50 bodies, many blindfolded, found south of Baghdad

Iraqi officials discovered 50 bodies, many of them blindfolded and with their hands bound, in an agricultural area outside a city south of Baghdad on Wednesday, authorities said. Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Saad Maan Ibrahim said the bodies had gunshot wounds and were found south of the city of Hillah, a predominantly Shia city about 95 kilometres (60 miles) south of Baghdad. He said an investigation was underway to determine the identities of the dead as well as the circumstances of the killings.

While the motives remain unclear, such grisly killings harken back to the worst days of Iraq’s sectarian bloodletting in 2006 and 2007, when bodies were frequently dumped along roadsides, in empty lots, ditches and canals. As the levels of violence dropped from those heights, such discoveries became a rare occurrence. But since the Sunni militant offensive that has swept across much of northern and western Iraq over the past month, authorities have begun to find bodies dumped on the streets, deepening fears of a possible return to sectarian warfare.

Iraq PM accuses Kurds of hosting jihadists
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki today accused the northern autonomous Kurdish region of hosting jihadists spearheading an offencive that has overrun swathes of territory and sparked Iraq’s worst crisis in years. “Honestly, we cannot be silent over this and we cannot be silent over Arbil being a headquarters for Daash, and Baath, and Al-Qaeda and terrorist operations,” Maliki said in his weekly televised address.

Daash is the former Arabic acronym for the Islamic State jihadist group, while Baath refers to the banned party of executed dictator Saddam Hussein. “We cannot be silent over a movement that exploited the circumstances and expanded,” said Maliki, infuriated by a Kurdish announcement last week that plans were being sped up to hold a referendum on self-determination.

Kurdish forces moved into disputed territories on the edge of their autonomous region, in particular taking control of the oil city of Kirkuk, when a jihadist-led alliance of militants swept through northwestern Iraq last month. The highly effective peshmerga fighters were in some areas the only rampart against the jihadists but Iraqi Kurdish president Massud Barzani has since vowed they would never leave again.


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