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26 people killed in brutal attacks across Iraq

Assailants killed an Iraqi family of eight Monday, shooting some and beheading others in a brutal attack south of Baghdad reminiscent of the sectarian killings that raged through the area a few years back.

The Shiite Muslim family members were among at least 26 people killed in scattered attacks around the country as violence grew ahead of Iraq’s crucial March 7 elections.

Neighbors found six children and their parents dead in their home in the rural town of Wehda, near Madaen, which witnessed some of the first of the sectarian violence, in 2005.

Police attributed the killings to a tribal dispute over money. However, a spokesman for the Shiite political faction led by Ahmad Chalabi said the father had worked as a campaign volunteer for the main Shiite alliance, suggesting the attack might have been politically motivated.

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A statement from the security forces said some of the victims were beheaded, a hallmark of the Sunni extremist insurgent group Al Qaeda in Iraq, which was active in the area until the Awakening movement of former Sunni insurgents largely pacified it.

A family of four also was shot to death in their home in the west Baghdad district of Hurriyeh, another area that once saw heavy sectarian bloodshed. But police attributed those killings to a robbery, and said the family’s car was stolen.

Elsewhere, a suicide bomber killed five people in an attack on a government building in Ramadi, capital of the former insurgent stronghold of Anbar province. It was the latest in a string of bombings in the city that have raised fears that Al Qaeda in Iraq is attempting a comeback there.

A university professor, a businessman, a street cleaner, four policemen and two soldiers died in separate shootings in Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk.

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There was no immediate suggestion that any of those killings were related to the coming elections. But the level of violence has been escalating as the polls approach.

liz.sly@latimes.com

Times staff writers Usama Redha and Caesar Ahmed contributed to this report.


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