Gunmen stormed two buildings in the Iraqi capital, killing at least 29 people, officials say. At least 20 of those killed were said to be women.
The attack took place late on Saturday night in the neighbourhood of Zayouna in east Baghdad, police said. One officer said he “found bodies everywhere”.
The motive for the killings is not clear. No group has said it carried out the attack. Reports said the two buildings were suspected to be brothels.
Writing left on the door of one of the buildings read: “This is the fate of any prostitution,” according to reports.
Locals in Zayouna have accused Shia militias of killing the women thought to be prostitutes. The neighbourhood is a mixed district of Sunni and Shia Muslims.
Prostitution is prohibited under Islam, which is the dominant religion in Iraq. An interior ministry official said: “Twenty-five women were killed and eight people wounded, among them four men, when gunmen stormed two buildings in a residential compound in Zayouna in east Baghdad,”
A senior police officer, who said the attackers used silenced weapons, gave the same death toll but reported 11 wounded.
“Unidentified gunmen stormed building number 43 in Zayouna, killing 10 women and wounding five. They also stormed building number 44, where they killed 15 women and wounded six men,” a police colonel said.
“When we walked up the stairs, we saw a couple of women’s bodies and blood streaming down the stairs. We entered a flat and found bodies everywhere, some lying on the sofa, some on the ground, and one woman who apparently had tried to hide in a cupboard in the kitchen shot to death there.”
It was not immediately clear who the killers were but similar raids killed 12 people in May 2013.
Shiite militias have become more active on the streets of Baghdad since Sunni militants led by jihadist fighters took over large swathes of eastern and northern Iraq a month ago.
Zayouna residents said that local apartments had long been used for prostitution and that alleged sex workers are found murdered every few months, with police unwilling or unable to prevent the attacks.
“If a person got shot right next to a policeman they wouldn’t say anything.
“They’re afraid. It’s the rule of the strong over the weak,” said a shopkeeper who declined to be identified.