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As violence continues, threats drive Shiites from Sunni villages

Salim Rashid, 34, a Shiite laborer in an overwhelmingly Sunni Arab village north of Baghdad, received his eviction notice Friday from a man at the door with a rocket launcher.

" "It's 6 p.m.,' " Rashid recounted the masked man saying then, as retaliatory violence between Shiites and Sunnis exploded across wide swaths of central Iraq. " "We want you out of here by 8 p.m. tomorrow. If we find you here, we will kill you.' "

Walking, hitchhiking and hiring cars, the Rashid clan and many of the 25 other families evicted from the town of Mishada had made their way by Tuesday to a youth center in Baghdad's heavily Shiite neighborhood of Shoula.

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

New, deadly attacks surged Tuesday, with 66 people killed, according to Iraqi police. The decision to lift a curfew in Baghdad Monday appeared to have opened the way for a resumption of intense 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 as they waited in line to buy kerosene, five Iraqi soldiers killed in a bombing, and one U.S. soldier killed by small-arms fire, authorities and news agencies said.

Attacks on Shiite and Sunni holy sites had been rare in Iraq until last Wednesday, when bombers blew the gold-plated top off a Shiite shrine in Samarra. 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 dead since last Wednesday - was "inaccurate and exaggerated." Al-Jaafari said the toll was 379. Gen. Ali Shamarri of the Interior Ministry statistics department 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.