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Blast in Baghdad Shi'ite Area Kills 12


Iraqi police say 12 people have been killed in a bombing in a Shi'ite neighborhood in Baghdad.

Authorities say another 22 people were injured by the bomb, which went off Friday in a crowded market in the Shi'ite enclave Abu Dshir.

The violence came on the same day a procession of mourners followed the casket of a slain Shi'ite politician through the streets of Baghdad.

The body of Saleh al-Auqaeili was carried to the office of his political party, a Shi'ite faction led by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Auqaeili was killed in a roadside bomb attack Thursday.

Some within the Sadrist movement have blamed the U.S.-led military presence in Iraq for the assassination.

U.S. officials, Ambassador Ryan Crocker and General Ray Odierno, condemned his killing, calling it a "heinous crime" and an attack against Iraq's democratic institutions.

Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is appointing a committee to investigate the incident, and says the killers will be brought to justice.

On Thursday, a senior U.S. military commander says he expects an increase in violence ahead of Iraqi regional elections early next year. Major General Michael Oates, whose division operates in Shi'ite-dominated provinces south of Baghdad, said there may be a wave of assassinations as rival factions fight for advantage.

Also Friday, Mr. Maliki met in Najaf with Iraq's most influential Shi'ite cleric. The two spoke of an impending deal on the future status of U.S. troops in Iraq, with the prime minister indicating that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani raised no objections.

Mr. Maliki told reporters after the meeting that Sistani said if parliament and the government approve the deal, he would not oppose it.

Sistani's approval could help ease the concerns of anti-American Shi'ites in Iraq.

The prime minister also said the U.S. had made huge concessions in the negotiations on the security pact. Among the remaining sticking points are possible immunity for military and civilian U.S. personnel in Iraq.

Both sides are working on a deal on the U.S. presence after the U.N. mandate for American forces runs out at the end of this year.

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

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