BAGHDAD, Iraq – The bodies of 14 policemen were found Friday northeast of Baghdad after an al-Qaida-affilated Sunni group said it abducted members of a government security force in retaliation for the rape of a Sunni woman by members of the Shiite-dominated police.
The killings occurred in one of the provinces surrounding Baghdad, where violence remains high despite a sharp drop in bombings and sectarian killings in the capital since the start of the U.S.-led security crackdown last month.
Brig. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, an Interior Ministry spokesman, said the bodies were discovered Friday afternoon in Diyala province. The policemen were kidnapped Thursday on their way to their homes in Diyala for leave, he said.
Earlier Friday, the Islamic State of Iraq said in a Web statement that it seized 18 Interior Ministry employees in Diyala in retaliation for “the crimes carried out … against the Sunnis,” including the alleged rape last month of a Sunni woman by policemen in Baghdad.
In a second statement, the group announced that its “court” had ordered the “execution” of the men and that a video depicting their deaths would be posted later, according to the SITE Institute, which monitors extremist Web sites.
Photos accompanied the claim, showing as many as 18 blindfolded men, seven of them wearing Iraqi military uniforms. All had their hands tied behind their backs.
But Khalaf cast doubt on whether the 14 slain policemen were the same men shown on the Web site photos.
“We found the 14 policemen’s bodies, but they are not those who are in the fabricated images on the Web site,” he said. “The Diyala police told us that they don’t know who those people shown on the Web site were.”
Nevertheless, he blamed al-Qaida for the killings and said Iraqi authorities would “chase those who assassinated these unarmed people.”
Also Friday, two U.S. soldiers and an interpreter were killed by a roadside bomb northwest of Baghdad as they were trying to clear a highway of explosives.
The military also announced that a U.S. Marine was killed two days earlier in combat in Anbar province, a Sunni insurgent area west of the capital.
Police in the Anbar capital of Ramadi said gunmen shot dead two members of a soccer club practicing in a public field.
The New York Times quoted witnesses as saying 10 gunmen shot the two players – Mohammed Hameed Nawaf and Mohammed Mishaan – execution-style in front of horrified spectators after accusing them of collaborating with a Sunni group with ties to the Americans.
The assailants tied the players’ hands and tried to drag them toward the cars, but the players resisted and struggled. Mishaan broke free and fell to the ground where he was shot, the newspaper said. Nawaf was then shot, the newspaper said.