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Sunni Leader Blames Shiites for Killings

A leader of Iraq's largest Sunni political group blamed Shiite-led security forces Monday for the deaths of 36 Sunnis found shot in the head and said such acts could have unforeseen consequences.

Tarek al-Hashimi, secretary-general of the Iraqi Islamic Party (search), said the Sunnis were abducted by squads in police uniforms from Baghdad's northern neighborhood of Hurriyah. Their bodies were discovered last week in a dry riverbed south of the capital.

"The Iraqi Islamic Party renews its condemnation and clearly accuses the current government," he told reporters.

Al-Hashimi added that "the current government, especially the Interior Ministry, is responsible and must give a clear answer if it is involved in these acts of terrorism or is protecting terrorists and criminal groups that carried out such attacks."

The Interior Ministry, which is run by members of the Shiite group Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (search), has denied similar accusations in the past, saying anyone can buy a police uniform.

The killings are likely to heighten sectarian tensions at a time when Sunni Arabs have rejected the country's draft constitution finalized on Sunday by the Shiite and Kurdish (search) bloc.

There has been speculation recently that Sunni and Shiite death squads have been operating around Iraq. The area southeast of Baghdad where the bodies were discovered has witnessed numerous killings of both Shiites and Sunnis.

"How were groups in government cars and wearing government uniforms able to do this act?" Al-Hashimi asked. "We warn that the indignation created by this matter may cause a reaction with consequences that only God can predict. I hope this message will be clear to the authorities in charge of security in this country."

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