Policeman abducted
 

In other developments on Saturday, security officials said that the police chief of a town northeast of Baghdad had been abducted on Friday by armed men wearing Iraqi military uniforms.

 

A convoy carrying Colonel Amer Insaief, police chief of Muqdadiya in Diyala province, was ambushed near the village of Abu Saidr, security officials told AFP news agency.

 

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"He was returning to Muqdadiya from Baghdad yesterday when he was kidnapped near Abu Saidr close to Baquba," a security official in Baquba, capital of Diyala, said.

 

The previous day, an aide for Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shia leader, said al-Sadr could end a ban on activities by his Mahdi Army force due to US and Iraqi raids against his followers.

 

During Friday's sermon in Kufa, 160 km south of Baghdad, Sheikh Assad al-Nasseri said that patience with US operations was running out.

 

"It was one decision which could end in one minute and then they will be sorry," he said.

 

Al-Sadr's imposition in August of a six-month ceasefire has seen as incidental to a drop in the number of people believed to have been victims of Shia "death squads".

 

The US welcomed al-Sadr's ceasefire declaration but has continued operations against splinter groups of the Mahdi Army.