Iraqi security forces found 53 corpses, blindfolded and handcuffed, in a village south of Baghdad early Wednesday, local officials said.
Authorities said the bodies had been left in the mainly Shia Muslim village of Khamissiya, about 15 miles southeast of the city of Hilla, near the main highway running from the capital to the southern provinces.
The head of the provincial council, the local police and the governor's office all confirmed the discovery of the bodies but had no immediate information on the identity of the dead, who appeared to have been killed execution style.
The discovery was the latest in an increasingly bloody sectarian battle currently raging across the country.
Sunni fighters seized control of large parts of northern and western Iraq last month, sweeping toward Baghdad in the most serious challenge to the Shia-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki since the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 2011.
Fierce fighting between the insurgents, spearheaded by the radical Islamic State group, and the army, backed by Shia militias, has raised fears of a return to the devastating sectarian bloodshed that peaked in Iraq in 2006 and 2007.
While the motives for the new killings remain unclear, such grisly murders hark back to the worst days of Iraq's sectarian bloodletting, when bodies were frequently dumped along roadsides and in empty lots, ditches and canals. As the levels of violence dropped from those heights, such discoveries became a rare occurrence.
Sunni groups have been carrying out attacks around the southern rim of Baghdad since the spring. In response, Shia militias have been active in the rural districts of Baghdad, abducting Sunnis they suspect of terrorism, many of whom later turn up dead.
According to medical officials, the number of unidentified bodies found around Baghdad has risen steadily since the beginning of the year.
Meanwhile, the political crisis shows no signs of resolving anytime soon. On Monday, Iraq’s parliament said it would not meet again until August. Maliki, whose State of Law bloc won the largest share of seats in April's elections, vowed he will not abandon his bid for a third consecutive term.
But the dysfunction in parliament and Maliki’s refusal to step aside have some accusing the government of contributing to the current crisis by failing to promote reconciliation with the country's Sunni minority.
Al Jazeera and wire services