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US General: Iraqi Forces May Need 18 Months to Take Over Security


The top U.S. general in Iraq says Iraqi forces may be ready within a year to 18 months to take over main responsibility for the country's security.

General George Casey said Wednesday in Baghdad that he thinks Iraqi forces will have progressed enough in that time to be able to take over security with very little coalition support.

Meanwhile, Iraqi authorities say more than 50 people have been killed and scores wounded in the latest violence in Iraq.

The attacks include a bombing at a busy market in Baghdad that killed 24 people and wounded 35 others, and a bomb on a bicycle that killed 12 people and wounded about 40 outside an army recruiting center south of the Iraqi capital, in Hilla.

The U.S. military says an American Marine died of wounds sustained Tuesday during operations in western Al Anbar province.

The attacks took place despite an intensified security clampdown in Baghdad by U.S. and Iraqi forces.

Other deadly attacks Wednesday include the gunning down in Baghdad of a Justice Ministry worker, her driver and a bodyguard.

Also in the Iraqi capital, gunmen shot and killed three textile workers, and a separate bomb attack killed at least two others.

Five bullet riddled bodies were found south of the capital, in Suwaira, while north of Baghdad, in Buhriz, five people were killed when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb.

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