More than 50 blindfolded bodies were discovered in the Iraqi town of Alexandria on Wednesday, according to the country's security officials. Two children were among the blindfolded and handcuffed bodies found in different parts of the predominantly Shiite town.
Details about the deaths were not immediately available and officials did not tell CNN when the people may have been killed. The grisly discoveries come after weeks of carnage across the Middle Eastern nation as Iraqi security forces battle radical Sunni Muslims from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, an al Qaeda splinter group.
ISIS seized large areas of northern and western Iraq in an offensive that started in Syria last month. The terror group has also taken over large parts of Syria in its goal to establish an Islamic state that spans both countries.
The Boston Herald notes that most of the bodies were men between the ages of 25 and 40. A local police officer and a medical official added that it appeared the victims were killed a few days earlier then dumped in the remote area south of Baghdad. Most of the blindfolded bodies had bullet wounds in either the head or the chest.
The killing raised concerns about a possible sectarian killing amid the battle against ISIS. While the motives remain unclear, grisly killings like this are similar to the ones seen during the worst days of Iraq's sectarian battles in 2006 and 2007. At the time, Shiite militias and Sunni militant groups often slayed members of the other sect. Bodies were frequently found along roadsides, in empty lots, ditches, and canals.
As violence dropped over time, so did the sectarian killings. However, sectarian tensions have soared again in the region and authorities have started finding unidentified bodies dumped along roads again. While ISIS is leading the insurgency, other Sunni militias have joined, feeding off the anger in their minority community against Iraq's Shiite-led government.
While no one has claimed responsibility for the blindfolded bodies dumped in Alexandria, ISIS did claim responsibility for recent suicide bombings in Baghdad that killed almost two dozen people. Security medical officials added that at least five people were killed and 17 wounded by car bombs in Hilla, near Alexandria.
Security in Hilla and surrounding town has deteriorated since fighting began last month. Hilla resident Abu Sajad explained to CNN, "We are witnessing increase in government forces deploying in Hilla's streets daily, and we are staying up every night to give these forces the support in case there will be a need for us if ISIS show up in Hilla."
With violence escalating in Iraq, it's possible the 50 blindfolded bodies found in Alexandria Wednesday will not be an isolated incident.