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At Least 68 Killed in Basra Explosions - 2004-04-21

Iraqi officials say more than 60 people, including many children, were killed Wednesday, in a series of explosions in or near the southern city of Basra.

Officials say scores of others were wounded in the blasts which occurred during the morning rush hour.

They say nearly simultaneous explosions targeted three police stations in Basra - Iraq's second largest city. Another explosion hit a police academy in the town of Zubayr, just south of the city.

A British military spokesman said the blasts appeared to have been caused by car bombs.

The spokesman said the explosion in Zubayr left at least three Iraqis dead and two British soldiers wounded.

Meanwhile, in the volatile city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, U.S. Marines exchanged gunfire with insurgents early this morning, despite a tentative ceasefire.

The U.S. military says nine insurgents were killed and three Marines were wounded. But residents say six civilians were killed in the fighting that lasted four hours.

Earlier this week, a deal was reached to try to defuse the standoff. Under the deal U.S. Marines agreed not to begin further military offensives in Fallujah, if insurgents turn in their illegal heavy weapons.

And in a separate development, the Danish foreign ministry said Wednesday, that a Danish businessman who was kidnapped last week in Iraq has been found dead. No further details were made public.