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25 gunned down in Mosul

Gang-style executions baffle police

Smoke billowed from the site where a bomb exploded in central Baghdad yesterday. North of the capital, a police raided a farm and freed 17 kidnapped factory workers.
Smoke billowed from the site where a bomb exploded in central Baghdad yesterday. North of the capital, a police raided a farm and freed 17 kidnapped factory workers. (Getty Images)

BAGHDAD -- At least 25 people have been executed gangland-style in Iraq's third-largest city this week, with residents gunned down and bodies found scattered throughout Mosul.

Elsewhere, five US troops were killed in operations south and west of Baghdad, the US military said yesterday, and police stormed a farm and freed 17 victims of a factory kidnapping.

Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, has a mixed Kurdish and Sunni Arab population and a tradition of bad blood. The Kurds, who are largely Sunni Muslim but not Arab, have formed a prosperous autonomous region nearby after decades of oppression and mass killings under the Sunni Arab minority that ran Iraq until Saddam Hussein was ousted three years ago.

Police said they were not sure whether the attacks were carried out by the Sunni Arab-led insurgency, common criminals, or sectarian death squads. Increasing numbers of Iraqi deaths over the past months have been attributed to revenge killings carried out by Shi'ite-backed militia organizations or Sunni Arabs who have banded together in retribution.

The outburst of killings was first reported Tuesday morning when police found the bodies of a husband and wife, both Kurds, shot to death in eastern Mosul, according to police Captain Ahmed Khalil. Before the day was out, 10 people were either killed in shootings or found dead.

The killings persisted Wednesday, with eight people -- including a child and a college student -- shot to death by nightfall. The violence continued yesterday, said police Brigadier Abdel-Hamid Khalf, with a policeman killed in a firefight with gunmen early in the day and six civilians shot to death before sunset.

The police raid north of Baghdad that freed the 17 captives occurred a day after the mass kidnapping, believed to have been organized by Sunni extremists at the close of a factory shift.

Initial reports said that as many as 85 people, including women who had taken their children to work, were taken. But Industry Minister Fowzi Hariri told state-run Iraqiya TV yesterday that 64 people were abducted, two of whom were killed trying to escape. Thirty people, mainly women and children, were freed shortly after the kidnapping. Following the rescue yesterday of 17 hostages, 15 are still believed to be in captivity.

A National Security Ministry official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters, said several insurgents holding the kidnap victims were captured during the raid.

Police raided the farm on a tip from a victim who said he was freed after showing his captors fake identification with a Sunni tribal family name.

``As we were leaving the factory we were stopped by gunmen. They got on our buses and told us to put our heads down. Then they took us to a poultry farm," said the man who was released. He refused to allow the use of his name, fearing retribution.

``One of the gunmen told us to stand in one line and then asked the Sunnis to get out of the line. That's what I did. They asked me to prove that I am a Sunni, so I showed the forged ID and three others did the same. They released us," the man said.

The workers were grabbed as they boarded company buses for the trip home after work at al-Nasr General Complex, a former military plant that now makes metal doors, windows, and pipes. The plant is about 20 miles north of the capital.

There has been rampant sectarian violence in the region, where tit-for-tat kidnappings and revenge killings are common, but nothing on the scale of Wednesday's abduction. The Nasr plant is between Baghdad and Taji, a predominantly Sunni Arab area.

The military said the four Marines were killed Tuesday in Anbar Province, three of them in a roadside bombing and the fourth in a separate operation. A soldier died Wednesday south of the capital, the military said, giving no further details.

At least 2,512 members of the US military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven civilians working with the military .

Elsewhere in the country yesterday, police reported 13 deaths tied to insurgent or death squad attacks, including six bodies that floated to the surface of the Tigris River in Kut, a city 100 miles southeast of Baghdad.

Nine days into the security crackdown on Baghdad that includes hundreds of checkpoints and an expanded curfew, the capital was relatively quiet. Police reported only two deaths related to insurgent or sectarian attacks.

The victims died when a bomb strapped to a motorcycle exploded in a market. At least 25 people were wounded, police Captain Jamil Hussein said.

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