At least 13 people died on Wednesday in a series of attacks across Iraq, according to security officials, amid ongoing tension between the Shiite-led Government and the country’s Sunni minority.
Five pro-government militiamen were killed and 12 wounded in an assault near a military base in the town of Ramadi, some 110 km west of the capital Baghdad.
The victims were members of Sahwa, a group of former insurgents who help the Government restore order and fight al-Qaeda.
Three civilians were also killed in Ramadi when their car hit a roadside bomb.Ramadi is the main city of the mostly Sunni province of Anbar, a focal point for anti-government protests.
Two people were killed and 10 injured when a bomb exploded in a coffee shop in the town of Baquba, some 57 north-east of Baghdad, police said.
An imam was also gunned down in Baquaba, while gunmen shot dead two policemen in the town of Baiji, some 170 km north of Baghdad.
The attacks took place as Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki vowed to crack down on illegal armed militias.
“Today we have the problem of (groups) forming armed militias that must be toughly handled because they will drag us backward,” Mr. al-Maliki told a tribal rally in Baghdad.
“Anyone involved in setting up militias will be brought to justice, whoever he may be.” Mr. Al-Maliki’s warning comes after recent attacks by local insurgents on security forces and government buildings. The Shiite premier called for keeping the army away from “politics and sectarianism.” “We are building a professional army, which should shun sectarianism and party politics.”
The death of 53 people in a stand-off between the army and Sunni protesters in northern Kirkuk last week triggered unrest in several parts of the country.
Members of Iraq’s Sunni community have for four months been staging mass protests to demand a repeal of laws they say are used by the government to target them unfairly.
A rise in attacks in recent months has raised fears of a return to the kind of sectarian violence that drove Iraq to the brink of civil war in 2006 and 2007.