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Car Bomb Blast in Southern Iraq Kills At Least 15


Officials in the southern Iraqi city of Basra say a car bomb blast has killed at least 15 people and wounded 30 others.

The attack Saturday comes three days after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declared a state of emergency in Basra after weeks of factional Shi'ite fighting.

Elsewhere in Iraq today, a Russian diplomat was killed and four embassy workers were kidnapped in Baghdad. Iraqi officials say gunmen attacked the group in the Mansour area of Baghdad, near the Russian embassy.

Authorities also say eight severed heads were found near Baquba, north of Baghdad. A note left at the scene identified one of the victims and accused him of killing Shi'ites.

Separately, officials in Baquba say seven policemen were killed and at least four other people wounded in an attack at a checkpoint.

Police also say at least four bodies were found in Baghdad with signs of torture and bullet wounds.

Prime Minister al-Maliki on Sunday is expected to announce the names of candidates for the defense and interior ministers. The two positions are key in efforts to help improve the country's security amid the raging violence.

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