Religious freedom another casualty in Iraq

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WASHINGTON, Sep 14 (Reuters) - Religious freedom is another casualty of the war in Iraq, where believers of all faiths are harassed, kidnapped or even killed, a US government report said today.

In its annual report on religious tolerance and freedom worldwide, the State Department also targeted Iran, North Korea, China and Burma for criticism but cited usual offender and close ally Saudi Arabia as showing some improvement.

In Iraq, where about 169,000 US troops are battling a bloody insurgency, the report said the fragile government's ability to protect religious freedoms was handicapped.

''Many individuals from various religious groups were targeted because of their religious identity or their secular leanings,'' the report said. ''Such individuals were victims of harassment, intimidation, kidnappings and killings.'' REUTERS RAR AS2106

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