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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

24 Iraqi Civilians 'Executed'

BAGHDAD -- Gunmen in Iraq dragged 24 people, mostly students, from vehicles and shot them dead as violence raged across the country Sunday.

Iraqi leaders appeared deadlocked on naming new interior and defense ministers seen as critical to restoring stability in a country bloodied by relentless insurgent and sectarian killings.

Police said gunmen at a makeshift checkpoint near Udhaim, a small town 120 kilometers north of Baghdad, stopped vehicles and killed passengers. The victims included students on their way to write end-of-term exams, children and elderly men, a senior police official said."[They] dragged them one by one from their cars and executed them," another police official said.

Meanwhile, In Iraq's south, a Sunni religious group accused security forces in the Shiite-run city of Basra of killing 12 unarmed worshippers in a mosque early Sunday, but police said they had returned fire and killed nine terrorists. The incident came just hours after a car bomb killed 28 people in Basra.

Key to curbing violence will be the naming of nonsectarian interior and defense ministers. Intense wrangling forced Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to leave the posts empty when he unveiled his government on May 20.

Government sources had said leaders were close to a deal to present new ministers to parliament Sunday, but deputy speaker Khaled al-Attiya said the parliament session had been postponed "until further notice."