Militants kidnap, kill 20 Iraqi soldiers
BAGHDAD - Agence France Presse
A member of the Iraqi security forces inspects an Iraqi army vehicle damaged during a bomb attack, one of their clashes with the al Qaeda-linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Jurf al-Sakhar, 60 km (40 miles) from the capital Baghdad, May 10, 2014. REUTERS PhotoAuthorities found the bodies of 20 Iraqi soldiers shot dead after being kidnapped from a northern military base, while a string of attacks elsewhere on Sunday killed 13 people.
The bloodshed comes as officials tally votes from the country's April 30 general election amid a protracted surge in violence that has left more than 3,200 people dead so far this year.
The bloodletting has fuelled fears Iraq is slipping back into the all-out sectarian conflict that left tens of thousands dead in 2006 and 2007.
Authorities have been quick to blame external factors such as the civil war in neighbouring Syria for the rise in unrest, but analysts and diplomats say the Shiite-led government must do more to reach out to the disaffected Sunni Arab minority to undermine support for militancy.
In north Iraq, militants attacked a small military base, abducted 20 soldiers and later shot them dead, with authorities finding their bodies in the area on Saturday night, according to security officers and a morgue employee.
The powerful Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant jihadist group claimed the attack in a statement, saying it had targeted members of the "Safavid army", a pejorative term to link Iraq's security forces with those of Iran, which was once ruled by the Safavid empire.
"God willing, these operations will not stop," the statement said.
ISIL and an army major general said the kidnappings took place in Nineveh province on May 5.
The previous month, militants killed 12 soldiers and wounded 15 in an assault on a military base west of Mosul, the capital of Nineveh province.
The province, where militants hold considerable sway, is one of the most consistently violent areas in Iraq.
Militants opposed to the Iraqi government frequently target members of the security forces, but it is rare for such a large number of soldiers to be kidnapped at once, especially from a military position.
Meanwhile, violence in Baghdad and north Iraq killed 13 people on Sunday, security and medical officials said.
Four policemen and two soldiers were killed in attacks on security forces in Nineveh, while one person was gunned down in Salaheddin province.
Two people were shot dead in Baghdad, while four more people, including three anti-Al-Qaeda militiamen, were killed on the capital's outskirts.