US warplanes blasted a militia team firing rocket-propelled grenades in the second day of heavy fighting in a major offensive to drive Shi'ite Mahdi Army militiamen out of Diwaniyah, a farm-belt city south of Baghdad.
North of the capital, in the increasingly dangerous Diyala provincial capital of Baqouba, police reported finding 21 more bodies dumped in the streets, victims of the intense sectarian warfare. All were shot execution-style and many had been tortured. At least 62 bodies have been found in or near Baqouba since Tuesday.
Elsewhere, the security committee chief in Karbala province, south of Baghdad, said authorities found the bodies of six shepherds from a group of 22 who were abducted Wednesday, along with their livestock, by suspected al-Qaida in Iraq fighters.
"We have confirmed the 22 shepherds were killed by al-Qaida. We found six of their bodies today and we will continue searching the desert tomorrow," said Ghalib al-Daami. He would not reveal how he knew all 22 were dead.