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Bombs rock Shiite areas in Baghdad

BAGHDAD (AP) — Cars, minibuses and roadside bombs exploded in Shiite Muslim enclaves across the city Sunday, killing at least 45 people in sectarian violence that defied the Baghdad security crackdown, while a radical anti-U.S. cleric raised a new threat to Iraq’s government.

Two officials close to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said his followers would quit their six Cabinet posts Monday — a move that could leave Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s already weak administration without enough support to stay in power.

And in a rare gesture of dissent from America’s partners in Baghdad, dozens of Iraqi policemen demonstrated in front of their station, accusing U.S. troops of treating them like “animals” and “slaves.”

The U.S. military command announced the combat deaths of three more Americans. Two British service members died when their helicopters crashed in midair north of Baghdad, and hours later a U.S. helicopter was hit by ground fire near Mosul but landed safely with no injuries. Six powerful bombs, gunfire and artillery blasts enveloped Baghdad.

U.S. commanders previously cited a slight decrease in violence since the crackdown began Feb. 14, but urged patience for what they warned would be a long, tough fight.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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