The bodies of as many as 49 soldiers with the new Iraqi army were discovered northeast of Baghdad late Saturday. The soldiers were ambushed by insurgents who executed them as they lay on the ground.
Senior officials with Iraq's Interior Ministry say the Iraqi soldiers were returning home on leave when they were intercepted by insurgents late Saturday.
Witnesses at the scene were quoted as saying the insurgents first attacked the Iraqi military convoy of minibuses with rocket propelled grenades.
The soldiers were then forced to lie on the ground and were then shot dead execution style. Interior Ministry officials say the bodies were discovered lined up in four rows with about 12 bodies in each row. The same officials say that because the soldiers were heading home on leave they were not armed.
Senior interim government officials say no one has claimed responsibility for the attack. The officials say it is unclear how many insurgents took part in the killings. An investigation is underway.
The incident occurred on a remote road near the Iranian border about 50 kilometers south of the Iraqi town of Baquba, northeast of Baghdad.
The soldiers were based in Kirkush about 90 kilometers northeast of Baghdad.
The bodies were discovered late Saturday. Recovery of the dead soldiers continued into Sunday.
In the meantime, the fate of kidnapped humanitarian aid worker Margaret Hassan remains unknown. She was abducted last Tuesday while traveling to her office at CARE International, where she is the aid organizations director of operations in Iraq.
Saturday, her husband begged her captors, in the name of Islam and Arabism, to release her.
All of the seven women known to have been kidnapped in Iraq were released. However, at least 33 foreign male hostages were killed, including three Americans who were beheaded.
Ms. Hassan holds dual British and Iraqi citizenship. She has lived in Iraq for 30 years.