Fifty-three corpses found near Baghdad

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iol news pic BAG507_IRAQ-SECURITY-SLEEPER_0703_11 REUTERS Shi'a volunteers patrol the area as they secure it against the predominantly Sunni militants from the Islamic State, previously called the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), in the desert region between Kerbala and Najaf, south of Baghdad. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani

Hilla Iraq - Iraqi security forces found 53 corpses, blindfolded and handcuffed, in a town south of Baghdad early on Wednesday, local officials said.

They said the bodies had been left in the mainly Shi'a Muslim village of Khamissiya, about 25km south-east of the city of Hilla, near the main highway running from the capital to the southern provinces.

The head of the provincial council, local police and the governor's office all confirmed the discovery of the bodies, but had no immediate information on the identity of the dead, who appeared to have been killed execution style.

The bodies were found at 2am (23.00 GMT) on Wednesday, they said.

Sunni Islamist fighters seized control of large parts of northern and western Iraq last month, sweeping towards Baghdad in the most serious challenge to the Shi'a-led government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki since the withdrawal of US forces in 2011.

Fierce fighting between the insurgents and the army, backed by Shi'a militias, has raised fears of a return to the devastating sectarian bloodshed which peaked in Iraq in 2006 and 2007.

Sunni militants have been carrying out attacks around the southern rim of Baghdad since the spring. In response, Shi'a militias have been active in the rural districts of Baghdad, abducting Sunnis they suspected of terrorism, many of whom later turn up dead.

According to medical officials, the number of unidentified bodies found around Baghdad have risen steadily since the beginning of the year. - Reuters



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