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18 abductees found 'executed' in Iraq

Eighteen men have been killed execution-style near Baghdad, just hours after they were abducted by uniformed gunmen. The grisly find caps a week in which nearly 200 people were killed across Iraq.

Iraqi police and medical sources said all the men had been shot in the head and chest. The bodies were found early Friday in an orchard at Mishahda, a mainly Sunni Muslim town 30 kilometers (20 miles) north of the Iraqi capital

Those killed included an army major, a school principal, two tribal chiefs and four policemen. It was not clear who was behind the abductions and killings.

Sources said the gunmen arrived in at least four off-road vehicles and told the victims and their families that they were suspects in a variety of investigations. The bodies were found a few hours later.

Surge in violence

More than 6,000 people have been killed across Iraq this year, making it Iraq's most violent since 2006-7 when Shiite and Sunni militiamen engaged in sectarian reprisal raids.

Friday's killings followed the discovery on Wednesday of the bodies of 13 people who had been shot dead in various parts of Baghdad.

Of these, eight were found blindfolded. Six of the corpses were left in canals.

Those deaths drew condemnation from the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday and a UN reaffirmation of what it called the mainly Shiite government's "commitment to Iraq's security."

The violence - mainly in Baghdad and Sunni areas of northern and western Iraq - worsened in April after security forces stormed a Sunni protest camp.

ipj/pfd (AFP, Reuters, AP)