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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 July 2006, 15:20 GMT 16:20 UK
Iraqi Sunnis seized amid killings
Man sweeps up bomb damage
This bombing in central Baghdad claimed five lives
Gunmen have kidnapped more than 20 Iraqi government workers who care for Sunni mosques and shrines, amid continuing sectarian violence.

The kidnaps come as a UN report reveals that nearly 6,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in May and June.

At least 20 people were killed in bombings on Wednesday and an Iraqi general was shot dead.

Bodies have also been found around the country, the apparent victims of sectarian kidnap and torture.

A spokesman for Sunni Endowment, a major institution within the Sunni community, told the Associated Press news agency the kidnapped employees were seized as they drove from Baghdad to their homes just north of the capital.

The organisation has accused Shia militias of orchestrating the kidnap and has suspended its operations in protest.

Continuing violence

Over recent weeks there has been a surge in sectarian attacks with more than 120 people suffering a violent death in Iraq this week.

And on Wednesday the UN delivered a gloomy report on the deteriorating situation.

It said terrorist acts against civilians aimed at fomenting sectarian violence or allegedly motivated by revenge had also targeted members of Arab Shia and Sunni communities.

Kidnapping had become one of the most widespread crimes in Iraq, it said.

"We hope there will be no civil war in Iraq," the UN envoy to Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, told reporters.

car bomb aftermath in Baghdad
The streets of Baghdad are littered with the aftermath of car bombings
"This emerging phenomenon of Iraqis killing Iraqis on a daily basis is nothing less than a catastrophe," he said.

And Iraq's foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari has warned that the government has only months to curb the widening sectarian violence.

"It's not a hopeless case and uncontrollable," he said in an interview with Reuters news agency.

But he added: "If this is allowed to go out of control or to move from localised targeting to nationwide then you would have an all-out or a full sectarian war. We are not there yet."

He said the government would be judged by its ability to contain the violence - but on Wednesday it continued unabated.

Eleven people were killed in two separate bombings in central Baghdad and the east of the city, and an Iraqi general who worked for the interior ministry was gunned down as he left his home in the Mansur district of Baghdad.

In other developments:

  • Four people were killed by a bomb planted near a cafe in the northern town of Kirkuk.
  • Police and Iraqi troops reportedly killed two gunmen who attacked a market in Rashid, south of Baghdad, where three people had been shot dead.
  • Six bodies were found in the Wahda district of Baghdad, all showing signs of torture, the AFP news agency reported
  • Another three corpses, one of them headless, were discovered in Suwayra, 40km (25 miles) southeast of the capital, according to AFP.

Four hostages seized in a raid on a meeting of the Iraqi Olympic Committee last week were released on Wednesday, the committee's manager told AFP.

Nine of the 29 people seized in Saturday's raid have now been freed. There was no word on the fate of the other 20 hostages.

In May, 15 members of a martial arts team were seized and their whereabouts is still unknown.

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