Baghdad's mortuary inundated with 6,000 corpses this year

The bodies of 6,000 people, many of whom died violently, have been brought to Baghdad's main mortuary this year, officials from Iraq's health ministry said.

In May alone ­ one of the bloodiest months in the city so far this year ­ 1,400 bodies were received by the mortuary.

According to health ministry officials who spoke anonymously to the BBC, the vast majority of victims brought to the morgue were the victims of sectarian killings, which have increased dramatically since the bombing of a Shia shrine earlier in the year.

Yesterday's statistics came just hours after police made the gruesome discovery of nine severed heads which had been stuffed into a cardboard box in a volatile area north of Baghdad.

Police in Baquba said they found the heads in the al-Hadid district, just three days after suspected sectarian attackers beheaded seven cousins from one family and a Sunni Arab imam in the same region.

Baquba, the capital of Diyala province, is a religiously mixed province that has seen large numbers of inhabitants flee the area because of killings and assassinations based solely on ethnicity.

Meanwhile, Iraq's new Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, announced yesterday that he would release 2,500 prisoners, most of them Sunni Arabs, in a move aimed at winning over more Sunnis and undermining support for the insurgency. "Those who will be released will be people who are not Saddam Hussein loyalists or terrorists or anyone who has Iraqi blood on their hands," said Mr Maliki.

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