Iraqi security forces found the bodies of 53 men on Wednesday 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 2006-07.
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.
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 Triangle of Death for the ferocity of its sectarian violence in the years after the US led invasion of 2003. 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.