Iraq: 70 die in revenge attack

Iraqi army Brigadier General Khorshid Dosti said 70 people were shot dead in an unprecedented reprisal assault on the town of Tal Afar on Tuesday, while another 40 remained missing and 30 more were wounded.

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"We received 45 bodies of handcuffed and blindfolded men from al-Wahada neighbourhood overnight. They were killed yesterday just after the bomb," a hospital doctor had told news agency AFP earlier in the day on condition of anonymity.

The savage killings coincided with the US Senate debate on a bill that would set a spring 2008 timetable for withdrawing American troops.

Democrats in Congress are acting on growing voter impatience with the war, but President Bush declared the deadline would have disastrous repercussions for both countries.

The mass shooting and lethal bombings underscore the raging sectarian warfare that continues to grip the country, alongside a Sunni insurgency against the Shiite-led government and its US backers.

The massacre of men, believed all to have been Sunni Arabs, was in revenge for bomb attacks that killed 85 people and wounded 183 in Shiite districts of Tal Afar on Tuesday.

The town is witnessing its worst violence since Mr Bush in March 2006 held up the one-time militant stronghold as a model for efforts to create a stable Iraq.

In the deadliest blast, a suicide bomber tricked soldiers into believing he was delivering food supplies to a Shiite area where he detonated his cargo of explosives in a crowd of waiting men and women.

The Iraqi army has slapped a strict curfew on the town, deployed armoured vehicles in the city centre and banned even police from moving, an official said, also on condition of anonymity.

US officials meanwhile announced the deaths of two more servicemen and two civilians in Iraq.

One of the civilians, a contractor, died on Tuesday after being wounded by rocket fire near the US embassy in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone the previous day, US charge d'affaires Daniel Speckhard said.

One of the soldiers was also killed in a separate indirect fire attack in the Green Zone along with a US civilian, the military said.

The attack left another soldier and two US civilians wounded.

US military spokesman Rear Admiral Mark Fox told reporters that the attacks on the Green Zone showed "desperation" on the part of insurgents following the security clampdown in Baghdad.

The latest deaths brought to 3,237 the US military's losses in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion.

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