IRAQI security forces have found 53 corpses blindfolded and handcuffed in a town south of Baghdad.

They said the bodies had been left in the mainly Shi'ite Muslim village of Khamissiya, about 15 miles south east of the city of Hilla, near the main road running from the capital to the southern provinces.

The head of the provincial council, local police and the governor's office all confirmed the discovery of the bodies but had no immediate information on the identity of the dead who appeared to have been executed and their bodies then dumped.

Loading article content

Sunni Islamist fighters seized control of large parts of northern and western Iraq last month, sweeping towards Baghdad in the most serious challenge to the Shi'ite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki since the withdrawal of US forces in 2011.

Fierce fighting between the insurgents and the army, backed by Shi'ite militias, has raised fears of a return to the devastating sectarian bloodshed which peaked in Iraq in 2006 and 2007.