47 workers killed at checkpoint near Baghdad

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Gunmen pulled factory workers off buses north-east of Baghdad and killed 47 of them, a provincial council member said.

The victims were travelling in three buses when they were stopped at a checkpoint in the Nahrawan area, about 12 miles south of Baqouba, said Dhari Thuban, a member of the Diyala Provincial Council. The buses were burned and their passengers killed, he said.

The motive for the killing was not immediately clear.

Residents told police that the bullet-riddled bodies were found at about midday behind a brick factory, the Interior Ministry said.

The victims, who ranged in age between about 20 and 50, were dressed in civilian clothes and their deaths appeared recent, said the ministry's Maj. Falah al-Mohamadawi.

Thuban said the victims were brick factory workers, but al-Mohamadawi said no identification documents were found on them.

Near Samarra, the bodies of three Iraqi journalists, including a well-known correspondent for Al-Arabiya television, were found today.

Al-Arabiya's Atwar Bahjat and two colleagues from another media company were in the city 60 miles north of Baghdad to cover the yesterday's bombing of the golden-domed Shia shrine in Samarra. Their employers lost contact with them last night.

Their bullet-riddled bodies were found near their vehicle, cameras and satellite dish, said police Capt. Laith Muhammad.

"I can confirm that they have been killed," said Jawad al-Hatab, head of the Al-Arabiya office in Baghdad.

The three journalists had been reporting live Wednesday from the outskirts of Samarra, which was sealed off by security forces after the early morning explosion at the Askariya shrine, also known as the Golden Mosque.

* The Iraqi government today extended the curfew in Baghdad and Salaheddin province for two days in the wake of the Samarra shrine bombing.

The curfew order takes effect immediately and will remain in force today and tomorrow, the Cabinet said in a statement.

The new curfew hours are from 8pm to 6pm. The curfew in Baghdad had been from midnight to 5am.

Ministries of Defence and Interior cancelled all leave and passes for soldiers and police and ordered them to report to their units, which were placed on maximum alert.