Iraqs Prime Minister has begun a two-day visit to neighboring Turkey, where he is to discuss his country's security situation and Turkey's fight against Kurdish guerrillas based in northern Iraq. Meanwhile, in Baghdad, sectarian violence claimed at least 15 more lives Thursday in a series of bombings and shootings across the capital.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki arrived in Ankara where he met with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
In a joint news conference, Mr. Maliki reassured his neighbor that his government would not tolerate Kurdish separatist guerrillas operating from northern Iraq against Turkish targets.
He also said the anti-Iranian group, the Mujahadeen al-Khalq, would not be allowed to use Iraq as a base to launch attacks against Iran.
Turkey has repeatedly complained that Iraqi and U.S. forces are not doing enough to rein in Kurdish fighters who launch attacks into Turkey from the mountains of northern Iraq.
On Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul warned that if Iraq breaks apart into several autonomous regions, it would force its neighbors to take strong action.
Some four million Kurds live in northern Iraq, but more than 14 million more live in southeastern Turkey.
Turkey wants to avoid the emergence of an independent Kurdistan on its border, fearing it would encourage Kurdish separatists in southeastern Turkey to revolt.
Mr. Maliki also called on Turkey to help his government build strong security forces in order to quell growing sectarian violence, which claimed more than a dozen more lives in Baghdad on Thursday.
The worst attack was at a bakery, where gunmen killed nine Shiite bakers.
This witness says, "They stormed into the bakery and killed them while they were baking. They had done nothing wrong."
The U.S. military also announced four more soldiers have been killed since Tuesday; one in Baghdad, the other three north of the capital in the Diyala province.
Elsewhere in Baghdad, authorities are still searching for hostages taken in a raid Tuesday on a building belonging to the Ministry of Higher Education. Some 80 gunmen stormed the Scientific Research Directorate taking away dozens of male employees and visitors.
Officials say many of the hostages have been released but an unknown number remain in captivity.
Minister of Higher Education Abed Dhiab al-Ujaili said some of the hostages who had been freed said their abductors tortured and killed several of the other hostages.
The minister, a Sunni Arab, said he is stepping down from the government until effective action is taken against Shiite militias.
The militias are believed to be responsible for Tuesday's kidnapping at the Sunni-run ministry, as well as for hundreds of other kidnappings and murders in and around Baghdad.