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As violence builds, threats drive out Shiites

With sectarian violence rampant since last week's bombing of a Shiite shrine, some families have become symbols of an emerging trend in Iraq: the expulsion of Shiites from Sunni towns.

At least 58 dislodged Shiite families have come to Baghdad's heavily Shiite neighborhood of Shoula since late last week, said Raad al-Husseini, a Shiite cleric helping the families settle in.

New, deadly attacks - many of them apparently sectarian assaults - surged Tuesday, with 66 people killed, according to Iraqi police. The decision to lift a curfew in Baghdad on Monday appeared to allow for a resumption of bombings, including explosions at three Shiite mosques that killed at least 19 people. Some of Tuesday's other victims included 23 people killed by a bomber in Baghdad, five Iraqi soldiers killed in a bombing, and one U.S. soldier, authorities and news agencies said.

Meanwhile, officials overseeing Baghdad's morgue have come under pressure not to investigate the soaring number of apparent cases of executions and torture in the country, the former U.N. human rights chief for Iraq said.

John Pace, who left his post in Iraq earlier this month, spoke as officials offered varying numbers for the toll since Wednesday.

Pace said the pressure had come from "both sides," but declined to give further details.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari said Tuesday that the death toll provided to the Washington Post by Baghdad morgue workers - more than 1,300 since Wednesday - was "inaccurate and exaggerated." Al-Jaafari said the toll was 379. Gen. Ali Shamarri of Interior Ministry statistics put the toll at 1,077.

The U.S. military said Tuesday it had confirmed 220 deaths. Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a spokesman in Iraq, said the country's joint Iraqi-U.S. operations center reported accounts of 365 civilian deaths, and said officials at the center believed the count could reach 550.

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