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Mahdi Army blamed for assassinations

BAGHDAD, April 28 (UPI) -- A U.S. military commander says the Mahdi Army is responsible for recent assassinations in Baghdad.

Maj. Gen. Bernard Champoux said in an al Sumaria report that Baghdad should work to establish good relationships with neighboring countries that oppose terrorist organizations.

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The Mahdi Army is a paramilitary force created in 2003. Champoux did not name any individuals killed by the organization.

"Certain extremist parties or special groups carrying out operations against the U.S. military do not trust the political system or regime of the Iraqi government", Champoux said at a news conference Wednesday. "Some of these groups look to sap the prosperous future of Iraq."

Violence and assassinations in Iraq have increased since the killings of more than two dozen people in March.

"Some groups are working against the independence of the Iraqi regime. They believe in assassinations that put innocent lives at risk", Champoux said.

Champoux said Iraq has the ability to defend itself, despite its lack of a complete government.

"Iraq is capable of imposing security in the country," Champoux said. "Iraq's sovereignty is not affected by other countries. Even if the United States leaves Iraq, it will remain attentive to the country's security."

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