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Iraq Transition

Police accused in sectarian revenge killings

Story Highlights

• Iraqi army officer says 70 dead, 40 kidnapped, 30 wounded in reprisals
• Killings come a day after scores die in truck bombings at markets
• Iraq security forces thwart two chlorine-truck bombings in Falluja, military says
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Shiite policemen are being blamed for a wave of shooting deaths Wednesday in Tal Afar that authorities are characterizing as revenge for two truck bombs that left dozens dead a day earlier.

An Iraqi army officer in Tal Afar said 70 people were killed, 40 kidnapped and 30 others were wounded. An official at Tal Afar's hospital confirmed all victims taken to the hospital were shot in the head -- all males, between 20 and 50 years old.

There is evidence the gunmen were members of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army, a Turkmen Front Party official in Tal Afar said.

Mosul police spokesman Gen. Said Ahmed said the attackers stormed homes in the northern Iraqi city's Wahda neighborhood about 11 p.m. Tuesday. Attacks continued until early Wednesday afternoon.

The violence lasted until Iraqi soldiers arrived, officials said. Police said Wednesday afternoon that additional security forces had been deployed to the area and the situation was under control. (Watch the new top U.S. commander in Iraq talk about his first impressions Video)

Wahda is a Sunni Turkmen neighborhood. Tal Afar, which is in Nineveh province near the Syrian border, is dominated by Turkmen but has significant Sunni and Shiite populations as well.

Tuesday's deadly truck bombs targeted markets in the northern and central parts of Tal Afar, Mayor Najam Abdulla said. The bombs detonated within minutes of each other, he said.

The explosions killed at least 85 people and wounded 183 others, according to the Iraqi army officer in Tal Afar.

A terrorist group linked to al Qaeda, meanwhile, posted a statement on an Islamist Web site claiming responsibility for the suicide truck bombings.

"We ask God to accept our brother among the martyrs," the Islamic State of Iraq said in its statement. The group has claimed responsibility for several previous attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces, including the downing of U.S. Army helicopters.

CNN could not immediately verify the authenticity of the statement.

A year ago, President Bush touted Tal Afar as a success story for U.S.-led forces. (Watch Bush make a case for keeping troops in Iraq Video)

"In this city, we see the outlines of the Iraq that we and the Iraqi people have been fighting for," Bush said in a March 20, 2006, speech in Cleveland, Ohio.

U.S.: Chlorine truck bombings foiled

Iraqi security forces in Falluja thwarted "a complex attack" involving two chlorine trucks driven by suicide bombers Wednesday, the U.S. military said.

The attacks began with mortar fire at the city's government center, the military said.

"Iraqi police identified the first suicide attacker and fired on the truck, causing it to detonate before reaching the compound. Iraqi Army soldiers spotted the second suicide truck approaching the gate and engaged it with small arms fire, causing it to also detonate near the entrance of the compound," the military said in a statement.

About 15 Iraqi and coalition forces were injured in the blasts, and several Iraqi soldiers and police were treated for symptoms connected to chlorine inhalation.

The Iraqi Interior Ministry issued a statement, saying that insurgents had resorted to the "most offensive and dirtiest means" of achieving their aims.

There have been a smattering of attacks involving chlorine since last month. On February 20, a tanker carrying chlorine exploded outside a restaurant in Taji, killing six people.

Later that month, a raid outside Falluja yielded a car-bomb factory where U.S. forces also found cylinders of the toxic gas.

Earlier this month, three chlorine-filled trucks exploded in Anbar province, killing two police officers and sickening hundreds of Iraqis.

On Monday, U.S. troops foiled two suicide truck bombings north of Karma, which is about 9 miles (15 kilometers) northeast of Falluja in Anbar province. A water truck and a dump truck detonated, and at least eight U.S. troops were wounded in the blasts and ensuing firefights. (Watch CNN's Arwa Damon come under small-arms fire while accompanying a U.S. patrol Video)

Other developments

  • A Health Ministry official was killed and one of his bodyguards was wounded when gunmen attacked their car in eastern Baghdad's Zayuna district, Baghdad police said.
  • Two people were killed and 10 more were wounded when a parked car exploded in southwestern Baghdad's Bayaa neighborhood, Baghdad police reported.
  • A professor at al-Nahrain University escaped an assassination attempt in the Sadiya district of southwestern Baghdad, police said. Gunmen opened fire on Sami Jamil as he traveled to work. Jamil's driver was critically wounded.
  • U.S.-led coalition forces arrested 19 people during security operations in Baghdad and Anbar province Wednesday, the U.S. military said. The arrestees are suspected of being involved in bomb-making operations, helping foreign fighters, forging passports and transporting weapons illegally.
  • A U.S. Marine was killed while fighting in Anbar province Tuesday, the military announced Wednesday. The number of U.S. troops killed in the Iraq war stands at 3,237. Seven civilian contractors also have been killed.
  • CNN's Basim Mahdi and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

    Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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    An Iraqi police commando secures the site where a car bomb exploded in Baghdad's Bayaa neighborhood Wednesday.

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