A wave of violence has left 52 people dead in Iraq, most of whom were kidnapped, shot dead amd had their corpses abandoned, in scenes harking back to Iraq's sectarian war.

The killings come amid a surge in violence that has left more than 600 people dead this month, including several who were snatched from their homes, only for their bodies to be found later, raising fears Iraq is slipping back into the communal bloodshed that plagued it from 2005 to 2007.

More than 6,000 people have been killed this year, forcing Baghdad to appeal for international help in battling armed groups just months before a general election, as official concern focuses on a resurgent al-Qaeda emboldened by the war in neighbouring Syria.

Violence on Friday struck Baghdad and mostly Sunni Arab parts of the north and west, with shootings and bombings targeting civilians, local officials, security forces and even a brothel.

But the most troubling of the bloodshed came early on Friday morning, when authorities discovered the bodies of 18 men , including two tribal chiefs, four policemen and an army major, dumped in farmland near the Sunni Arab town of Tarmiyah, just north of Baghdad.

There was another such incident in Salaheddin province, north of Baghdad. Seven men - all maintenance workers and labourers at a local football field - were found dead, their throats cut.

A police officer told the AFP news agency he felt physically sick upon seeing the mutilated corpses.

Execution-style killings

Three more corpses, all women, were also found in east Baghdad, their bodies bearing signs of torture. They were all shot in the head earlier on Friday, officials said.

The brutal killings come just days after authorities discovered the bodies of 19 people shot dead in various parts of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, including eight found blindfolded and six whose corpses were left in a canal.

At the peak of sectarian fighting in the wake of the 2003 US-led invasion, Sunni and Shia militias regularly carried out tit-for-tat kidnappings and assassinations and left scores of corpses littering the streets. At the time, many of the bodies were blindfolded and showed signs of torture.

Elsewhere in Iraq on Friday, attacks in and around Baghdad, and the cities of Mosul, Baquba and Kirkuk killed 24 people, officials said.

Among them were a bombing against a football pitch in west Baghdad that killed five, and a gun attack against a brothel in the capital's east that left six people dead.

The capital and Sunni Arab parts of northern and western Iraq have borne the brunt of the upswing in bloodshed.

Friday's killings capped a week in which more than 200 people have died nationwide, with the overall death toll for the year topping 6,000, according to an AFP tally based on reports from security and medical officials.

Source: AFP