( AP ) - Twenty beheaded bodies were discovered Thursday on the banks of the Tigris River southeast of Baghdad, two Iraqi police officers said.
The dead - all men aged 20 to 40 years old - had their hands and legs bound, and some of the heads were found next to the bodies, the officers said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.
The bodies were found in the Sunni Muslim village of Um al-Abeed, near the city of Salman Pak, which lies 14 miles southeast of Baghdad.
Sporadic clashes had been under way in the Salman Pak area for several days between Interior Ministry commandos and suspected insurgents, one of the officers said. It was unclear whether the discovery of the bodies was related to the recent fighting.
Salman Pak and its surrounding area has been the focus of new U.S. military operations to oust suspected al-Qaida fighters from the Baghdad's outskirts. American forces launched a drive into Salman Pak and neighboring Arab Jabour two weeks ago.
At the time, ground forces commander Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno said U.S. troops were heading into those areas in force for the first time in three years.