BAGHDAD — Seven policemen were among eight people killed near Baghdad and in north Iraq, including four who died in a fierce gunfight in a Sunni neighbourhood of the Iraqi capital, officials said on Saturday.
The latest violence comes as the US military draws down its forces in Iraq, five months after parliamentary elections that have yet to result in a new government being formed.
In the deadliest attack, four policemen were killed and 10 people wounded, including eight police, when clashes broke out at about 2:00 am (2300 GMT) in Saidiyah, a stronghold of Al-Qaeda in southern Baghdad during the worst years of Iraq's insurgency after the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam in 2003.
The shooting occurred after a man whose car was stolen traced it to a nearby house and informed the police, who came under fire when they arrived, an interior ministry official said.
"There was an exchange of fire from 2:00 am until dawn and four policemen were killed," the official said. "Ten people, including eight policemen, were injured."
One wounded officer who spoke to AFP from Yarmuk hospital in western Baghdad said police recovered a car bomb, a home-made bomb, a grenade, a silenced pistol and a rocket-propelled grenade at the site of the clashes.
Also in the capital, a traffic policeman was killed and another wounded when gunmen attacked their patrol late on Friday night in the northern neighbourhood of Hurriyah.
In the former rebel bastion of Fallujah, just west of the capital, a policeman was killed and three others were injured when gunmen attacked a checkpoint in the city's south, Captain Anas al-Abadi said.
Thirteen people were wounded, including four children and five women, when insurgents detonated bombs in policemen's homes on Saturday morning, he added.
In the restive northern city of Mosul, an insurgent who detonated an explosives-laden vest near a police patrol in the north of the city killed one policeman. Three police and two civilians were wounded, a police official said.
Meanwhile, an anti-Qaeda militia leader was gunned down in the centre of Khales, 65 kilometres (40 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
"Sabah al-Obaidi, a Sahwa leader in Khales, was killed by armed attack on one of Khales's main roads this morning (Saturday)," police Major Mohammed al-Karkhi said.
The Sahwa, Sunni tribal militias known among the US army as "Sons of Iraq," began siding with American forces against Al-Qaeda in late 2006, turning the tide of the insurgency.
The violence comes as US troops pull out of Iraq ahead of Washington's declaration of the end of combat operations at the end of August, resulting in a force of about 50,000 soldiers in the country, from around 64,000 now.
US and Iraqi officials have warned of the dangers of an upsurge in violence if negotiations on forming a new government following the March 7 polls drag on, giving insurgent groups an opportunity to further destabilise the country.
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