Page last updated at 10:30 GMT, Monday, 13 April 2009 11:30 UK

Fears over Iraq gay killing spate

'Hussein,' a gay Iraqi interviewed by the BBC in 2006

The Iraqi government must do more to protect homosexuals in the wake of a reported spate of killings of gay young men, Amnesty International has urged.

In the last few weeks, 25 boys and men are reported to have been killed in Baghdad because they were, or were perceived to be, gay, Amnesty said.

In a letter to Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, the rights organisation called for "urgent and concerted action".

It also criticised the government's failure to condemn the killings.

'Corpses found'

The recent killings are said to have been carried out by armed Shia militiamen as well as by members of the tribes and families of the victims, Amnesty said.

It cited reports that three corpses of gay men were found in the Shia area of Sadr City last week - two of which were reported to have had pieces of paper bearing the word "pervert" attached to them.

The letter also raised concerns that religious leaders may be inciting violence against members of Iraq's gay community, and over reported statements by one senior police officer that appear to condone or even encourage the targeting of gay Iraqis.

Amnesty called on the government to bring those responsible for the killings to justice and to afford effective protection to the gay community in Iraq.

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