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Iraq Transition

Twenty beheaded bodies reportedly found near Baghdad

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NEW: Prime minister: Al Qaeda heading to other countries after losses in Iraq
• Baghdad station blast kills at least 22 people in predominately Shiite area
• Three British soldiers killed when roadside bomb strikes patrol in Basra
• Mortar rounds kill two in busy market of central Baghdad
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi authorities were investigating a report of a grisly find on Thursday -- 20 decapitated bodies reportedly discovered in a region southeast of Baghdad, where U.S. troops have been targeting insurgent strongholds.

Violence also erupted in Baghdad and in the southern city of Basra. In the capital, bombs and mortar rounds killed at least 28 people. In Basra, three British soldiers were killed and another critically wounded when a roadside bomb struck their patrol Thursday morning, the British military said.

The U.S. military reported a U.S. soldier was killed by a roadside bomb Thursday in eastern Baghdad. The death toll for U.S. military personnel in the Iraq war stands at 3,570, including seven civilian employees of the Defense Department.

The report of the beheaded bodies came from Iraqi national police officers. U.S.-led coalition troops and security forces went to the location to investigate the report, which the Iraqi Interior Ministry still considers unconfirmed.

The bodies were said to be in the militant stronghold of Salman Pak, near the Tigris River, where U.S. forces kicked off Operation Marne Torch.

The report comes a day after fighting Wednesday night in Salman Pak between insurgents and Iraqi troops.

Six Iraqi security forces were killed and eight others were wounded in the fighting, the Interior Ministry said. (Watch dramatic bombing video illustrate struggle of Iraqi troops Video)

Bus station blast kills at least 22

Violence in Baghdad left at least 28 people dead Thursday.

A car bomb exploded Thursday morning at a bus station in the southwestern Bayaa neighborhood, killing at least 22 people and wounding 31 others, the Interior Ministry said. Bayaa is a predominantly Shiite neighborhood. The attack burned at least 40 cars and damaged half a dozen shops.

A few minutes earlier, two people died and 14 others were wounded when two mortar rounds landed in the busy Shorja market in central Baghdad.

Four people were killed and 10 others were wounded in a car bombing at a gas station in western Baghdad, the Interior Ministry said. The blast went off at a queue of cars waiting for gas in the Mansour district, burning at least 10 vehicles.

In other developments in Baghdad, the U.S. military said coalition forces detained five "suspected terrorists" during a raid Thursday morning. The suspects were detained "for their association with a senior terrorist leader who is believed to be a military adviser for an al Qaeda emir in the area," the military said.

Al-Maliki: Al Qaeda targets other countries after Iraq defeats

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Thursday said al Qaeda is "receiving backbreaking strikes in Iraq" and "is smuggling its members to other countries that are easier to infiltrate in order to open new battles to cover up for its defeats."

Al-Maliki said al Qaeda fighters detained in Iraq had talked about the group's plans.

He said al Qaeda is plotting to take advantage of internal strife in unstable regions and plans to target "a number of countries that are suffering from religious and sectarian problems." Al-Maliki's statement did not specify the countries.

"It deeply bothers us that these brotherly nations will confront what the Iraqi people are suffering from and that is the epidemic of terrorism," the prime minister said in remarks to members of Iraq's counterterrorism directorate in Baghdad. His office made the comments public in a news release.

CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq and Saad Abedine contributed to this report.


• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide


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