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Iraq Transition

Bomb rips Tal Afar; more bodies found in Baghdad

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A suicide truck bomber hit an Iraqi army checkpoint, killing at least 14 people and wounding 13 in the northern city of Tal Afar on Saturday morning, police and hospital officials said.

Four of those killed were soldiers. Four of those wounded were also soldiers.

Tal Afar is about 45 miles (72 kilometers) west of Mosul.

In Baghdad, plagued by sectarian violence between Shiites and Sunnis, Iraqi security forces found 51 bodies in various neighborhoods. Some showed signs of torture, some were blindfolded and some had their hands tied behind their backs. None of the bodies could be immediately identified.

Baquba, the capital of Diyala province, also saw its share of violence.

Two bodies were found there, both with their hands bound and apparently tortured, Diyala officials said.

Also in Baquba, gunmen opened fire on an outdoor market, killing two people and wounding three, according to police.

Iraqi police defused three bombs in different areas of the city, but three others exploded in various Baquba neighborhoods, causing structural damage, Diyala officials said.

An Iraqi man was killed when a roadside bomb hit his car in the town of Khan Bani Saad, south of Baquba.

Meanwhile, a U.S. soldier was killed during an operation near the Iraqi city of Baiji in Salaheddin province, north of Baghdad, the U.S. military announced Saturday.

The soldier -- with Task Force Lightning -- was assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the military said.

The death puts the U.S. military death toll in Iraq at 2,729. Seven military contractors also have been killed.

General: 150 insurgents arrested in Kirkuk

Iraqi security forces and the U.S. military arrested 150 insurgents Saturday in a 13-hour, house-to-house operation in Kirkuk, the city's deputy police chief said.

Brig. Gen. Torhan Abdel-Rahman told CNN that the 5,000 security force troops also confiscated 450 pieces of light weaponry during their sweep of most of the city.

The searches followed a citywide curfew imposed Friday evening. That curfew, which banned all vehicle and pedestrian movement, will be lifted at 6 a.m. local time on Sunday, Abdel-Rahman said.

Kirkuk -- home to Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens -- has been a cauldron of ethnic tension in Iraq.

'Drifting sideways'

The White House on Friday differed with a dire assessment of Iraq by a top Republican senator returning from a visit with Iraqi officials and U.S. commanders in Baghdad. (Watch key GOP senator's warning after Iraq visit -- 2:29 Video)

Sen. John Warner of Virginia, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the situation in Iraq is "drifting sideways."

"I don't believe that the president thinks that way," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Friday. "I think that he believes that while it is tough going in Iraq, that slow progress is being made."

Warner cited what he called an "exponential rise in the number of deaths" and the failure of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government to disarm warring factions.

"In two or three months, if this thing hasn't come to fruition, and if this level of violence is not under control and this government able to function, I think it's a responsibility of our government, internally, to determine: Is there a change of course that we should take?" Warner said.

Thousands of Iraqi police officers have been killed or wounded over the past two years, the U.S. commander in charge of police training in Iraq said Friday.

Since September 2004, about 4,000 officers have been killed and 8,000 injured, said Maj. Gen. Joseph Peterson in a teleconference from Baghdad with Pentagon reporters. The police have "paid a great price," he said. (Full story)

U.S. commanders are focused on reducing violence in Baghdad to a level where the Iraqi police can take over security.

With the Iraqi capital secured, U.S. leaders say the Iraqi government can switch its focus to providing security and basic services to the rest of the country. That would set the conditions for U.S. troops to begin withdrawing.

But the Iraqi police have been criticized for their performance and for ties to militias and death squads suspected of hundreds of kidnappings and murders each month.

CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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