BAGHDAD, Iraq—Authorities found at least 65 bodies dumped throughout Baghdad on Wednesday, and at least 25 people died in other violence in a setback to the U.S. military's efforts to reduce sectarian violence in Iraq's capital city.
The hands of most of the dumped victims were bound, and they were blindfolded. Most of the dead appeared to have been shot to death, and many showed signs of having been tortured.
The apparent resurgence in execution-style murders, which are often associated with sectarian violence and death squads, came as U.S. and Iraqi patrols have been sweeping Baghdad neighborhoods in search of insurgents and sectarian militiamen.
Since Operation Forward Together began on Aug. 7, U.S. officials have boasted that such killings in Baghdad declined by more than 50 percent in August, compared with July. U.S. officials wouldn't provide specific numbers, however, and have said that their comparison doesn't include victims of car bombings, mortar attacks and other so-called mass-casualty violence.
Statistics released by the Baghdad morgue suggest that the decline in violence from July to August was less than 18 percent, with 1,529 violent deaths in August and 1,855 in July.
Wednesday's deaths, however, clearly fall into the category that the U.S. military is tracking.
The daily total was the highest since the security sweeps began and the second highest so far this year. The most executions—80—occurred on Feb. 23, the day after a Shiite mosque was bombed in Samarra, setting off the current round of violence.
The bodies were dumped throughout the city. Ten were found in the Shula neighborhood in western Baghdad and another 10 were found in Sadr City in the east, both Shiite Muslim strongholds of anti-American cleric Muqtada al Sadr. Forty-five of the victims were discovered in predominantly Sunni Arab parts of western Baghdad, including five in the Dora neighborhood, which had already been swept by U.S. and Iraqi forces, police said. Most of the victims were found in groups of four or five.
U.S. officials said they hadn't been able to verify the reports of the bodies.
Police said they'd been unable to determine a pattern in where the bodies were dropped. None was near police or military checkpoints, police said. Shiite Muslim militias have been accused of infiltrating Iraqi police and army units.
An officer from the police station in the Amel neighborhood in north central Baghdad, speaking on the condition that he not be named, said that many of the incidents appeared to involve day laborers, drivers or police officers who may have been abducted as they began their workdays and then were killed shortly afterward. In most cases, police found no identification on the bodies, which were photographed and taken to the morgue.
Such execution-style killings have become more frequent since the Samarra mosque bombing, although bodies bearing signs of torture have turned up almost daily since 2005.
But the spike in executions may signal that U.S. and Iraqi troops have been unable to quell the activities of death squads as operations begin to slow in anticipation of Ramadan, the month that Muslims devote to fasting. Ramadan begins Sept. 24.
Other violence in Baghdad on Wednesday targeted police convoys or stations. At least 14 people were killed and 67 wounded after a car bomb and an improvised explosive device went off near Al Shaab Stadium in east Baghdad at around 10 a.m. The blast appeared to be targeting a police convoy.
Two hours later, a bomb in a parked car exploded near a police patrol from the Zayona police station in east Baghdad. Eight police officers were killed and 19 civilians were wounded.
Two mortar shells landed on al Rashad police station in southeastern Baghdad, killing a policeman and wounding two others, police said. Two more policemen were killed when two mortar rounds landed near their station in Baghdad's eastern neighborhood of Mashtal. Three others were injured.
(c) 2006, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.