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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 December 2005, 19:13 GMT
Iraqi Shias abducted and killed
About 12 Shia Muslims have been killed by insurgents who broke into their homes south of Baghdad, officials say.

The victims were reported to be members of the same extended family, living in the mainly Sunni town of Latifiya, about 30km (20 miles) south of Baghdad.

Meanwhile, a web statement attributed to al-Qaeda in Iraq said it was holding five Sudanese hostages, and would kill them unless Sudan cut ties with Iraq.

And Iraq's largest oil refinery has shut down over a security threat.

"Threats were made to tanker-truck drivers" and they have stopped reporting to the Baiji refinery in northern Iraq, causing it to cease output, said an oil ministry spokesman.

"Efforts are being made to convince the drivers to return to work," he added.

Oil exports have been further hit by storms that have prevented shipping from the Basra terminal, Reuters said.

'Machine-gunned'

In the attack near Baghdad, there were differing reports of the incident and who was involved.

"A number of gunmen broke into three houses in Latifiya at dawn on Thursday, took 12 males aged between 20 to 40 and put them into a minivan owned by one of the victims, and machine-gunned them," Iraqi Army Capt Ibrahim Abdullah told Associated Press.

The AFP news agency said 14 people were killed, some of them women.

Reuters said the killings took place inside a house, where intruders slit the throats of 11 men and women.

Iraqi police seal off a street in Baghdad after a bomb killed four colleagues
Four policemen were killed by a bomb in Baghdad

Police said the family had been warned by insurgents to move out of the largely Sunni district, but had not done so, Reuters reported.

Also on Thursday, a suicide bomber killed four police officers and wounded five at a checkpoint near the interior ministry in Baghdad, officials said.

The attacker was dressed in a police uniform and blew himself up as police cars were entering the ministry, a police source said.

A web statement apparently by al-Qaeda in Iraq said it had "arrested five employees of the Sudanese embassy in Baghdad, including diplomats".

It said the Sudanese government had "48 hours to clearly announce it is breaking off diplomatic relations with the [Iraqi] government... Otherwise the government must assume responsibility for sacrificing its diplomats".

At the weekend Sudan said six of its nationals, including five embassy employees and a "friend", had been abducted in Iraq.


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