Spate of bombings
 
The attacks in Khalis were preceded by a spate of bombings and shootings that killed at least 12 people in other parts of Iraq on Thursday, security officials said.
 

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Five people were killed and nearly 20 others wounded when a car bomb exploded in the town of Mahmudiya, 30km south of Baghdad, police said.

 

Two policemen died and six were wounded in the capital when a car loaded with explosives and with a corpse inside blew up when they came to retrieve the body, a security official said.

 

Another two policemen were killed and two more wounded when armed men opened fire on a police convoy as it passed through a district in northern Baghdad near the Sunni al-Nida mosque, an official said.

 

Three more Iraqis were killed and another 20 wounded in a roadside bomb explosion in Baghdad's southwestern Baya district.

Sectarian tension
 

In Tal Afar, Durad Kashmula, the governor of Nineveh province, acknowledged a setback to the authorities' attempt to deal with the recent surge in sectarian violence.

 

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Hours after lorry bombs killed 85 people in a Shia area of the town on Tuesday, up to 70 Sunni men were shot dead.

 

Tal Afar, situated close to the Syrian border and the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, was held up only a year ago by George Bush, the US president, as an example of progress towards peace.

 

Residents of Mahmudiya mourn
Thursday's deaths [Reuters]

On Thursday, Kashmula said at a news conference in Mosul: "Yes, there are policemen who are involved. 

 

"They have been arrested but released afterwards due to demonstrations and to deter strife," he said, referring to protests in Tal Afar on Wednesday.

 

Kashmula said they would be brought to justice in due course.

 

Brigadier Najim al-Jubouri, the mayor of Tal Afar, said that 18 people had been detained over the shootings.

 

It was not clear how many remained in custody on Thursday.

 

Salih Qadu, head doctor of Tal Afar hospital, said the bodies of 60 men shot in the aftermath had been brought to the hospital.

 

A senior Iraqi army officer put the toll from the attacks at 70.