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Maliki Aide Who Discussed Amnesty Leaves Job

An Iraqi soldier mans a checkpoint as Baghdad remained under tightened security. Bombings there and in northern Iraq killed eight security personnel.
An Iraqi soldier mans a checkpoint as Baghdad remained under tightened security. Bombings there and in northern Iraq killed eight security personnel. (By Karim Kadim -- Associated Press)

Maliki's broad statements about amnesty, at a news conference Wednesday in Baghdad, marked the first time a leader from Iraq's dominant Shiite religious parties had indicated openness to pardoning members of the Sunni insurgency.

The statement from Maliki's office Thursday also said: "It is not true what some of the media outlets including The Washington Post have said about the willingness of the Iraqi government to talk with armed groups."

At Wednesday's news conference, Maliki said reconciliation could include an amnesty for those "who weren't involved in the shedding of Iraqi blood. Also, it includes talks with the armed men who opposed the political process and now want to turn back to political activity." Maliki's comments were in Arabic and televised. Other Western media outlets rendered the same translation, although saying "gunmen" instead of "armed men."

Meanwhile Thursday, bombings in Baghdad and northern Iraq killed eight Iraqi policemen and soldiers as the capital remained under heavy security during daylight hours.

In the southern city of Karbala, U.S. and Iraqi forces detained the leader of the provincial council, Aqeel al-Zubaidy, leading the council to suspend operations and sparking small-scale street protests, Iraqi officials said. The U.S. military, in a statement later, announced the arrest of a "terrorist leader" it referred to as Sheik Aqeel.

"Aqeel commands a Karbala terrorist network and is wanted for assassinating Iraqi citizens and planning and ordering attacks against Iraqi and Coalition forces," said the statement, which said Aqeel was responsible for the deaths of six soldiers from the U.S.-led military force last year and a soldier and interpreter earlier this month.

Shiite militias are considered the main threat to security in southern Iraq, but it was not immediately clear if the detained official belonged to one.

Shiite officials in Baghdad and Karbala, a city holy to Shiites, rushed to his defense. Karbala's governor called the arrest "a dangerous precedent."

Also Thursday, the Iraqi government released a document it said was found before Zarqawi's death during a raid on an insurgent safe house. The document, which described the insurgency as "gloomy" because of gains by Iraq's security forces, called on insurgents to foment strife among Shiites and between the United States and Iran.

The authenticity of the document, which closely echoes accounts of insurgent strategy offered by Iraq's Shiite political leaders, could not be independently verified. It was written in a style different from typical statements issued by al-Qaeda in Iraq, which refer to Shiites as "rejectionists" or "dogs" and to U.S. forces as "crusaders."

The U.S. military death toll in Iraq of 2,500 announced Thursday includes nearly 2,000 killed in action. These deaths have been caused mainly by roadside bombs, which continue to inflict a stream of American casualties despite gains in armor and the growth of Iraqi security forces.

In addition, 18,490 U.S. service members have been wounded since the March 2003 invasion, more than 8,500 of them seriously enough that they were not returned to duty within three days, according to Pentagon figures.

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