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Ex-Saddam loyalists face transfer to Iraqi prisons

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Eight former officials from executed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's government will be transferred from U.S. military prisons to Iraqi custody in the coming days, Iraq's Deputy Justice Minister told CNN on Sunday.

It is part of an agreement recently reached to transfer "high-value detainees" to the custody of the current Iraqi government.

Deputy Justice Minister Boshu Ibrahim would not identify the eight who are expected to be transferred in the coming days, but said none of them are on death row.

Ibrahim said most of the prisoners were informed of the upcoming transfer by Iraq's acting justice minister last week and were "very happy" to hear they will be in Iraqi custody soon.

But an attorney for some of the detainees expressed outrage about putting the mostly Sunni Muslim former officials in prisons controlled by the country's Shiite-dominated government.

"This is not a handover to a government, it's a handover to Iranian militias," said Badi Aref, who represents 15 former Saddam Hussein regime members. "We will hold the U.S. responsible for all that these detainees will go through."

Hussein's regime, which favored Sunni Arabs, was toppled in 2003. Many of the detainees are accused of having a role in the suppression of Shiites under Hussein's Sunni-dominated government.

The current Iraqi government is now dominated by Shiite and Kurdish politicians and has close ties to Iran, which fought a bloody eight-year war with Iraq under Hussein.

On Sunday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki visited Tehran, Iran, for meetings with Iranian leaders, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He sought to allay Iranian fears over a planned U.S.-Iraq security pact, saying his government would not allow Iraq to become a launching pad for an attack on its neighbor.

The eight prisoners will be the first of dozens of former regime members held by the U.S. military to be handed over to Iraqi authorities, Ibrahim said. The U.S. military has been working with the Iraqi government for many months to reach a deal on transferring the detainees.

According to Aref, the eight include Saber al-Duri, the former head of military intelligence, and Abed Hameed Humoud, Saddam Hussein's former personal assistant. Al-Duri was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the 1988 Anfal campaign against the Kurds.

7 dead, dozens injured

Roadside bombs and mortar attacks killed seven people and wounded 48 others in separate incidents in Baghdad on Sunday morning, officials said.

Two mortar rounds landed at one of the entrances to the International Zone, also known as the Green Zone, killing three people and injuring seven, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said.

The official said the attack apparently targeted the Defense Ministry, located inside the zone, but the rounds fell short of their intended target.

There were several attacks throughout the city on Sunday. A roadside bomb exploded near central Baghdad's Nusoor square, killing at least four people and injuring 25, according to an Iraqi Interior Ministry official.

Although the bomb apparently targeted Iraqi police recruits, all of the dead and wounded were civilians, the official said.

In a second attack, seven Defense Ministry employees were wounded when two mortar rounds hit the ministry building in Baghdad, the official said.

Also Sunday, four people, including two Iraqi police officers, were wounded by a roadside bomb that struck a police patrol in eastern Baghdad's Ghadeer neighborhood, the official said.

Another roadside bomb struck an Iraqi police patrol in northern Baghdad's al-Waziriya neighborhood around 9 a.m., the official said. The blast wounded five people, including two police and three bystanders, the official said.

Other developments:

• A suicide car bombing killed one soldier and wounded 18 others outside a base near the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, the U.S. military said Sunday. The dead and wounded were identified only as members of coalition forces, and the U.S. command in northern Iraq would not confirm the slain soldier's nationality.

A U.S. soldier was killed Saturday when the vehicle he was traveling in was struck by a roadside bomb in eastern Baghdad, the U.S. military said Sunday. The soldier's name was not given, pending notification of next of kin. The number of U.S. service member deaths in the war is now 4,092. The number of troop deaths in June stands at eight.

• A suspected assassination squad commander who helped shuttle Shiite militia fighters into Iran for training was captured by U.S. troops in Baghdad Saturday night, according the U.S. military. The military said the man, who was based in Basra, was "one of a handful of special groups criminals who arranges transportation of criminals into Iran for training, and back into Iraq." He was also "an arms dealer with connections to Iran, and a document counterfeiter," the military said.

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

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