BAGHDAD - Two Shi'ite brothers kidnapped just weeks after their family returned to a mainly Sunni area were found shot to death yesterday, police said.
Shi'ites have been encouraged by local officials to take advantage of the security gains and return home. But the killings of Ali Zaid Owayid al-Shimmari, 27, and his brother, Ammar, 23, were the latest in a series of attacks showing the continuing dangers.
The bodies were discovered in the Tahrir district in Baqubah, a former Al Qaeda stronghold northeast of Baghdad, where violence has dropped since local Sunnis turned against the terrorist group.
The men had been kidnapped earlier this week, according to a police official in Baqubah. The US military in northern Iraq confirmed that the two men's bodies had been found with bullet wounds, and said Iraqi police were investigating.
The brothers and their families were among Shi'ites who fled Baqubah last year amid kidnappings and execution-style killings by Al Qaeda linked militants.
Baqubah, the capital of Diyala Province 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, was a hotbed of Sunni Arab extremism until US and Iraqi soldiers gained control of key areas.
The brothers and their families had moved to a Shi'ite enclave outside Baqubah after a building they owned was bombed a year ago, the police official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information. They decided to return about two months ago.
South of Baghdad, Iraqi troops detained 14 suspects and seized weapons from schools and mosques yesterday, meeting no resistance in the Shi'ite militia stronghold of Amarah, the Defense Ministry said.
The 14 detained men are suspected of involvement in militia activity in Amarah, the hub of networks smuggling weapons from Iran to Shi'ite extremists, said Major General Mohammed al-Askari.
Iraqi soldiers found posters of Mahdi Army militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr and bomb-making instructions in hideouts during weekend operations backed by US forces.
The troops, with helicopters flying overhead, also searched the marshy border area between Amarah and the Iranian border, finding roadside bombs the military believes came from Iran.
The Iraqi troops were the first to reach the border area since 2003, said Brigadier General Numan Dakhil Jawad, the commander of the Iraqi quick reaction force.
"The arrival of our forces here is proof for the gunmen and lawbreakers that the government is present everywhere - even such a far-reaching away," he told AP Television News.
The operation in Amarah, 200 miles southeast of Baghdad, is the third launched by Iraq's prime minister against Shi'ite militias in recent months as he seeks to assert government control. He has also cracked down on Sunni extremists in the northern city of Mosul.
US troops also detained 25 suspected insurgents in Mosul during raids Friday and yesterday targeting Al Qaeda in Iraq, the military said. Two of the men detained were wanted for alleged ties to Baghdad bombing networks.
Followers of Sadr yesterday accused the government of targeting their political movement after security forces arrested 20 police officers linked to the anti-American cleric.
The arrests occurred on the third day of a security operation in Amarah, a southern Shi'ite city.