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Sectarian Violence in Iraq Declines with Curfew in Place


Sectarian violence in Iraq that has killed more than 200 people in recent days subsided Friday, after the government imposed a tough daytime curfew.

People were ordered off the streets in Baghdad and the nearby flashpoint provinces of Diyala, Babil and Salaheddin, following sectarian attacks prompted by Wednesday's bombing of the Shi'ite Askariya shrine in Samarra.

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad Friday urged Iraqi leaders to form a government of national unity. Iraq's most influential Shi'ite political leader, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, also called for unity between Shi'ites and Sunnis.

The head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq has blamed Saddam Hussein loyalists and followers of al-Qaida in Iraq for the country's sectarian violence.

In another development, Iraqi military officials say gunmen stormed a house early Friday in the town of Latifiyah, 30 kilometers south of Baghdad, killing at least three Shi'ites.

And the U.S. military says it killed northern Baghdad's al-Qaida military leader (Abu Asma).

Dozens of Sunni mosques have been attacked, and some Sunni clerics kidnapped and killed since the bombing of the Shi'ite Askariya shrine in Samarra.

Police outside Baghdad found the remains of 47 people who had been shot to death, while dozens of other bodies were found in Baghdad and elsewhere.

The Askariya shrine draws pilgrims from around the world. It contains the tombs of the 10th and 11th Shi'ite imams, Ali al-Hadi and his son, Hassan al-Askari.

It was built at the site where the 12th Shi'ite imam, Mohammed al-Mahdi, disappeared. Known as the "hidden iman," he is the son and grandson of the two imams buried at Askariya.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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