A medical official in Kadhimiya's main hospital, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the wounded were mainly men, but that three women were among the victims.

 

The bullet-riddled bodies of at least 47 men showing signs of torture also were found on Wednesday by police, 34 of them in Baghdad, the apparent victims of so-called sectarian death squads usually run by Shia militias.

 

Sistani aide assassinated

 

In other violence, an aide to Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's top Shia cleric, was killed in a drive-by shooting near his house in the Muslim holy city of Najaf in south Iraq.

 

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Sheik Raheem al-Hasnawi was killed late on Tuesday, hours after the assassination of Abdul Raheem Nayef, the local chief of Muqtada al-Sadr's Shia movement in Jbela, 65km south of Baghdad.

 

A Sunni group in Iraq said its members had carried out Nayef's assassination.

 

Ansar al-Sunna said in a web statement: "This apostate was one of the biggest and most hateful enemies of the mujahidin and Sunnis. He had openly fought the unarmed."

 

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera reported quoting The Islamic Army in Iraq that it had reached a peace agreement with al-Qaeda in Iraq to stop internecine violence.

 

Catholic priest kidnapped

 

Elsewhere, Hani Abdel Ahad, a Catholic priest, and five of his parishioners were abducted on Wednesday, three days after the murder of a Catholic priest and three deacons in the northern city of Mosul.

 

The incident happened in the Suleikh quarter of northeast Baghdad.

 

Meanwhile, in several areas of Baquba, the capital of Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, Iraqi troops and US helicopter gunships were reported attacking Sunni fighters of al-Qaida in Iraq.

 

A medical source said the bodies of eight fighters were brought to a local hospital.

 

Bergner, right, said al-Mashadani was killed in
a raid in a Baghdad suburb on Tuesday [AFP]

At a news conference on Wednesday, Brigadier-General Kevin J Bergner, a US military spokesman, announced the death of a fighter he identified as al-Qaida in Iraq's emir - "Muhammad Mahmud Abd Kazim Husayn al-Mashadani", also known as Abu Abdullah.


Bergner said al-Mashadani was part of a car-bomb network and that three other suspected fighters were detained in the operation, which took place in a Baghdad suburb on Tuesday.

 

For its part, the US military said four soldiers were killed over the past two days in combat operations in Iraq - one in a roadside bomb in eastern Baghdad, one in a roadside bomb near Baiji, north of the capital, and one in an explosion in Diyala.

 

Another soldier was killed on Tuesday by enemy gunfire, also in Diyala.