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Revenge Killings Continue to Terrorize Iraq


The Iraqi capital remained on a 24-hour lock down Saturday, in a bid to staunch sectarian revenge killings, after more than 200 Shi'ites were killed in a series of bombings Thursday. In Northern Iraq, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more on the day's developments.

Funerals continued for a second day for victims of Thursday's bombings in the eastern Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City.

The attacks have raised sectarian tensions to a new level, heightening fears that the country could move toward a full blown civil war.

Iraqi political and religious leaders calls for calm and restraint have not been heeded.

Police said Saturday that gunmen raided two Shi'ite homes in the mixed Diyala province, north of Baghdad, late Friday night, executing 21 men in front of their relatives.

In Baghdad, the 24-hour curfew has not stopped the violence. Mortars exploded throughout the night in Sunni neighborhoods, and there were reports of damage to homes and mosques.

Dozens of tortured, bullet-riddled and decapitated bodies have been turning up in Baghdad on a daily basis in recent months, but the murders late Friday of seven Sunni men has shocked the capital.

Attackers doused the men with kerosene as they left evening prayers, setting them alight and burning them to death.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military says it killed 22 suspected insurgents in two clashes north of Baghdad Saturday. A teenage boy was killed and a pregnant woman was wounded in the crossfire during one clash.

President Jalal Talabani was supposed to leave for a meeting in Tehran with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Saturday, but he postponed the trip a day because Baghdad's airport was closed following Thursday's violence.

After a meeting late Friday among leaders of Iraq's many political groups, President Talabani said they agreed to work together against the terrorists, and to build law and order in Iraq.

Meanwhile, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney arrived in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, for a day of talks with King Abdullah and senior Saudi officials.

Analysts say Cheney will likely ask the Saudis to use their influence among other Sunni Arabs to help foster reconciliation in Iraq.

Cheney's visit comes just days ahead of President Bush's planned summit in Jordan with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Wednesday.