Gunmen ambushed a bus station on Wednesday in a volatile town northeast of Baghdad, kidnapping two dozen people and killing all but four, authorities said, while a suicide bomber blew himself up in a restaurant in the capital.
The attackers drove up in several cars and seized 24 people from the bus station in Muqdadiyah, about 90 kms northeast of Baghdad.
Iraqi Maj Gen Ahmed al-Awad, the commander of the army's 5th division in the area, told Iraqi state TV that 20 bodies had been found and the victims were Shiites. He said four people were rescued.
Provincial police confirmed that 20 bodies were found but said their identities were uncertain.
The general said the attackers separated the Shiites from the Sunnis, then took the Shiite victims to the nearby village of Ballour. He accused local police forces in the town of failing to intervene.
"After receiving information, an army force consisting of 352 fighters with 24 vehicles went to raid the village of Ballour.
Four of the kidnapped were released," al-Awad said. "Regrettably, the other kidnapped people were taken to another area," he added.
"We found 20 dead bodies north of Isaiwid village and we were able to identify them as the same people who were kidnapped."
Muqdadiyah was the site of a recent Iraqi military operation aimed at stopping an increase in insurgent activity in the area.
The Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party, a political grouping, said last week that US and Iraqi troops had surrounded 15 mostly Sunni villages near the town and called on them to allow the entry of food and medicine and to compensate farmers for damage to their crops.
Shiite lawmaker Sheik Jalaluddin al-Saghir told a session of parliament that 50 to 60 Shiites were abducted in the attack.
But police in Diyala province, where Muqdadiyah is located, later put the figure at 24 and said it included Shiites and Sunnis.
The mostly farm area sits astride a highway between Baghdad and Kurdish areas to the north and is in a province where tensions are high between Shiites and Sunnis.
The attack on the restaurant in New Baghdad, a mixed Shiite-Sunni neighborhood in southeastern Baghdad killed eight people and wounded 30, local police chief Col Ahmed Aboud said.
Earlier reports said it was a parked car bomb, but Aboud said the bomber detonated his explosives in the restaurant.