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MONDAY, JUNE 18, 2007

4-day Baghdad lockdown ends

By Hamza Hendawi
Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD — Residents emerged from their homes Sunday at the end of a four-day lockdown and found themselves caught in traffic spawned by hundreds of new police and army checkpoints.

Many wondered if the extra security and the curfew imposed after last week’s bombing of a major Shiite shrine had only created inconvenience and delayed an inevitable explosion of revenge attacks.

“The militias will still take revenge, today or tomorrow,” said agricultural materials merchant Nasser Ali Jaber, a 56-year-old Shiite father of three.

The bombing of the Askariya shrine north of Baghdad was the second there in 16 months. The first, which destroyed the glistening golden dome, unleashed a torrent of Shiite-Sunni violence that continues to this day.

As the Baghdad curfew ended, the U.S. military reported it killed 14 suspected insurgents and captured 20 others in separate operations over the weekend. At least 37 other people were killed or found dead in sectarian violence Sunday.

Three U.S. soldiers were killed Saturday in explosions near their vehicles — two in Baghdad and one in Kirkuk province, the U.S. military reported. The deaths raised to 3,524 the number of U.S. service members who have died since the war began, according to an Associated Press count.

One mosque was known to have been attacked in Baghdad and several were targeted south of Baghdad, including a major Sunni shrine that was leveled by an explosion outside Basra, Iraq’s second largest city.

There was no repeat of the wholesale attacks on Sunni mosques and clerics that took place after last year’s bombing.

But the ban on vehicle traffic and large gatherings led to steep price hikes for fuel, and fresh food as well as longer power outages than normal because people were forced to remain home, putting an additional burden on the power grid.

Baghdad is routinely off the central grid for as long as 20 hours a day.

Sunday saw some of the longest gas lines since Iraqis began suffering what are now chronic shortages.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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