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Iraq Launches Campaign to Halt Use of Mentally Disabled in Bombings

Iraq's Interior Ministry says it has ordered police to detain beggars, homeless and mentally disabled people from the streets of Baghdad to prevent insurgents from using them as unwitting suicide bombers.

Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Abdul-Karim Khalaf says authorities launched the nationwide sweep Tuesday as part of the fight against al-Qaida in Iraq militants. He says police intend to transfer the detainees to social welfare shelters and hospitals that can care for them.

U.S. and Iraqi officials have accused al-Qaida of detonating explosives strapped to two mentally-disabled women in an attack in Baghdad that killed nearly 100 people earlier this month.

In violence Wednesday, a suicide bomber killed at least seven people and wounded 15 in a market in the town of Muqdadiya, north of Baghdad.

Also, the U.S. military said a mortar attack on a U.S. base in Iraq near Balad, north of the capital, Tuesday killed three children and injured seven others playing nearby.

Elsewhere, Iraqi police said a car bomb killed at least two people today in the town of Tal Afar, while gunmen killed at least three policemen in Mosul.

In other news, Iraq's radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is expected to decide this week whether to extend or end a six-month cease-fire between his Mahdi Army militia and U.S. and Iraqi forces.

Spokesman for the cleric, Salah al-Obeidi, said Wednesday that Sadr will make the decision in the coming days.

Moqtada al-Sadr called for the cease-fire last August. U.S. commanders say the truce was a major factor behind the decline in attacks in Iraq by more than half since June.

In another development, the governor of Mosul says about 500 former Iraqi military members, including high-ranking officials, and 750 former Iraqi policemen have rejoined the country's security forces.

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