Criminals in Baghdad are stealing corpses from the scenes of car bombings and murders in order to extract "ransoms" from grieving relatives.
In a macabre off-shoot of the capital’s kidnapping epidemic, the gangs pose as medics collecting bodies to be taken back to the city’s overflowing morgues.
Instead, though, they take the corpses to secret hiding places and then demand payments of up to Â£2,500 a time to release them to relatives for burial. Because Muslim custom dictates that a body must be buried as soon as possible after death, many families simply pay up, rather than involve the police.
The new racket in "dead hostage taking" is thought to be run by gangs connected to the city’s sectarian militias, many of whom are already involved in conventional kidnappings.
Iraqi police said the gangs often responded to car bombings, which can leave more than 100 corpses on the streets. In the chaos, police and army units seldom questioned the credentials of people posing as ambulance crews.
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