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Iraq Transition

Al-Sadr aide released from jail

Story Highlights

NEW: Iraqi police found 33 bullet-riddled bodies in Baghdad
NEW: Suicide bomber strikes building used by Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
• Al-Sadr aide never was formally charged
• Errant explosion at Finance Ministry kills one, official says
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A top aide to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was released from jail Wednesday, a source in Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office and a senior U.S. military official told CNN.

Coalition forces detained Ahmed Shibani in 2004, but no formal charges were ever brought against him. Shibani had been treated well during his detention, the Iraqi source said.

Shibani was brought to al-Maliki's office before his release, the source said.

The U.S. military said Shibani was released in consultation with the prime minister, and at his request, because it was believed Shibani could help temper extremism and foster reconciliation in Iraq.

Al-Sadr is believed to be in neighboring Iran, where he sought refuge after coalition forces announced a Baghdad security crackdown earlier this year, U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Mark Fox said.

The anti-American cleric's political movement is a major part of the government, and his Mehdi Army is suspected of playing an integral role in the ongoing Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence plaguing the country.

Al-Maliki has been accused of not being tough enough on al-Sadr because he relies heavily on al-Sadr's support.

The prime minister has denied the allegation, saying he is tough on anyone who breaks the law, regardless of their affiliations.

Bodies found in Baghdad

Across Baghdad Iraqi police found on Wednesday 33 bullet-riddled bodies that they could not immediately identify, according to an official with the Iraqi Interior Ministry.

Some showed signs of torture and had their hands tied behind their backs, a common condition in which bodies are found daily, he said.

U.S. and Iraqi forces detonated an explosives-laden truck discovered near the Finance Ministry in Baghdad Wednesday afternoon, but the controlled explosion was larger than expected and a civilian was killed, an Interior Ministry official said.

In addition, seven people were wounded, and the blast caused structural damage to the Finance Ministry building, the official said.

The U.S. military did not comment on the incident.

Attacks around Baghdad Wednesday included roadside bombs that killed a police officer and two civilians, according to Iraqi police. (Details)

In addition, three mortar rounds landed on a residential area in Salman Pak, a town 19 miles (about 30 km) southeast of Baghdad Wednesday afternoon, killing eight people and wounding 19.

In Mosul, a suicide bomber used a truck to strike a building used by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), killing five people and wounding 25 in Mosul Wednesday afternoon, a police official told CNN.

The PUK is the party of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

Seven bodies were also found in various Mosul neighborhoods Wednesday, Mosul police said.

In the Shiite city of Diwaniya, 112 miles (180 km) south of Baghdad, Iraqi police found three bodies, two of them police officers.

A general with the former Iraqi army was among two people shot dead inside a car in Falluja, about 37 miles (60 km) west of Baghdad.

Other developments

  • A U.S. soldier was sentenced to five years in prison Wednesday after pleading guilty to being an accessory to the rape and murder of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and the slaying of her family, The Associated Press reported. Five soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division were charged in connection with March 12, 2006, attack in Mahmoudiya. (Full story)
  • U.S. forces in Baghdad have detained two brothers in connection with the killing of five U.S. soldiers in Karbala in January, a U.S. official told CNN Wednesday. The official identified the men as Qaif and Laith Khazali and said they are suspected of being part of an EFP (explosively-formed projectiles) network. The January attack involved nine to 12 gunmen in five SUVs, posing as U.S. military with "American-looking uniforms" and "U.S.-type weapons" before opening fire within the Karbala government compound, the U.S. military said.
  • CNN's Jennifer Deaton, Mohammed Tawfeeq, and Basim Mahdi contributed to this report.

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    A top aide to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose portrait is seen here earlier this year, was released from jail Wednesday.

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