Police found the corpses of 18 Sunni men yesterday, shot near a town just north of Baghdad, Iraqi officials said, hours after they were abducted by gunmen wearing military uniforms.
Such killings are reminiscent of Iraq's worst days of sectarian warfare in 2006 and 2007, when both Shiite and Sunni Muslim death squads roamed the streets and took people from their homes.
Police said the abducted men were killed by gunshots to the head. Authorities found the bodies in farmland near the Sunni town of Mishahda, some 30 kilometres north of Baghdad. Gunmen in four cars snatched the men, who included two army officers and the town's mayor, from their houses on Thursday.
A Baghdad morgue official confirmed receiving the 18 bodies. He said that all the relatives who came forward to claim the bodies were Sunnis.
Earlier this week, police found 13 bodies in areas around Baghdad.
"These recent killings show that the fears by many Iraqis that their country is heading to darker days similar to 2006-2007 are true and that the wounds of the past are not healed yet," Baghdad-based political analyst Hadi Jalo said.
"If the government does not take effective measures to stop the sectarian tension and security deterioration, I think that we should expect more such killings."
Separately, a bomb went off inside a sheep market in Baghdad's southeastern suburb of Nahrawan yesterday, killing three and wounding six, police said. And in the western Abu Ghraib suburb, a roadside bomb killed one and wounded five others, authorities said.