Iraqi officials in Diyala accused al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups of planting the province with mass graves after a farmer discovered a grave site last week in the town of Buhruz, 30 kilometers south of Baqubah.
The grave included the bodies of 153 citizens that officials believe were killed when terrorist groups controlled the province.
"This is another living example of the extent of crime and degeneration those groups used to practice against innocent Iraqis before the security forces were able to cleanse the province of them," said Maj. Gen. Abdul Hussein al-Shammari, commander of Diyala police.
Al-Shammari said the grave contained corpses of children, women, the elderly, and young members of Iraqi security forces -- all buried on top of one another.
When terrorist groups controlled Diyala between 2005 and August of 2007, they formed "improvised military courts" to conduct mock investigations of Iraqi citizens.
After their "trials", firing squads of terrorists would execute citizens and dump their bodies in ditches. In some instances, terrorists threw the bodies in the streets.
Al-Shammari vowed harsh repercussions for the terrorists' crimes and said Iraqi security forces would "pursue all those who had caused harm to any Iraqi and the fate of the terrorists will be either jail or death, as the law may specify".
The grave was found by a farmer in the area who notified authorities about a buried corpse at a farm close to his land. A forensics team accompanied police forces and found the remaining victims, which including 14 children and 20 women killed by gunshots.
Ali Farhan, spokesman for the Ministry of Human Rights in Diyala province, said work was under way to discover the victims' identities and notify their families so they can be buried properly.
"We were not surprised by the presence of a new mass grave of innocent victims in that area because it was an area for killing and terror and had been controlled by a bunch of deranged, bloodshed lovers who filled the land of the province with mass graves," he told Mawtani.
Majid Nasser of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society in Diyala province said the organisation's records have hundreds of names of missing citizens whose families are trying to determine their fate.
"The terrorists may have killed those citizens mercilessly and hidden their bodies. We see here major crimes carried out by these groups and we hope that security forces will be able to quickly catch the criminals who are running away from justice, to avenge the victims," he told Mawtani.com.
News of the discovery sparked anger and condemnation across the province. Citizens called on the local government to consider the victims martyrs and build a monument in their memory.
"What jihad and what resistance is there in killing the innocent? Where are the principles and rights of humans?" asked Firas Malik, a 32-year-old Buhruz resident.
Abdul Rahman Waleed, a 45-year-old Baqubah resident, said residents "should not forget that period and ought to tell [future] generations what al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups did to us."
''We must build a memorial in the same place of the grave to show the lowliness and degeneracy of those who would kill innocent children, women, and unarmed men."