BAGHDAD - Gunmen trying to pass themselves off as U.S. and Iraqi soldiers raided a Sunni village outside Baghdad and killed at least 24 people in an execution-style attack, apparently targeting a Sunni group that revolted against al-Qaida in Iraq, authorities and witnesses said Saturday.
The bloodshed late Friday comes amid increasing concerns that insurgents will take advantage of Iraq's political turmoil to further destabilize the country, nearly a month after parliamentary elections failed to give any candidate a decisive win. Many fear a drawn-out political debate could spill over into violence and complicate U.S. efforts to speed up troop withdrawals in the coming months.
Details remained sketchy, but police said gunmen traveling in at least four cars raided three homes in Hawr Rijab, killing 19 men and five women after binding them in handcuffs. Some of the victims, police said, were marched onto the roofs of their homes and slain there.
Some had broken arms and legs, indicating they had been tortured before they were shot, police said. One witness said many were "beyond recognition." At least seven people were found alive, bound with handcuffs, authorities said.
One survivor of Friday's attack said the gunmen gained entry to her home by speaking English and convincing her mother they were U.S. soldiers on a patrol. The survivor ran to another room after seeing the attackers. Her mother and two brothers were killed.
A senior Iraqi army official who arrived at the scene Friday evening said witnesses told him the gunmen were wearing uniforms that resembled those of the U.S. military and that they tricked the residents by saying they were coming to ask them how they were faring.
The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad condemned the attack and urged Iraqi authorities to conduct a thorough investigation.
Many of the dead were members of a local Sahwa, or Awakening Council - one of several names for the Sunni fighters who changed the course of the war when they joined the Americans in late 2006 and 2007, said Mustafa Kamel, a Sahwa leader.
Iraqi military spokesman Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi blamed the killings on al-Qaida. By late afternoon, 25 people were arrested, he said.