In their boldest and deadliest ambush yet, insurgents waylaid three minibuses carrying US-trained Iraqi soldiers heading home on leave and massacred about 50 of them - forcing many to lie down on the ground and shooting them in the head.
Some accounts by police said the rebels were dressed in Iraqi military uniforms.
The killing of so many &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/war/2003/04/08/45761.html ' target=_blank>Iraqi soldiers - unarmed and in civilian clothes - in such an apparently sure-footed operation reinforced American and Iraqi suspicions that the country's security services have been infiltrated by insurgents. A claim of responsibility posted on an Islamist website attributed the attack to followers of Jordanian-born terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, reports Melbourne Herald Sun.
According to the New Zealand Herald, Aqil Hamid al-Adili, the Deputy Governor of Diyala, said: "There was collusion. Otherwise the gunmen would not have got the information about the soldiers' departure." Ali al-Kaaki, a commander in the Iraqi National Guard, said: "These people were &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/accidents/21/96/382/14301_dvd.html ' target=_blank>executed. It was done as an example. The insurgents could have just attacked the buses and killed them. But they were making a point. Villagers called the police."
The attack took place near Baquba, 65km northeast of Baghdad, part of the Sunni triangle into which British soldiers will begin deploying within the next 48 hours. Yesterday, the troops, from Black Watch, held their last church service before the journey from Basra to the Iskandariyah area, near Baghdad, to help US forces who are preparing the assault on Fallujah.