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Gunmen kill Shi'ite families in Baghdad after raid

IRAQ: Gunmen killed nine members of two Shi'ite families in a mostly Sunni neighbourhood of Baghdad on Sunday and police found the bodies of 60 more apparent victims of sectarian killings gripping the capital.

A day after Shi'ite militias raided a mixed neighbourhood and forced dozens of Sunni families to flee in one of the worst incidents of sectarian cleansing in weeks, gunmen stormed a home in a predominantly Sunni area in Baghdad and killed five brothers from one family after separating them from the women.

A father and three sons from another family were also killed in the attack in Jihad district, officials and relatives said.

In Washington, the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel set up to review U.S. policy, defended its recommendations that the United States engage Syria and Iran in a dialogue aimed at stabilising Iraq, and accelerate training of Iraqi forces in order to pull back U.S. combat troops by early 2008.

More than 2,900 U.S. troops have died since the 2003 U.S. -led invasion. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have died.

"What we're saying in this report is we want to conclude this war, we want to conclude it in a responsible way," former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton, a co-chair of the group, said.

"We do not want American forces involved in sectarian clashes or violence, that's not our business," Hamilton said on the "Fox News Sunday" television programme.

Former Secretary of State James Baker, also a co-chair of the group, urged the Iraqi government to pursue national reconciliation between Kurds, Shi'ites and Sunnis.

"If the Iraqi government cannot implement national reconciliation, we're going to have an extraordinarily difficult time," Baker told NBC's "Meet the Press" programme.

Bush, under pressure to change course, has shied away from embracing major recommendations of the report, which described the situation in Iraq as "grave and deteriorating.

While Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has welcomed the recommendations of the Iraqi Study Group, Jalal Talabani, Iraq's ethnic Kurd president, blasted the report, which suggested embedding thousands more U.S. advisers in Iraq's security forces to quicken their training.

"It asks that they put foreign officers in every unit, which is a violation of Iraq's sovereignty ... What will remain of our sovereignty?" he said.

Baghdad, Monday, Reuters

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