Amnesty International on Friday condemned the "alarming" increase in executions in Iraq, which has put at least 70 people to death this year, and urged Baghdad to stop using the death penalty.

"The killing of Abd Hmoud is part of an alarming escalation in executions in Iraq and we fear others may soon face the same fate," Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa deputy director, said in a statement.

Sahraoui was referring to Thursday's execution of Saddam Hussein's presidential secretary and chief bodyguard Abid Hamid Mahmud, who was known as Abd Hmoud.

"The Iraqi authorities should refrain from using the death penalty, commute the sentences of all those on death row, believed to number several hundred, and declare a moratorium on executions."

Mahmud's execution brought the number of people put to death in Iraq this year to at least 70. At least 69 people had been executed as of February 21 -- more than in all of 2011.

Iraq has carried out several mass executions in 2012, including one in which 14 people were put to death on February 7, and another in which 17 were executed on January 31.

[AFP Photo/Sabah Arar]