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Iraqi prime minister denies there is civil war

By Thomas Wagner
Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD — Gunmen shot and killed 23 members of an ancient religious sect in northern Iraq on Sunday after stopping their bus and separating out followers of other faiths while car bombings in the capital killed at least another 20 people.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in Egypt to drum up support among Arab leaders for his Shiite-led government, told Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that Iraq was not embroiled in a civil or sectarian war. Key Arab leaders pressured him to step up reconciliation efforts to include Sunni insurgents if he expects Arab support.

In the northern Iraq attack, armed men stopped the bus as it was carrying workers from a textile factory in Mosul to their hometown of Bashika, which has a mixed population of Christians and Yazidis — a primarily Kurdish sect that worships an angel figure considered to be the devil by some Muslims and Christians.

The gunmen asked Christians to get off the bus, then drove the Yazidis to another location, where they were lined up along a wall and shot.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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