BAGHDAD (AP) — Gunmen burst into a house north of Baghdad early Wednesday, killed three people and then sent the surviving children to lure soldiers from a nearby Iraqi army checkpoint, killing eight.
The pre-dawn incident in the volatile Diyala province underlines the unrelenting dangers that members of Iraq’s security forces still face as American troops prepare to reduce their numbers by the end of the month and end all combat operations.
It also shows the constantly evolving and sophisticated tactics of insurgents that American and Iraqi officials say have been seriously debilitated since the deaths of their top leaders last spring.
The town’s mayor, Sheik Ahmed Al-Zarqushi, told the Associated Press that gunmen broke into the house at about 1 a.m. in the town of Sadiyah, 60 miles north of Baghdad, and killed a man and two women inside. They then sent the two children to a nearby Iraqi army checkpoint to tell the soldiers about their parents’ bodies.
“When the Iraqi army forces arrived and broke into the house, the house blew up, killing eight soldiers and wounding four others,” he said.
The mayor, who said he met with the children after the incident, gave their ages as 12 and 10, and said they’re now staying with their relatives.
The gunmen escaped out the back door and climbed over a fence before the soldiers arrived on the scene, said an official with the Diyala operations command. He said authorities have sealed the area and have been searching for suspects.
The death toll and account was confirmed by Capt. Qais Ahmed of the Iraqi army in Sadiyah.
Blowing up houses is one of the newer types of attack in Iraq that security officials have blamed on al-Qaeda-linked groups. Such incidents have been used most in the western province of Anbar, where al Qaeda has been particularly vicious in its attempt to seek retribution and intimidate members of the anti-al-Qaeda Awakening Councils as well as security forces.
On Aug. 2, gunmen blew up the house of a policeman in Fallujah, killing the man, his wife and their son. In early July, gunmen blew up five houses in different parts of the Sunni district of Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, belonging to a policeman, an ambulance driver and members of an Awakening Council. Three people were killed.
The ongoing attacks against Iraq’s security forces come as the United States is moving to reduce its troop levels to 50,000 by the end of August. The remaining troops are expected to leave by the end of 2011, and after Aug. 31 they no longer will be doing combat operations.
Many Iraqis and Iraqi officials fear the persistent drumbeat of attacks is an attempt by insurgent groups to disrupt Iraq’s fragile security at a time when efforts to come up with a new government five months after the March 7 election are stalled.
Like much of the Middle East, Iraqis begin observing the holy month of Ramadan this week, and little in the way of political progress is expected to happen during the holiday, in which Muslims fast from sunup to sundown.
Meanwhile in Baghdad, gunmen broke into the house of a senior female doctor and killed her, Iraq’s health minister and a police official said.