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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 February, 2005, 19:32 GMT
Video shows 'Iraqi troop deaths'
An Iraqi solider and an armed policeman in Basra
Iraqi police and soldiers have been a prime target for rebels
Iraqi insurgents say they have killed seven members of the security forces, whose deaths are apparently shown in a video posted on the militants' website.

The video, released by the Army of Ansar al-Sunna, shows seven men being interrogated and then shot as they kneeled outdoors with their eyes bound.

Seven Iraqi soldiers were captured on Thursday in an ambush near Baghdad.

The deaths come as a top US general says "severe intimidation" by rebels is affecting numbers of Iraqi soldiers.

Tears

The Iraqi Interior Ministry, questioned about the latest killings, confirmed that five bodies had been found.

Another video tape posted on an Islamist site, this one from the Islamic Army in Iraq militant group, said it had killed three policemen captured after the same raid.

It showed three hostages, one of them in tears, and police identification cards. It did not show the killings.

A week after the elections were held in Iraq and before any results have been declared, there has been no let up in the violence there.

In the southern city of Basra, four more Iraqi security officers were killed when their patrol was attacked in Basra.

A booby-trapped motorcycle exploded near their vehicle in the southern city, an army spokesman said.

Two American soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in the northern town of Baji and two Iraqi children were killed by a landmine.

Lt Gen David Petraeus, in charge of training Iraqi troops, said many soldiers were leaving out of fear, saying few of the 90 battalions were at full strength.

'Challenge'

He referred to incidents where soldiers returning from leave had been killed by rebels, but he did not say how many troops had deserted because of threats.

He highlighted the particular challenge for US and Iraq forces in insurgent strongholds north and west of Baghdad.

"This is an area where the insurgents were actually cutting the heads off soldiers that were trying to come back from leave and so forth," Gen Petraeus said.

"It was a real challenge during that time but we've turned a corner with that and as I said, a substantial number of soldiers are heading to those units."

But some independent analysts in Washington question the general's numbers, our correspondent reports.




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