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A new horror: severed heads

BAGHDAD - When they saw the box in the street, villagers feared the worst: a bomb or a prop for an ambush. The content of the box, however, was grisly, not explosive. Inside, officers found the decomposing heads of nine men, each tucked inside a black plastic bag.

The discovery Tuesday was the second of its kind near the city of Baqubah in recent days.

As Iraqi politicians bicker over who should be named for the government's top security jobs, killings and brutality have escalated.

In Baqubah, a mixed city north of the capital, murders and attacks against Iraqi security forces have recently soared. On Saturday, eight other heads were found in banana crates near the city. One head was wrapped like a present. None of the bodies have been found.

But Baghdad is the epicenter of violence.

On Tuesday, authorities reported that a car bomb went off near a funeral in a southwestern neighborhood, killing six people and injuring 18. In a different part of town, a roadside bomb exploded at a bus stop, killing one woman and wounding two men.

Earlier in the day, the principal of Hamza primary school, Amer Azzawi, a Sunni Muslim, was driving his Shiite Muslim assistant, Suaad Rubaie, home when a drive-by gunman shot and killed them.

The couple was slain in the eastern part of the capital inside the vast Shiite slum of Sadr City.

On the west side of town, police found the body of a young woman who had been shot several times.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military announced that an American soldier with the 49th Military Police Brigade was killed Monday evening when insurgents attacked his convoy with an improvised explosive device in the capital.

In a news conference, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki promised to implement a security plan for Baghdad soon but refused to outline its details. Maliki instead focused on the release of 2,500 detainees from Iraqi and U.S.-run prisons in Iraq as part of a campaign of "national reconciliation."

The first batch of about 500 detainees will be released today and others will follow after their cases are reviewed, he said.

Also ...

- CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier, who was critically wounded by a car bomb May 29 that killed four other people, is expected to return to the United States today, the network said. Dozier, 39, has been in Germany. A CBS News statement said that Dozier was making progress, adding that "the swelling of her face has decreased significantly, she had the first physical therapy session on her legs, and she had her hair washed."

- U.S. military investigators believe the killing of an Iraqi civilian on April 26 was planned by a small group of Marines who shot the man and then planted a shovel and an AK-47 rifle at the scene, the Associated Press reported, citing a senior Pentagon official who has direct knowledge of the investigation under way by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The official said evidence indicates Marines entered the town of Hamdaniya in search of an insurgent and, failing to find him, grabbed an unarmed man from his home and shot him.

- A military court on Tuesday cleared three British soldiers of killing an Iraqi teenager who drowned after allegedly being forced into a canal. A panel of seven military jurors acquitted Sgt. Carle Selman, 39, Guardsman Joseph McCleary, 24, and Guardsman Martin McGing, 22, of manslaughter in the death of 15-year-old Ahmad Jabbar Kareem, who drowned in the Shatt al-Basra canal in Basra in May 2003.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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