Families of those massacred in a Sunni village outside Baghdad are furious at the Iraqi government for denying a local militia the weapons to protect them.
At least 24 people, including five women, were tied up and shot in the head by attackers reported to have been disguised as American troops.
Standing by a van loaded with some of the dead, one man said: “Gunmen slaughtered my uncle, his four sons and two women.”
The village of Sufiya used to be an al-Qaeda stronghold. Many of those murdered changed the course of the war when they spurned al-Qaeda to joined US and Iraqi government forces.
A spokesman from the Iraqi Defence Ministry went to the scene of the massacre. He said 24 people were arrested after hundreds of US and Iraqi troops flooded the area.
It was not long before he became a target for the anger of a relative.
“Why did you take away the protection?” she said, referring to the disarmament of their local militia. “You should have always been by their side. They were with al-Qaeda, but have been against them for some time.”
Iraq’s intelligence service believes al-Qaeda is trying to reorganise. This was the largest attack of its kind in recent months.