Iraqi security forces have discovered the bodies of 53 men who had been bound and executed south of Baghdad.

The murdered men were found in orchards in Hamza al-Gharbi, 30km (18 miles) south of Hilla, the provincial capital of Babil province, with gunshots to the head or chest.

The city is approximately 100km (62 miles) south of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, where the Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki is holding onto power amid a Sunni insurgency.

A mortuary official estimated that the victims were killed at least a week ago, while officials said that the reason the men were murdered remains unclear.

Despite the march of the Islamic State ‒ formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) ‒ through northern and western Iraq, the area where the bodies were discovered is not in close proximity to the violence caused by the insurgents.

The mainly Shia area has not seen any unrest from Sunni rebels during their advance on Baghdad, capturing the cities of Mosul and Tikrit.

The area between Baghdad and Hilla came to be known as the "Triangle of Death" after the US invasion in 2003 because of the brutal sectarian violence witnessed in the area between 2004 and 2007.