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Iraqi PM Declares State of Emergency in Basra


Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has declared a month-long state of emergency in the southern city of Basra after weeks of factional Shi'ite fighting.

Speaking Wednesday in Basra, Mr. Maliki vowed to crack down with an "iron fist" on the gangs behind the violence. He called for the strengthening of Iraqi security forces in the city.

Since taking office this month, the prime minister has vowed to restore security and stop escalating sectarian violence.

His comments came as more than 20 people were killed and dozens wounded in violence around the country. The dead included a sports commentator for state-run Iraqi television. In and around Baghdad, police say they found at least 40 dumped bodies.

Meanwhile, media reports say four defense witnesses in Iraq's trial of Saddam Hussein have been detained after allegedly making false accusations against the prosecution.

Saddam and seven co-defendants are facing charges of crimes against humanity in connection with the deaths of 148 Shi'ite Muslims following the failed attempt on his life.

Separately, the U.S. military says a key insurgent leader in Iraq was captured on Monday by Iraqi and coalition forces in Baghdad. The military says he was a major financier and facilitator of terrorism in Iraq.

A separate statement says a soldier died of a non-combat related cause.

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

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