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Attacks Kill 15 in Baghdad as al-Qaida in Iraq Releases New Statement


Attacks in Baghdad have killed at least 15 people Thursday, and al-Qaida in Iraq has released a statement claiming more than 4,000 foreign militants have been killed there since the U.S.-led invasion.

Bombings and shootings in and around Baghdad Thursday targeted civilians, Iraqi soldiers and police. Officials also reported finding 40 bodies showing signs of torture.

U.S. military intelligence officials warned that illegal militias are returning to Baghdad neighborhoods that recently were cleared by American and Iraqi troops. U.S. officials say suicide attacks this week are at their highest level in the war.

Meanwhile, al-Qaida's chief in Iraq praised what he claimed were the 4,000 foreign fighters killed in Iraq. He also offered amnesty to Sunni Arabs who have cooperated with the government if they begin supporting the insurgency.

In an audio recording posted on the Internet, a voice claiming to be Abu Hamza al-Muhajer also called on Iraqis to kidnap Westerners to swap them for a Muslim cleric jailed in the United States. Blind Egyptian cleric Omar Abdel-Rahman was convicted of plotting to blow up New York city landmarks.

Separately, a poll conducted by University of Maryland indicates about three quarters of Iraqis believe the U.S. military presence in Iraq is provoking more conflict than it is preventing.

The poll also reported increased Iraqi public confidence in the country's security forces.

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

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