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Last Updated: Monday, 26 September 2005, 13:30 GMT 14:30 UK
Gunmen kill Iraq school teachers
Gunmen in Iraq have killed five school teachers - all Shias - at a school near Iskandariya, south of Baghdad.

A police spokesman said the gunmen had arrived at the school in two civilian cars, and led the five teachers and a school driver out before shooting them.

Some reports said pupils had witnessed the murder, but police denied this.

Sunni Iraqi insurgents have recently intensified their attacks on police and US-led occupation troops, but school teachers have not been targeted.

Police bear brunt

Earlier, a suicide car bomber killed at least seven people and wounded 30 outside the police academy in the Iraqi capital.

Five men queuing to join the police and two police officers were instantly killed in the blast, which took place near several government ministries.

It was the second major attack on the police in Baghdad in 24 hours.

Suicide bombers have struck many times this month in Baghdad, killing more than 100 in the bloodiest attack.

It is estimated that up to 200 members of Iraq's security forces are being killed each month.

Prisoner releases

Also on Monday, the US military in Iraq began releasing 1,000 Iraqi detainees from Abu Ghraib prison at the request of the Iraqi government to mark the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is due to start in the first week of October.

The first 500 prisoners boarded buses and were driven away from the prison, a notoriously brutal jail under Saddam Hussein, and under the control of the US military the scene of prisoner abuse by American soldiers.

Iraqis being released from Abu Ghraib
Most of the 8,000 Iraqi prisoners are said to be Sunnis

The remaining 500 prisoners are to be released later this week.

It is a tradition among Arab and Islamic governments to pardon prisoners to mark Ramadan.

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Gen Abdul Mutlaq Jubouri told the BBC the releases were an attempt to improve the atmosphere in the country in the run-up to the referendum on a new constitution next month.

He said he had given the Americans a list of more than 2,000 detainees who were candidates for release.

Most of the estimated 8,000 prisoners in Iraq are thought to be Sunnis.

US government officials said they were releasing detainees who were not guilty of serious or violent crimes, "and have pledged to be good citizens of a democratic Iraq".

Sunni leaders have rejected the draft constitution - due to be put to a referendum in less than three weeks.


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