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At least 16 killed in attacks across Iraq

During visit, Blair hails new government amid continued violence

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Iraqi counterpart Nuri al-Maliki speak to reporters in Baghdad.


Will the swearing-in of Iraq's new Cabinet help to stem the violence?
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• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide



BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- At least 16 Iraqis -- including seven policemen -- were killed in attacks across the country Monday, authorities said, the day British Prime Minister Tony Blair flew in for talks.

Blair, after meeting with leaders of Iraq's new government, called the formation of the Cabinet a "new beginning" that removes any excuse insurgents have to commit violence.

"There is now no vestige or excuse for people to carry on with terrorism or bloodshed," Blair told reporters in a joint news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. (Full story)

"If the worry of people is the presence of the multinational forces, it is the violence that keeps us here. It is peace that will allow us to go," Blair added.

But the British prime minister refused to predict a timetable for the withdrawal of forces from Iraq, saying that would be determined by events on the ground.

Al-Maliki said Iraqi security forces would begin taking over security responsibilities in some provinces in June.

"This handover is based on the experience and capability of the Iraqi forces ... so that we can guarantee that there would be no further disturbances in any of these provinces," the Iraqi prime minister said.

Speaking Monday in Chicago, Illinois, President Bush called the approval and swearing-in of Iraq's new Cabinet a "watershed event" and "a victory for the cause of freedom in the Middle East." (Iraq at a 'turning point')

Calling the government "a work in progress," he said it will take time to overcome sectarian divisions.

Also Monday, the Pentagon said that a Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 died a day earlier while operating in Anbar province.

That brings this month's total of U.S. dead to 51, and the year's toll to 275. Since the start of the Iraq war, 2,448 U.S. troops have died. Seven American civilian contractors of the military also have died.

Bombings, assassination in Baghdad

In Monday's violence, a roadside bomb hit an Iraqi police patrol in the Bayaa neighborhood of southwestern Baghdad at 3 p.m., killing three police commandos and wounding three others, Baghdad police said.

A car bomb exploded in a busy market in the southeastern Baghdad neighborhood of Amin around 9:40 a.m., killing at least three people and wounding 10 others, an official with Baghdad emergency police told CNN.

Meanwhile in northern Baghdad, gunmen assassinated Judge Jumma Abed Mamouri in the Hurriya neighborhood at 5 p.m., the official said.

Mamouri was working at the Karkh civil court in Baghdad, the official added.

In the Zafaraniya neighborhood in southeastern Baghdad, one civilian was killed and two others were wounded when a car bomb exploded around 11:30 a.m., the official said.

North of the capital, gunmen killed four civilians in separate incidents in Baquba, a police official told CNN.

The first incident occurred at 9 a.m. when gunmen shot dead an employee working with the Iraqna Mobile Phone Co.

In the second incident, gunmen shot and killed two shop workers around 9:30 a.m., and at 10:45 a.m. another shop worker was killed by gunned down, the Baquba police official said.

Baquba is about 35 miles (60 kilometers) north of Baghdad.

Four Iraqi police were killed Monday when a roadside bomb struck their vehicle in Musayyib, about 45 miles south of Baghdad, an official with Hilla police told CNN.

Meanwhile, Iraqi police in Baghdad found nine unidentified bodies in various locations around the capital within 24 hours. All the victims had been shot in the head, and the bodies showed signs of torture.

A roadside bomb exploded Monday in Baghdad's Kadhimiya Shiite neighborhood, wounding two people, officials said, and a car bomb that exploded near a road in northern Baghdad around noon caused no casualties.

Other developments

  • Saddam Hussein smiled and laughed as a half-brother testified in his defense Monday, comparing the U.S. military's 2004 assault on insurgents in Falluja to the bloody crackdown on Shiites allegedly ordered by the ex-Iraqi dictator in 1982 after a failed assassination attempt. (Full story)
  • Australian Prime Minister John Howard says the consequences of allowing Iraq to fall into the hands of terrorists would be "horrendous" for Iraq's people and the entire Middle East. Howard, a strong supporter of President Bush in the war on terror, told CNN on Sunday that Iraq's new government brought hope but still faced a big challenge from the insurgency. (Full story)
  • At least 17 people were killed by three separate bombs in the Iraqi capital Sunday, a day after the formation of a national unity government that pledged to combat such violence.
  • At least 14 insurgents were killed in clashes with Iraqi army troops in Duluiyah, about 50 miles north of Baghdad, an official with Balad police reported. At least 10 Iraqi soldiers were wounded, the official added.
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