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Despite pleas for unity, Iraq not spared violence

Violence killed at least 29 people Sunday, including three American soldiers, and mortar fire rumbled through the heart of Baghdad after sundown despite stringent security measures imposed after an explosion of sectarian violence.

Iraqi police said they had found no trace of abducted American journalist Jill Carroll as the deadline set by her kidnappers for killing her passed at midnight Sunday with no word on her fate.

A ban on driving in Baghdad and its suburbs helped prevent major attacks during daylight Sunday, but after nightfall explosions thundered through the city as mortar shells slammed into a Shiite quarter in southwestern Baghdad, killing 16 people and wounding 53, police said.

Mortar fire also hit a Shiite area on the capital's east side, killing three people and injuring six, police reported. Smaller attacks in other parts of the country also resulted in deaths.

Nevertheless, officials announced they would let vehicles back on the streets at 6 a.m. today - in part because shops were running out of food and other basics.

The vehicle ban, which followed a curfew that kept everyone in the Baghdad region inside for two days, was part of emergency measures imposed after Wednesday's bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra triggered a wave of reprisal attacks on Sunni mosques and clerics, pushing Iraq to the brink of civil war.

Authorities have arrested 10 people in connection with the bombing of Askariya Shrine, Iraq's national security adviser, Mowaffak Rubayie, told CNN. Rubayie, who accused followers of Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi of carrying out the attack, said four of the suspects were guards at the shrine. Six were outsiders who recently moved to Samarra.

Sunni and Shiite religious leaders have called for unity and an end to attacks on each other's mosques.

Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose own militia was blamed for many of the attacks on Sunnis, repeated the appeal Sunday when he addressed followers in the southern Shiite stronghold of Basra upon his return from neighboring Iran.

The sectarian violence distracted attention from the deadline set by Carroll's kidnappers.

The freelance journalist, who was working for the Christian Science Monitor, was abducted Jan. 7 in Baghdad.

An Interior Ministry official said Sunday that authorities had stepped up their search for the 28-year-old woman but made no progress.

"Our forces raided some suspected places, but she was not there," Maj. Falah al-Mohammedawi said. "We are watching the situation closely."

In other violence, two American soldiers died when their vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb in western Baghdad, the U.S. military said. A third U.S. soldier was killed by small-arms fire in central Baghdad late Sunday, the military said.

Information from the Los Angeles Times was used in this report.

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