NAJAF, Iraq (AP) – Twelve Iraqi National Guards were abducted and executed by militants dressed as policemen while traveling home to Najaf, an official with a leading Shiite party said Sunday.

The 12 men were kidnapped near Latifiyah, an area of frequent violence bout 20 miles south of Baghdad, said Abu Ali al-Najafi from the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, known by its acronym SCIRI.

They were heading home to Najaf on Thursday after a visit to Baghdad when the kidnappers, disguised as policemen, stopped their convoy, said al-Najaf, speaking from SCIRI offices in Najaf. The 12 were seized along with the convoy’s driver, though a 13th guardsman escaped.

The assailants, who later identified themselves as members of a group calling itself the al-Furqan Brigade, tortured the driver, breaking his arm and sending him off with a ransom demand to their relatives, for payment of $1,000 for each “headless body of their dear one,” Al-Najafi said.

The party, known by its acronym, SCIRI, is one of the largest Shiite parties in Iraq.

Insurgents waging a 17-month campaign in Iraq have frequently targeted Iraqi police and national guard officers – viewed as collaborators with the occupying forces – in a bid to undermine the country’s U.S.-backed interim authorities.

The Iraqi National Guard is the centerpiece of U.S. efforts to build a strong Iraqi security force capable of taking over from American troops and restoring stability to the country.

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