86 Found Dead in Sunni and Shiite Muslim neighborhoods

The bodies of 86 men shot execution-style, tortured or strangled have been discovered in various Sunni and Shiite Muslim neighborhoods here during the two days since a bloody attack on the capital's largest Shiite slum, authorities said Tuesday.

Even for this violence-ridden city, the number was unusually high and the deaths particularly grisly, suggesting a further escalation of sectarian bloodshed.

At one site of shallow graves in a poor Shiite neighborhood in east Baghdad, police spent hours digging up 29 corpses after getting a tip from a boy who stumbled across one while playing soccer. On the other side of town, in a middle-class Sunni area, officers discovered 15 bodies stuffed inside an abandoned minivan.

In the last few weeks, hundreds of Iraqis have been killed in shootings, bombings and other attacks.

Many of the victims are believed to be Sunnis assassinated in reprisal attacks after the Feb. 22 bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, one of Shiites' holiest shrines.

"The path to civil war is available to the Iraqi people, and the path toward freedom and representative government is available to them. And they are standing at the crossroads right now," U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace said Tuesday at a Pentagon news briefing. He said he was optimistic that Iraqis "are going to go down the path of prosperity for themselves."

The bodies in the poor Shiite neighborhood of Fadhiliya in east Baghdad were found Tuesday morning after the youth discovered a half-buried corpse and alerted his parents. Police sealed off the area and began exhuming a number of shallow graves.

Five hours later, they had dug up the bodies of 29 men who had been tied up, blindfolded and shot. The blood of some victims was fresh, but eight of the men appeared to have been killed more than a week ago, officials said. In one of the graves, police dug up 10 victims dressed only in their underwear.
In the predominantly Sunni city of Mosul in the north, police found the bodies of three middle-aged men in civilian clothes who had been shot, reports Los Angeles Times.

I.L.

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