The bodies of 53 men, who had been bound and executed, were discovered by security forces in Iraq’s mixed-faith province of Babil south of Baghdad.
The victims were found in orchards south of the provincial capital Hilla. All of them had gunshots to the head or chests, police and medic officials reported.
All the killings took place at least a week ago, a mortuary official told AFP. It was not immediately clear why the men were executed.
Babil saw some fighting during the latest radical Islamist offensive in Iraq, which triggered the worst security crisis in the country had in years. But the area where the bodies were discovered is not near the sites of the violence.
The part of Babil north of Hilla is a deeply divided region notorious for sectarian violence that gripped Iraq in the years after the US-led invasion overthrew the Sunni-dominated regime of Saddam Hussein and led to the creation of a Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad.
The province also hosts the Shiite shrine cities of Karbala and Najaf, both located south of Hilla.