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Iraq Transition

Shiite-Sunni violence reported near Baghdad

Top Shiite party, government offer conflicting reports

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Insurgents attack Iraqi police in three cities.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- There were conflicting reports Saturday over hostage-taking between Shiite and Sunni Muslims in Madain, south of Baghdad.

A spokesman for one of the leading Shiite political parties, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution In Iraq, said Sunni Arabs were leading a "terrorist siege" against Shiites in Madain.

Haytham al-Hussieni said Sunnis kidnapped several Shiites and demanded they leave town. Some Shiites called his party asking for help, he said.

But a spokesman for Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a Shiite Muslim, gave a different version of events, calling the situation a tribal standoff.

Thair al-Naqib said a prominent Sunni tribe had kidnapped several members of a rival Shiite tribe, and in response, the Shiite tribe kidnapped several Sunnis.

The supreme council is one of the main political parties in the United Iraqi Alliance, the Shiite-led coalition that won January's assembly election and has a large voice in the development of a new government.

Al-Hussieni said more than 100 masked men armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades drove into Madain late Friday, set up checkpoints and took Shiites hostage.

He said the gunmen also blew up a Shiite mosque, and that the supreme council has urged Iraqi security forces to help end "this tragedy."

But he was not aware of any such action.

Al-Naqib, the prime minister's spokesman, said Ministry of Interior officials have dispatched senior officers to negotiate a peaceful resolution. He said the prime minister's office was confident the situation will be resolved peacefully.

U.S. military officials said they were aware there was trouble in Madain, but that Iraqi officials asked them not to interfere.

Since the fall of Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated regime, long-oppressed Shiites and Kurds have become the most powerful political forces in Iraq.

Sunni Muslim militants and Saddam loyalists have been leading an insurgency marked by suicide bombings, kidnappings and beheadings that have often targeted Shiites.

U.S. military: Insurgents fired on base

Insurgents fired "indirect" rounds Saturday on Camp Blue Diamond, a U.S. military base near Ramadi, the U.S. 2nd Marine Division said in a statement.

No casualties were reported.

The statement said the "attackers were seen fleeing into a nearby mosque."

No further details were available.

Blasts were heard in Ramadi as part of the fighting.

Attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces

In another day of strikes against U.S. and Iraqi forces, insurgents launched a suicide attack that killed five Iraqi police officers and two civilians Saturday in Baquba.

Insurgents were also behind a roadside bombing in Taji that killed a U.S. soldier that morning.

The number of U.S. troops killed in the war has reached 1,553.

The violence followed a week of bloodshed in Iraq in which insurgents launched deadly attacks and an American businessman, Jeffrey Ake, was kidnapped from a work site in Baghdad.

The strikes were launched as the newly elected Iraqi transitional assembly goes into the last stages of forming a transitional government.

The assembly -- which has picked a president and now has a prime minister-designate -- is set to meet Sunday but is not expected to finish selecting a Cabinet.

Governmental stability is needed in Iraq to build security forces that can respond to the tenacious insurgency.

Filipinos, Iraqis wounded

Unknown gunmen also opened fire Saturday on a minibus heading to the Baghdad airport, wounding a man and a woman, an Iraqi official with Baghdad emergency police told CNN.

The victims, described by police as Filipino, work at a duty-free shop at the airport.

And in northern Baghdad, a car bomb missed its target -- a U.S. military convoy -- and wounded two Iraqi civilians, an Iraqi police official said. It happened around 9 a.m. Saturday in the Hussainiya neighborhood of the city.

Disturbances at prison

And at the troubled Camp Bucca prison in southeastern Iraq, 11 inmates escaped early Saturday.

Ten of them were recaptured by Iraqi security forces hours later, the U.S. military said in a statement.

"At approximately 1:30 a.m., U.S. forces found indications of an escape" and learned that the detainees were "unaccounted for after a head count" was done.

Forces are searching for the remaining escapee, and authorities are investigating how the escape took place.

More than 6,000 detainees are housed at the prison, south of Basra near the Kuwait border. A brawl between inmates occurred Friday after a death there.

And two weeks ago, authorities found a 600-foot-long (183-meter) escape tunnel at the prison. A head count of prisoners accounted for all.

Raids net suspects

U.S. and Iraqi forces embarked on raids in northern Iraq over the weekend, seizing 27 insurgent suspects in Mosul and Tal Afar on Friday and Saturday, the U.S. military said.

Task Force Baghdad soldiers detained a former brigadier general with Saddam's intelligence service during a raid Friday, a military spokesman said.

The military didn't name the general and said tips from informants and residents led to his capture in the Ghazaliya district of Baghdad.

Soldiers also seized several AK-47 rifles and ammunition, along with several computers and data storage devices, authorities said.

CBS stringer investigated

The U.S. military reported Saturday that the CBS stringer detained after a gunbattle between U.S. forces and insurgents earlier this month has "tested positive for explosive residue."

"Multinational forces continue to investigate potential collaboration between the stringer and terrorists, and allegations the stringer had knowledge of future terrorist attacks," said Sgt. John Franzen of Task Force Freedom in Mosul.

Officials are looking into the stringer's previous activities and alleged support of insurgency activities.

The case stems from an April 5 incident in which the stringer, who was working as a photographer, was wounded in the clash. He was standing next to an insurgent who was killed. (Full story)

CNN's Aneesh Raman, Kevin Flower, Ayman Mohyeldin and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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