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More than 80 People Found Executed in Baghdad

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

In Iraq, the sectarian violence continues. Over the past two days, police in Baghdad have discovered the bodies of at least 80 people, the apparent victims of the latest tit for tat killings among the country's Sunnis and Shiites. Iraq's political leaders, meanwhile, are struggling to find agreement on the formation of a new government, but there's been no sign of progress in the talks.

NPR's Jamie Tarabay joins us on the line from Iraq now. Jamie, we understand the authorities uncovered a mass grave in one Baghdad neighborhood. What more can you tell us about this?

JAMIE TARABAY reporting:

Well, among the dozens of bodies Iraqi police have found dumped in different neighborhoods all over the capital was this mass grave of at least 29 bodies, all stuck together and buried in an eastern Shiite neighborhood in the capital. They were all men, and police say that most of them were in their underwear. This morning, police also found an abandoned vehicle. Inside there were 15 bodies, and they were also all men, all blindfolded, with their hands and feet tied. They were found in west Baghdad, not far from where a U.S. military patrol last week discovered a minibus on the side of the road that had 18 bodies in it.

There were also at least 40 more bodies discovered in different parts of Baghdad, including both Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods, and again, they all appear to have been shot in the head execution style. We don't know what the breakdown of the ethnicities is. We don't know how many that were killed were Sunni or Shia. These kinds of killings have been happening here for a very long time, but it escalated after the bombings in Sadr City on Sunday.

NORRIS: Jamie, how is all of this affecting those political talks?

TARABAY: Well, it's clearly making things more urgent and tense. You know, the politicians here, they all agree that these attacks are designed to stall the political process and to keep the country in turmoil. Having said that, though, it has been very difficult for the different factions to meet. There's a real atmosphere of distrust and anger. They all blame each other for the violence and they've been unwilling to take the first step to ease the situation. I mean, even getting them together in the same room has been a real trial for people like U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. There are grievances on every end. But now they all agree that the sooner they get this political process restarted, the better it will be for everyone.

NORRIS: Well, there's hope that that'll happen this week. The Iraqi Parliament is due to convene on Thursday after repeated delays. What are the prospects for that session?

TARABAY: Well, the first thing they've done is they've taken care of the security concerns, and they've imposed a curfew from tomorrow night that's going to go all the way through to Thursday afternoon. Only authorized vehicles are going to be allowed on the road. So we actually, we do expect them to get together in the Green Zone for the first session of Parliament.

It's going to be interesting to see whether they make any progress, because right now they can't even agree on who's going to be the Prime Minister. The Kurdish and the Sunni factions are really unhappy with Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who's the nomination of the Shiite Alliance. They think he's weak. They think he's ineffective. And they want him replaced.

It's going to take a really long time for the different politicians to agree on who's going to be the president, the Prime Minister, the Cabinet. But even to have this session will be very symbolic, since they all say this is exactly what the insurgents have been trying to prevent with all of these attacks that we've witnessed. And also it will instill even a little bit of hope in Iraqis who are despairing at the moment at the violence and the instability.

NORRIS: Jamie, thanks so much.

TARABAY: Thank you.

NORRIS: NPR's Jamie Tarabay, speaking to us from Baghdad. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Jamie Tarabay
After reporting from Iraq for two years as NPR's Baghdad Bureau Chief, Jamie Tarabay is now embarking on a two year project reporting on America's Muslims. The coverage will take in the country's approx 6 million Muslims, of different ethnic, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, and the issues facing their daily lives as Americans.