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23 Iraqis Die in Bomb Explosions


Two bombs exploded moments apart killing 23 people in downtown Baghdad, and 35 kidnapped police recruits are also feared dead. Meanwhile, Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera showed new tape of kidnapped reporter Jill Carroll, as her family and colleagues appealed for her release.

The new Al Jazeera video shows kidnapped American journalist Jill Carroll flanked by armed and masked men. Al Jazeera told The Associated Press that the footage was from the same tape broadcast Tuesday, which showed Carroll seated in front of a white wall, talking to the camera.

The new tape aired the same day Christian Science Monitor Washington Bureau Chief David Cook appealed for Carroll's release.

"It would be wrong to murder someone who has devoted herself unselfishly to promoting understanding of the Iraqi people," he said.

Several high-level Sunni clerics and political leaders in Iraq and around the Arab world have also called for Carroll's release. Her kidnappers demand that all female detainees be released by Iraqi and U.S. forces or Carroll will be killed Friday.

The U.S. military says it holds only eight female prisoners, and that those detainees will be processed according to normal procedures.

Carroll was kidnapped and her translator shot dead on January 7 in a lawless neighborhood on the city's largely Sunni west side.

Violence continued in central Baghdad, as two bombs blew up on a busy commercial strip. In the first incident, a suicide bomber walked into a coffee shop and detonated his explosive vest, sending body parts and bloodied furniture flying onto the street. Almost simultaneously, a nearby bomb exploded near a popular restaurant.

Meanwhile, 35 police applicants missing since Monday are all probably dead, the U.S. military says. The men had been returning to the northern Iraqi town of Samarra from Baghdad, after failing to be admitted to the Baghdad police academy.

U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Wellman says the men got caught in an insurgent checkpoint as their public bus took a detour on their way back home.

"Insurgents stopped the bus, and while searching the bus discovered the men were police recruits, they separated them from the other civilians on the bus, then took those men and the bus and departed the area," he said.

Wellman said based on reports he received, there was reason to believe the applicants were executed.

In a bit of good news, Iraq's Deputy Foreign Minister Labeed Abawi tells VOA that nine Iraqi sailors detained yesterday by Iran were to be released.

The nine sailors were investigating an Iranian boat that they suspected of illegally smuggling oil from Iraqi territory. When the Iraqi sailors boarded the Iranian boat, the captain radioed for help, and an Iranian patrol attacked the Iraqis, then detained them. Abawi says one Iraqi sailor was injured in the incident.

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