BAGHDAD, Iraq – Sunni gunmen ambushed a convoy of minibuses Saturday night at a fake checkpoint on the dangerous highway south of Baghdad, killing 10 Shiite passengers and kidnapping about 50. Across the country at least 52 other people were killed in violence or were found dead, five of them decapitated Iraqi soldiers.
Police said the mass kidnapping and killing was near the volatile town of Latifiyah, about 20 miles south of Baghdad.
Shiite Muslims, a minority in that district, have routinely come under attack from Sunni insurgents who control the territory. The highway passing through the region from Baghdad leads to Najaf, the holiest Shiite city in Iraq. Shiite pilgrims have become a favorite target of Sunni gunmen, although it was not immediately known where the victims of Saturday night’s assault were headed.
Sectarian revenge killings in Baghdad and the mixed Sunni-Shiite regions surrounding the capital have reached civil war proportions.
Morgues across a wide sweep of the center of the country are full as Shiite militiamen and death squads range through the region killing Sunnis.
The Shiites are falling in large numbers as well in attacks from a growing network of Sunni insurgent groups, including radical organizations such as al-Qaida in Iraq.
The U.S. military has admitted in recent weeks that its mission to pacify the capital has not met expectations.
And now the problem appears to spreading outward at an extraordinarily rapid rate.