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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 March 2006, 14:10 GMT
Scores of bodies found in Baghdad
Iraqi soldiers on patrol in Baghdad
Violence has soared since an attack on a key Shia shrine
Iraqi authorities have discovered bodies from two mass killings, taking the number of corpses found in the past 24 hours to more than 80.

The bodies of 15 bound and apparently tortured men were found in an abandoned vehicle in Baghdad's Khadra district.

Hours later, at least 29 bodies were found bound, blindfolded and buried in a south-eastern suburb of the capital.

Analysts say the killings reflect the continuing sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia extremists.

Mass grave

The victims in Khadra - a mainly Sunni neighbourhood in western Baghdad - were found in a minibus at about 0945 (0645 GMT) on the main road between Amariya and Ghazaliya.

Interior ministry spokesman Maj Falah Mohammedawi said the men had been shot in the head and chest and showed signs of torture.

The funeral of a Mehdi Army member in Sadr City in Baghdad
Fifty people were killed by bomb attacks in Sadr City on Sunday

Their full identities were not immediately known although police said one victim was carrying papers identifying him as a 22-year-old Sunni student.

The second group of victims was discovered at about noon in the Shia neighbourhood of Kamaliya. The bodies were in a mass grave in an empty field.

The victims were blindfolded and their hands were bound. They had suffered gunshot wounds.

Their identities have also not been confirmed but police believe they are from the Sunni minority.

Maj Mohammedawi said that more than 40 other bodies had been found in areas around Baghdad over the past 24 hours.

These included four men reportedly strung up from electricity pylons in the eastern Shia district of Sadr City.

The sectarian violence has soared since a bomb attack on one of the most important Shia shrines, at Samarra, last month.

Hundreds of people have been killed in reprisal attacks since then.

Fifty people were killed and 90 injured in bomb attacks on markets in Sadr City on Sunday.

On Monday, radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr appealed for calm, saying he would order his Mehdi Army militia not to respond to attacks despite his belief Iraq was now in civil war.

Parliament meeting

Sunni, Shia and Kurdish politicians have begun intensive discussions ahead of the inaugural session of parliament on Thursday.

The opening of the body, elected in December, has been delayed by squabbling over the composition of the government.

The most contentious issue is the Shia-proposed prime minister Ibrahim Jaafari, whom many Sunnis and Kurds consider too divisive.

The BBC's Andrew North in Baghdad says those involved in the latest talks have warned there is little prospect of rapid progress.


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