Iraq announced Tuesday the execution of 11 more convicted “terrorists” amid surging violence that has fuelled fears the country is slipping back into all-out sectarian war just months before elections.
The latest executions bring to 162 the number of those put to death so far this year and as violence this month killed more than 500 people while authorities grapple with the worst bloodshed since 2008.
Officials have voiced concern over a resurgent al-Qaeda emboldened by the civil war in neighbouring Syria and have appealed for help from Washington in combatting militancy, with France and Turkey also offering assistance.
“Eleven terrorists, all Iraqi men, were executed on Sunday, November 24,” a justice ministry official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“They were executed after being convicted by the courts of carrying out terrorist attacks.”
A post later uploaded to the ministry's Facebook page, confirmed as authentic by the official, listed the men by their initials along with the crimes they were convicted of having carried out.
At least 162 people have been executed so far this year, according to an AFP tally based on reports from the ministry and officials, compared to 129 for all of 2012.
Diplomats have voiced worry that the pace of executions in Iraq may increase ahead of elections due to be held on April 30, arguing that officials will be keen to show they are tough on security.
Executions in Iraq, usually carried out by hanging, have increased this year despite persistent international calls for a moratorium.
The United Nations, European Union and human rights groups have condemned the high rate of executions, with UN human rights chief Navi Pillay saying earlier this year that Iraq's criminal justice system was “not functioning adequately.”
But Iraqi Justice Minister Hassan al-Shammari has insisted that the executions are carried out only after an exhaustive legal process.
The growing use of the death penalty comes as violence in Iraq has reached a level not seen since 2008, when the country was just emerging from a brutal sectarian conflict.
A spate of attacks on Monday, including twin bombings at a crowded Baghdad market and the assassination of a former MP, killed 46 people, pushing the overall death toll for November above 500.
Diplomats, analysts and rights groups say the government is not doing enough to address the root causes of the unrest, particularly disquiet among Sunnis over alleged mistreatment at the hands of the Shia-led authorities.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki used a recent trip to Washington to push for greater intelligence sharing and the timely delivery of new weapons systems in a bid to combat militants.
French Ambassador to Iraq Denys Gauer on Monday offered weapons, training and intelligence cooperation.