18 bodies killed execution-style found in Iraq
The grisly scene was discovered in Meshahda, a predominantly Sunni Muslim area, around 32km north of Baghdad, reports Reuters citing police and morgue sources. Many of the bodies found had been blindfolded and showed signs of torture.
The victims, all male, were taken on early Friday by men wearing military uniforms and driving around six SUVs, which looked like army vehicles. The victims' families were told that they were suspects in an official investigation and were being taken away for questioning, witnessed told AFP.
It’s not clear which group was behind the mass execution, but the area has been plagued by attacks by militants dressed as soldiers.
"It is definitely al Qaeda because this is the area where they are operating," a senior official in Iraq's federal police told Reuters on conditions of anonymity.
There were four police officers, an army major, the headmaster of a school and a mayor from the neighborhood among the victims. A Sunni Muslim tribal sheikh and his son were also among those shot dead.
The bodies were found in an orchard by local police, who were alerted by the relatives of the abductees.
The deaths add to the long list of casualties in Iraq, which endures its bloodiest year since 2006-07, when tens of thousands of people were killed due to sectarian violence. This week alone more than 200 people have been killed so far nationwide.
Abductions and execution-style killings are on the rise in the country along with bombings and gun attacks. On Wednesday, Iraqi police found the bodies of 13 people around Baghdad, apparent victims of execution-style killings.
The Iraqi violence was condemned on Wednesday by the UN Security Council.
"The members of the Security Council expressed their deep condolences to the families of the victims and reaffirmed their support for the people and the government of Iraq, and their commitment to Iraq’s security," the international security body said in a statement.
Baghdad earlier appealed for international help in battling militant fighters, who make it hard for the government to hold a general election early next year.
France and Turkey have recently offered assistance to Nuri Maliki’s government in combating militancy.