Iraqi officials say a mass grave containing the bodies of 33 men, women and children has been found in a former Sunni insurgent stronghold north of Baghdad.

Amer Riffat of the Diyala provincial council says the bodies were discovered Saturday near Khalis.

A police officer says the bodies showed signs of being blindfolded and shot. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.

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Police say they believe the victims were killed by Al Qaeda in Iraq militants who wielded sway in the area before a recent downturn in violence.

Mass graves have been turning up with increasing frequency as U.S. and Iraqi military operations have cleared former militant strongholds and allowed patrols there.