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Mass grave of 53 men, tied up and executed, found in Iraq

Separately today, the Iraqi prime minister has accused the Kurdish government of protecting militants.

File photo of a voluntary armed group north of Baghdad.
File photo of a voluntary armed group north of Baghdad.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

IRAQI SECURITY FORCES have found the bodies Wednesday of 53 men who had been bound and executed in a confessionally mixed province south of the capital, police and medical officials said.

The men were found in orchards south of Babil provincial capital Hilla, all with gunshots to the head or chest, in killings reminiscent of the brutal sectarian bloodshed that gripped Iraq in 2006-7.

A mortuary official said the victims were killed at least a week ago.

It was not immediately clear why the men were killed, the officials said.

Offensive

Although attacks have taken place in Babil province during a jihadist-led offensive that overran swathes of territory north and west of Baghdad last month, the area where the bodies were found was not close to the sites of other recent violence.

North of Hilla is a deeply divided region that earned the monicker the Triangle of Death for the ferocity of its sectarian violence in the years after the US-led invasion of 2003.

Elsewhere in Babil province on Wednesday, two car bombs killed two people and wounded 13, officials said.

Mosque Explosion - Mosul, Iraq Images posted online show that Islamic extremists have destroyed at least 10 ancient shrines and Shiite mosques in territory - the city of Mosul and the town of Tal Afar - they have seized in northern Iraq in recent weeks. Source: AP Photo

South of Hilla are the Shiite shrines cities of Karbala and Najaf, and the heartland of the country’s Shiite Arab majority that dominates the Baghdad government to the anger of the Sunni Arab former elite.

Harbouring jihadists

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has accused Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region of harbouring jihadists, further ratcheting up tensions despite calls for the country’s leaders to unite against a Sunni militant offensive.

The incumbent potentially damaged his efforts to retain the post by turning on the Kurdish leadership based in the northern city of Arbil and accusing them of hosting militant groups behind the onslaught.

Mideast Iraq Iraqi police officers and newly recruited policemen march at a police recruiting office in Baghdad. Source: AP Photo/Karim Kadim

“Honestly, we cannot be silent over this and we cannot be silent over Arbil being a headquarters for Daash, and the Baath, and Al-Qaeda and terrorist operations,” Maliki said in his weekly televised address, without giving an explanation or details on the unlikely alliance.

Daash is the former Arabic acronym for the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, which Kurdish forces are in fact fighting against in north Iraq, while Baath refers to the banned party of executed dictator Saddam Hussein, whose regime killed tens of thousands of Kurds.

“They (militant groups) will lose, and their host will lose also,” the premier said.

© AFP 2014

Read: While chaos reigns in Iraq, the Kurds want to form an independent state >

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