killing one person and wounding five, police said.

The Bush administration has suggested that the formation of a unity government would help calm the violence.

Iraqi Prime Minister-designate Nuri al-Maliki is working to assemble a Cabinet to present to parliament for approval. The Cabinet must be submitted around May 21.

Al-Rubaie said he thinks al-Maliki is close to announcing the government.

"I don't think we are talking about weeks. I think we are talking about a few days," he said.

'No more than 5' killed in copter crash

British Defense Secretary Des Browne, meanwhile, said "no more than five" British troops were killed when a British helicopter went down in Basra on Saturday.

Crowds of Iraqis attacked British troops with rocks and at least one flaming Molotov cocktail after the helicopter went down.

The military neither confirmed nor denied reports by local officials that the helicopter had been hit by a missile.

At least four Iraqis were killed and 29 were wounded during the clashes between British military and Iraqis after the crash, an official with Sadr Teaching Hospital in Basra told CNN.

Police ordered an overnight curfew on the city, the British military said. (Watch Iraqis attack a British military vehicle -- 4:38)

Video taken shortly after the crash showed young men hurling rocks at an armored military vehicle and a man throwing a Molotov cocktail.

Basra is a mostly Shiite Muslim city about 245 miles southeast of Baghdad. The mainly British-occupied region has been relatively calm since the U.S.-led invasion.

Other developments

  • A U.S. Marine was killed Sunday after suffering wounds in combat in Iraq's Anbar province, according to a military news release. No other details were available. With the death, 2,418 U.S. troops have died in the Iraq war.
  • Three Iraqi army officers were killed on Saturday when a suicide bomber got inside an Iraqi army base in Tikrit, authorities said. The bomber was wearing an outfit similar to an Iraqi army uniform and entered the base after asking for some Iraqi army officers by name, officials said.
  • CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq and Jennifer Deaton contributed to this report

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