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Last Updated: Friday, 23 June 2006, 20:39 GMT 21:39 UK
Iraq bomb attacks leave 16 dead
Scene of Basra blast
The Basra blast is thought to have been a suicide car bombing
At least 16 people have been killed in two bomb attacks in Iraq, according to local police.

At least 12 people died in a blast outside a mosque near Baquba, while four people were killed in an explosion near a petrol station in Basra.

In Baghdad the Mehdi army, a Shia militia, said seven of its men died in attacks by Sunni gunmen.

The Iraqi government meanwhile is expected to unveil a plan to persuade insurgents to lay down their arms.

Officials said an amnesty will be granted to some detainees who agree to reject violence.

Iraqi sources have described the initiative as a comprehensive political, military, economic and social plan aimed at bringing insurgents into the political process.

Meanwhile some 500 detainees were due to be released from Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad on Friday, as part of the reconciliation programme.

About 2,300 detainees, said to have renounced violence, have been released from the prison since the beginning of the month.

Queuing for fuel

The attack near Baquba occurred outside the village of Hibhib - the village where Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed earlier this month - 65 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad.

The bomb went off in a bag which had been left outside the gates of the Sunni mosque, police said.

In the south of the country, an explosion ripped through a queue of people waiting for fuel at a petrol station in Basra, where some 8,000 British troops are based.

All of the dead were civilians, while two police officers were among the wounded, police said.

For much of the past three years Basra has been largely quiet, but in recent months there has been an upsurge of violence, sectarian tensions and rivalries between local Shia factions.

A state of emergency was declared in the city last month because of the rising violence.

Baghdad curfew

The violence in Baghdad came as members of the Mehdi army, loyal to Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr, headed to Friday prayers.

The group said seven members died when they were attacked by Sunni gunmen.

A temporary curfew was imposed on the city in response to the shootings, says the BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad, but was lifted several hours later.

Baghdad is normally under curfew from 2030 to 0600 local time.

The capital is already the focus of a major security operation in which more than 40,000 Iraqi and US forces have been deployed in the city.

Our correspondent says there was no immediate explanation for the move, but officials hinted it might have been aimed at clearing the decks for a security operation to root out insurgents.

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