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Insurgents Kill Dozens in Iraq

Stepped-up attacks by insurgents over the last two days have killed at least 44 Iraqis, including 12 laborers — five of them brothers — who were gunned down at a construction site, police said Monday.

In addition, the bodies of eight Iraqis who apparently were kidnapped and killed in captivity were found in the capital on Monday, police said.

Meanwhile, the toll among American service members in the Iraq war was approaching 2,000 dead.

At least 1,996 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

Monday's worst attack occurred in southwestern Baghdad (search) when suspected insurgents opened fire at two civilian cars, killing three of the municipal workers they were carrying and a passer-by, said police Capt. Talib Thamir.

A homicide car bomber killed two Iraqis and wounded five in an attack on a police patrol in the northeastern neighborhood of Shaab, where insurgents had kidnapped and murdered a defense lawyer in Saddam Hussein's (search) trial last week, said police Lt. Malik Sultan.

Insurgents opened fire on an Iraqi army checkpoint in western Baghdad, killing a soldier and a girl who was standing in front of her nearby house, said police 1st. Lt. Thaeir Mahmod.

In two other attacks in the capital, a drive-by shooting killed one policeman and two others were wounded by a roadside bomb, authorities said.

In Kirkuk (search), 180 miles north of Baghdad, a roadside bomb exploded at 8:30 a.m. near a car carrying Ibrahim Zangana, a senior member of Iraq's Kurdish Democratic Party (search), seriously wounding him and killing one of his bodyguards, said Brig. Gen. Sarhat Qadir, the commander of Kirkuk's police force.

A drive-by shooting in Mosul (search), 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, killed a policeman.

On Sunday, more than 33 Iraqis died in a swell of violence in Iraq, including 12 laborers, five of them brothers, who were gunned down by insurgents at a construction site outside the city of Hillah, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, police said.

With high unemployment in Iraq, men often commute long distances to find jobs as day laborers in cities.

The corpses of eight Iraqis — five men and three women — also were found in three different areas of Baghdad on Monday, police said. All of them apparently had been kidnapped, tied up or handcuffed, and shot to death.

Insurgents also fired mortar rounds that set fire to an oil pipeline in northern Iraq, wounding two Iraqi soldiers, said soldier Hussein Ghadban Al Ubaidi. The pipeline is one of many that link an oil field in Kirkuk to Iraq's largest oil refinery in Beiji. Such attacks in the north are common.

Shaab, where the suicide car bomb exploded on Monday, is the area of Baghdad where 10 gunmen wearing police and military uniforms on Thursday kidnapped Sunni Arab Saadoun Sughaiyer al-Janabi, one of the defense lawyers in the trial of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein, and seven former officials from Saddam's Sunni-dominated regime.

Al-Janabi — the lawyer for Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the former head of Saddam's Revolutionary Court — was taken from his office in the Shaab area, and hours later his tortured and bullet-ridden body was found on a sidewalk by the Fardous Mosque in the nearby Ur neighborhood.

The 12 remaining Saddam trial defense lawyers have since rejected an offer from the Interior Ministry for better security, demanding protection from American officials instead.

Also Sunday, an investigative judges took testimony from the first witness in the Saddam mass murder trial regarding the 1982 massacre of 148 Shiites in the town of Dujail (search).

The judges went to a military hospital to take the deposition from Wadah Ismail al-Sheik, a cancer patient who was director of the investigation department at Saddam's feared Mukhabarat (search) intelligence agency at the time of the Dujail massacre.

Al-Sheik is too sick to appear in court, and officials did not want to wait until the trial resumes Nov. 28 to get his testimony.

In another development, the U.S. military on Sunday confirmed that four American contract workers were killed and two wounded in Iraq last month when their convoy got lost.

The attack occurred on Sept. 20 when the convoy, which included U.S. military guards riding in Humvees, made a wrong turn into the mostly Sunni Arab town of Duluiyah, 45 miles north of Baghdad.

Insurgents opened fire with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, Maj. Richard Goldenberg, a spokesman for Task Force Liberty in north-central Iraq, told The Associated Press.

Alerted of the attack, a quick reaction team went to the scene, finding all four Americans still in their vehicles with bullet wounds, one of them burned from a fire in the vehicle. One was still alive but died later of his wounds, the military said. Two others were wounded and survived the attack.

Three of the dead worked for Houston-based Halliburton Co.'s (search) KBR subsidiary, the biggest U.S. military contractor in Iraq. It was not clear who the fourth slain American worked for.