Speaking at a joint news conference on Saturday afternoon, Saadun al-Dulaimi also said Iraq would not hesitate to dispatch tanks to the streets to end violence and impose security.

 

"We are ready to fill the streets with armoured vehicles," he told a news conference televised live to the nation on state television.

 

The minister also denied any involvement by what he called Interior Ministry commandoes in the attack that targeted Harith al-Dari, leader of the Association of Muslim Scholars.

 

He also appealed to the media not to exaggerate the bloodshed. He said the death toll over the past few days was no higher than 119 and the number of mosques attacked was 21 to 22, not the hundreds previously reported.

Day of attacks

Earlier in the day 11 bodies were found in five areas of Baghdad, police said. All were male and all had been shot.

Police said three people were killed and six wounded in mortar and rocket fire in al-Sadr City, the sprawling slum in eastern Baghdad which is a stronghold of Shia figure Muqtada al-Sadr.

Shia Muslims demonstrate on
the streets of London

Meanwhile, police said they body of a police officer with shotgun wounds was found near his home east of Tikrit.

Armed men opened fire on the house of al-Dari, the head of Iraq's leading Sunni Muslim religious organisation, in an attack he blamed on government forces.

Police said al-Dari's security personnel opened fire and there appeared to be injuries on both sides.

Meanwhile in London, England, thousands of Iraqi Shia took to the streets of the capital to demonstate against the bombing of the Askariya shrine. They shouted chants against Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden and the Baath party.

Daytime curfew

 

The police further reported that 14 bodies of police commandos were found near one of the mosques attacked in southern Baghdad where clashes occurred overnight. Gunmen attacked the Qubaisy mosque and the Sunnis' revered Abu Hanifa shrine.

At least 12 members of a Shia family have been killed in Diyala province, and at least eight people were killed and 31 wounded in a car bomb blast in Karbala in an atmosphere of heightened tensions in Iraq.

The attack on the Shia family happened in Buhriz, about 60km north of Baghdad, provincial police said.

At least 200 people have died

Buhriz, near Baquba town, has seen repeated sectarian strife.

Saturday's attack came despite an extraordinary daytime curfew in Diyala province and three other flashpoint areas.

The curfew was intended to curb a wave of sectarian violence that has killed more than 140 people since the bombing of a revered Shia shrine in Samarra on Wednesday.

The car bomb in Karbala also wounded 25 people. It exploded on a busy shopping street in the west of the city, 110km south of Baghdad.

Funeral attacked

Earlier on Saturday, the funeral procession of Atwar Bahjat, a well known Al-Arabiya newswoman killed while covering the bombing of the Samarra shrine, was disturbed when armed men opened fire.

There was no immediate word on casualties.

An Al-Arabiya television correspondent, who sought sanctuary in a farmer's house, reported that about 150 mourners, including many journalists, were walking through Baghdad's western Abu Ghraib area when the attack happened.

Gun battles have been raging

Iraqi army captain, Jasim al-Wahish, said security forces returned fire and rushed 60 more soldiers to the scene, where sporadic clashes continued.

Iraqi police said armed men - some firing rockets - attacked Sunni mosques overnight in two Baghdad districts, including the Sunnis' revered Abu Hanifa shrine.

The Iraqi government has extended the daylight security clampdown with a ban on cars on Monday morning. The overnight curfew is still in effect.