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4 Iraqis Sentenced to Death for Bank Robbery

An Iraqi court has sentenced four security force members to death for their involvement in a bloody bank heist that left eight police guards dead.

The gunmen were convicted of shooting the guards and taking more than $3 million in a pre-dawn raid on the state-run al-Rafidain Bank in July.

The money was later recovered, leading to the implication of two former employees of Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi.

A judge told the men Wednesday they have 30 days to appeal their sentence. A fifth defendant was released because of insufficient evidence.

Separately, Britain is seeking to verify whether remains handed to Iraqi authorities Wednesday are those of a British hostage seized in Baghdad in 2007.

Britain's Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he cannot yet confirm that it is one of the five Britons abducted in a raid on the Iraqi Finance Ministry.

Elsewhere in the capital, six people were wounded in separate bomb explosions in central and northern Baghdad.

In northern Iraq's Mosul, a teenager was killed and her mother wounded after gunmen entered their home. In east Mosul, another civilian was found shot dead near his home.

Roadside bombs killed one person and wounded four others in separate attacks around Mosul and Kirkuk.

The Iraqi government reported that the number of casualties from violence hit a 13-month high in August.

Also Wednesday, U.S. State Department officials confirmed that they have temporarily extended a contract with the controversial security firm formerly known as Blackwater.

The contract was due to expire Thursday. But news reports quoting unnamed officials say Blackwater will continue to provide air support for American diplomats in Iraq until the firm chosen to replace it (Dyncorp International) is ready to take over.

The Iraqi government banned Blackwater, now called Xe, from operating in Iraq after a 2007 incident in which some of its employees were accused of using excessive force during a shooting in Baghdad that killed 17 Iraqi civilians.

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