BAGHDAD, Iraq – As three days of round-the-clock curfew ended Monday, the Iraqi capital eased back into a familiar rhythm of death, escape and survival.

Hundreds of Iraqi families made a beeline for the airport, where they handed over their savings for one-way tickets to any place safe. Others ran for the border, with suitcases strapped to cars bound for Syria and Jordan. Families that stayed stocked up on food, kept their children home from school and waited for another round of sectarian bloodshed.

A U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter jet crashed in the volatile western Anbar province, where it was providing air cover to ground troops. A military statement didn’t address the cause of the crash or the fate of the pilot.

Al-Jazeera television aired a brief clip of what it said was the crash site and told viewers it had footage that showed the pilot’s body but wouldn’t air it. The channel quoted witnesses as saying that insurgents had shot down the warplane. The clip showed the gray wreckage of a jet with a crumpled white parachute nearby.

Except for the road to Baghdad International Airport, where traffic stretched for miles, few cars ventured into the capital’s increasingly perilous streets. An unfolding civil war between Sunni Muslims, backed by insurgent groups, and Shiite Muslims, led by militias and their allies in Iraq’s security forces, has rendered life virtually untenable for ordinary Iraqis.

The district of Doura, one of the most dangerous in Baghdad, “is very quiet – not because it’s peaceful, but because it’s almost empty,” said Qusai Kadhim, 37, a Shiite who lives there. “My street is the calmest of all because there are only two families left, mine and my neighbor’s. I’m just here in my house, my weapon is ready and the only thing I can do is defend my family.”

Sectarian violence and insurgent activity continued in several neighborhoods, including an evening attack on a mosque in Saidiyah, the torching of a Sunni home in Amil and fierce clashes along Haifa Street near the Iraqi National Museum. The Interior Ministry announced the discovery of 39 bodies throughout the capital, including five in Hurriyah and four in Kadhemiya.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, arrived in Tehran for talks with Iranian officials on how the countries can work together to stem sectarian violence and boost Iraq’s flagging economy. The trip had been delayed because Iraq’s airport was shut down during the three-day curfew. Five Iraqi Cabinet ministers accompanied the president.

Kamran Karadaghi, Talabani’s adviser and spokesman, said the two-day talks would focus on preparations for a later, more in-depth meeting on security, trade and the economy. Many officials from the Shiite-led Iraqi government enjoy close ties with Shiite Iran because they spent years of exile there during Saddam Hussein’s regime or belong to the Iranian-backed parties that dominate Iraq’s political landscape.

“Iran plays a very vital role in helping Iraq in security because Iran has had very good relations with all the political factions since the time of opposition,” Karadaghi said.

An upcoming report from the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan American panel that’s examining U.S. strategic options in the war, is expected to suggest direct talks with Iran and Syria, the United States’ two biggest enemies in the region and the nations with the most influence over neighboring Iraq.

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