BAGHDAD - Bombers struck an Iraqi army post northeast of Baghdad and civilian targets in the city as violence across Iraq killed at least 72 people yesterday, including the bullet-riddled bodies of 27 men dumped in the capital - apparent victims of sectarian death squads.

Still, the top American military spokesman insisted the U.S. command felt "very comfortable" that it is making "steady progress" in restoring order in Baghdad.

"We are seeing those initial signs of progress being made," Maj. Gen. William C. Caldwell told Associated Press Radio.

The violence came as the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate adopted House-passed legislation calling for U.S. troops to begin leaving Iraq by Oct. 1. President Bush pledged to veto the measure, and neither body passed the measure with enough votes to override a veto.

The deadliest attack occurred about 9 a.m. when a suicide car-bomber killed 10 Iraqi soldiers at a checkpoint in Khalis, a longtime flashpoint city about 50 miles northeast of Baghdad. Ten other soldiers and five civilians were wounded, police said.

The city is in Diyala province, which has seen some of Iraq's worst violence recently. Mostly Sunni Arab insurgents are thought to have fled to the area to escape the security crackdown in Baghdad that U.S. and Iraqi troops launched Feb. 14.

In the capital, a car bomb exploded near Baghdad University, killing eight civilians and wounding 19, including some students, police said.

Four other civilians were killed and nine wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near a market in central Baghdad, police said. The blast missed its intended target - a passing police patrol.

In the city's sprawling Shiite Muslim neighborhood of Sadr City, U.S. troops killed three militants during a gunbattle, the military said. Later in the day, a funeral procession was held in the district for an Iraqi who residents said was killed in the fighting.

Two suicide bombers attacked an office of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Massoud Barzani, leader of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.

The blasts killed three security guards and wounded five, police said. Casualties could have been worse if guards had not opened fire on the two attackers, forcing them to detonate their explosives at least 50 yards from the office, police said.

The bombing in Zumar, a town 45 miles west of Mosul, capital of Ninevah province, was the second suicide attack this week aimed at the party in that area.

In other violence, four insurgents were killed as the U.S. targeted suspected al Qaeda in Iraq militants near Taji, a U.S. air base 12 miles north of Baghdad, the U.S. command said.

It said two women and two children were also believed to have been killed during the fighting. "Unfortunately al Qaeda in Iraq continues to use women and children in their illegal activities," U.S. spokesman Christopher Garver said.

Two civilians were killed and 12 wounded when mortar shells exploded in the southern Baghdad district of Dora, police said. One civilian died and four were wounded when a car bomb exploded in the Baiyaa district of southwestern Baghdad.

At least 30 tortured bodies were found, including 27 who had been shot to death and left in different parts of Baghdad, and three decapitated bodies found south of the capital.

In Tikrit, police said the wife and daughter of a Saddam Hussein cousin were found slain at their home. The wife of Hashim Hassan al-Majid had been shot and the daughter strangled, police Capt. Samir Mohammed said. Their names were not released.

Al-Majid's brother is Ali Hassan "Chemical Ali" al-Majid, one of the most notorious figures of Saddam's regime, who is on trial for his alleged role in gassing Kurds and other abuses during a crackdown on Kurds in the 1980s.

Hashim Hassan Al-Majid, who held various posts in Saddam's government, was arrested after the regime fell, Tajik residents said. *