BAGHDAD -- Police said yesterday they had recovered 48 bodies from across Baghdad, bringing the toll of clandestine killings since Monday to at least 180 people. Most of those people were shot execution-style.
The vast majority of the bodies found during a 24-hour period in different Baghdad neighborhoods were those of young men who had been tortured, blindfolded, and handcuffed before being shots several times, said Captain Mohammed Hanoon of the Interior Ministry.
Securing the capital has become the top priority for US commanders in Iraq, who have deployed an additional 8,000 US troops to the capital in an effort to halt escalating sectarian violence.
To prevent fighters from entering Baghdad and to counter trafficking of explosives and arms, US and Iraqi security forces are digging ditches and building berms around the capital, creating a 60-mile security perimeter, the US military confirmed yesterday.
Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson, a military spokesman, said the plan also would use existing topographical features such as canals and rivers to stem contraband traffic.
In the past, the military has built sand barriers around cities including Fallujah and Tel Afar before major combat operations there. But Baghdad is a far more complex problem for the US military.
The deadliest threat is not explosives or large-scale attacks by Sunni-led insurgents but rather secret executions. Shi'ite-dominated Iraqi security forces have been accused of carrying out systematic killings of Sunni residents in the capital.
At a news conference yesterday, an Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman, Brigadier Abdul Khalaf, said digging a trench around Baghdad was one idea among many. ``It's still under discussion," he said.
As police recovered the bodies yesterday, several bombs targeted civilians, politicians, and security forces in the capital. In one attack, insurgents allegedly had placed explosives in or near a corpse, detonating the bomb when Iraqi soldiers arrived to pick up the body. One soldier was killed and three other people were wounded.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, meanwhile, launched a new call for reconciliation. Appealing again to Iraq's divided sects, Maliki urged Iraqis to put aside sectarian, ethnic, and political differences, and to embrace his reconciliation plan.
Maliki's plan is intended to bridge the communal animosities fueling Iraq's violence. Among its 24 points, it offers amnesty to members of the Sunni Arab-led insurgency that is not involved in terrorist activities, and calls for disarming primarily Shi'ite militias.
But no major Sunni insurgent group has publicly agreed to join the plan, and no steps have been taken to rein in Shi'ite militias.
Since the plan was unveiled in late June, car bombings, mortar attacks, and shootings have killed hundreds of Iraqis.
Material from the Associated Press was included in this report.