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'Westernised' women being killed in Basra

Religious extremists have killed at least 40 women this year in Basra because of their "un-Islamic" dress, according to Iraqi police.

The police said women were being apprehended by men patrolling on motorbikes or in cars with tinted windows before being murdered and dumped in piles of rubbish with notes saying they were killed for "un-Islamic behaviour". He said men had been victims of similar attacks.

Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the rise of Iraq's Shia-dominated government, armed men have forced women to cover their heads or face punishment. In parts of the predominantly Shia south, even Christian women have been forced to wear headscarves. In some areas of Basra, graffiti warns women that forgoing the headscarf and wearing make-up "will bring you death".

In September, the headless bodies of a woman and her six-year-old son were among those found. A total of 40 deaths have been reported this year but police believe many go unreported for fear of reprisals.