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Iraq Transition

Car bombs target Shiites in Iraq

Story Highlights

NEW: 109th U.S. military death reported; December tops 2006 as deadliest month
• NEW: Death toll in Baghdad rises to at least 36, Interior Ministry official said
• Baghdad attack involved three nearly simultaneous car bombs, he said
• Car bomb in Shiite city of Kufa leaves at least 30 dead
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Car bombs and a suicide bomber left at least 75 people dead and more than 100 wounded Saturday, the day former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was executed for crimes committed during his rule.

At least 66 people were killed in car bomb attacks on markets in a Shiite area of Baghdad and the southern Shiite town of Kufa.

Residents have been shopping for the Eid al-Adha Muslim holiday, which started Saturday for Sunnis and will start Sunday for Shiites.

The first attack targeted a local market in the historic town of Kufa, killing at least 30 civilians and wounding 45 others, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said. (Watch scenes from the bombing's aftermath Video)

The second struck a busy market in Baghdad's northwestern district of Hurriyah, killing at least 36 people and wounding another 77, an Interior Ministry official said.

Three car bombs went off nearly simultaneously in that attack, two on a side street near a shopping area, and a third nearby, he said.

In three additional incidents, a car bomb killed a person and wounded four others near an amusement park south of Baghdad; another killed two people in western Baghdad; and a suicide bomber killed at least six in Tal Afar.

Kufa is part of the key southern province of Najaf. U.S. troops handed security control of the area to Iraqi troops and police last week. The transfer is considered the most significant so far because of Najaf's religious importance.

U.S. troops have remained in the province but are not in charge of conducting active patrols and are, according to U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, only to be involved in operations when called on by authorities.

Two years ago, the U.S. military and Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army militia fought in and around Najaf and Kufa.

Saturday's attacks followed the execution of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, a Sunni. (Full story)

Some predicted the execution would exacerbate violence between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq. Sunnis were a minority ethnic group that enjoyed protection and power during the Hussein regime. They battle, often violently with the majority Shiites, who were persecuted then and now dominate the Iraqi government.

In addition Saturday, the U.S. military announced the deaths of three more American soldiers. The casualties raised the number of American personnel killed in Iraq this month to 109, making December the deadliest month of 2006.

A roadside bomb went off near a Multi-National Division-Baghdad patrol Friday, killing a soldier and wounding three others in southwest Baghdad, the U.S. military said in a written statement. The soldier was accompanying a top military leader to outlying areas to meet with troops at the time of the blast, the military said.

The death was the third U.S. casualty announced Saturday.

A roadside bomb also killed a U.S. soldier on combat security patrol in northwest Baghdad Friday, and another U.S. soldier was killed in combat in Anbar province, the military said.

The U.S. troop death toll for this year has reached 818 -- 2,991 since the war began.

Seven American civilian contractors of the military also have died in the conflict.

On Friday, the British Ministry of Defense announced its 127th death in the war. A roadside bomb killed a soldier, who belonged to the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, 2nd Battalion, while on patrol in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

Also Friday, a suicide bomber targeted a Shiite cleric north of Baghdad, killing him, his brother and seven others, authorities in Iraq said. The killings took place in the Diyala provincial town of Khalis.

The bomber had waited near the house of Sheik Kadhim Hameed Qassim, the sheik of Khalis Shiite Mosque, and self-detonated when the cleric, his security and family members arrived after Friday prayers, Diyala officials said.

The province, northeast of Baghdad, has seen much violence.

In addition to the 10 killed, including the suicide bomber, 15 others were wounded, the Iraqi Interior Ministry said.

Other developments

  • Coalition forces killed six insurgents during a series of raids in Baghdad and northwest of the capital Friday, the U.S. military reported. Seventeen people were detained.
  • Two Iranian diplomats were released Friday after being detained in Iraq by the U.S. military for more than a week, according to IRNA, Iran's official news agency. The pair were seized during a raid in Baghdad on December 21, U.S. Maj. Gen. William Caldwell told reporters Wednesday.
  • Al Qaeda's No. 2 man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, discussed Iraq and Afghanistan and condemned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during an address to Muslims two days before the start of Eid al-Adha, an Islamic festival. An audiotape released on Islamist Web sites Friday marked the ninth released by al Qaeda in the last six months.
  • CNN's Jomana Karadsheh contributed to this report.

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