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Rebels Execute Electoral Workers

A brazen daylight attack in the heart of Baghdad (search) with rebels executing election workers in cold blood served as a chilling reminder Sunday of the deteriorating security situation in the Iraqi capital with just more than a month before crucial parliamentary elections.

A series of pictures taken by an AP photographer show three pistol-wielding gunmen, who had earlier stopped a car carrying the election officials and dragged them into the middle of Haifa Street in the midst of morning traffic.

The busy, traffic-clogged street has been the scene of almost daily gunfights between the insurgents and U.S. troops and the forces of the U.S.-installed interim government. In the 1970s and '80s, Saddam Hussein's (search) regime tore down traditional, lowrise dwellings that lined the thoroughfare and built apartment blocks for its Baath Party (search) supporters.

Iraq's Independent Electoral Commission said in a statement that about 30 militants hurling hand grenades and firing machine guns attacked the car carrying five of its employees as they were driving to work.

Three employees, identified by the commission as Hatem Ali Hadi al-Moussawi, a lawyer and deputy director for the commission's Karkh office, and two of his office employees — Mahdi Sbeih and Samy Moussa, were dragged from their cars and shot dead. Two men escaped unhurt.

In the dramatic photo sequence one of the captives is shown lying on his side on the pavement, while a second is on his knees nearby in the street. The gunmen casually display their handguns as they shoot the two men.

Both of the victims shown in the sequence wore traditional Arab headscarfs. In contrast, the attackers were bareheaded and apparently unafraid to show their faces.

The entire sequence shows only two of the three victims lying dead after they were shot at close range. The final photo of the sequence shows a man standing near one of the bodies waving for help, as a U.S. Apache helicopter appears above the crime scene after the gunmen apparently melted away into the crowd.

The Baghdad street executions preceded by just hours car bombings in the Shiite holy cities of Najaf and Karbala in which at least 60 people were killed and more than 120 were wounded.