Gunmen have stormed into two houses in western Baghdad and shot dead nine members of two Shiite families. Attackers broke into a home in the southwestern Jihad neighbourhood and killed five Shiite brothers, one of them a policeman, after separating them from their sisters, the official said Sunday.
In another similar attack, gunmen entered a house of another Shiite family in the same area and killed a man and his three sons. "Both were Shiite families," the official said, according to AFP. The two families were unrelated, the official added.
Also on Sunday clashes reported between Sunni and Shiite gunmen in western Baghdad, a police officer said. According to the AP, the clashes broke out at 8:45 a.m. in Baghdad's mixed western Amil district when about 50 Shiite militiamen raided a Sunni neighborhood of the Janabat tribe, the officer said. The fighting ended when U.S. and Iraqi forces rushed to the area to contain it, he said.
The area is near a Sunni pocket of Hurriyah.
Witnesses said Shiite militiamen entered Hurriyah after Sunnis warned the few Shiites living there to leave or be killed. Heavy machine gun fire was heard.
In another incident, police Colonel Yarub Khazal from the security team of former deputy prime minister Ahmed Chalabi was killed by gunmen as he was driving his car in west Baghdad's Yarmuk neighbourhood, the security official added. And in the northern city of Tikrit police said gunmen shot dead a security guard from a local hospital while he was on his way to work.
The US military also said joint US and Iraqi forces launched an operation in Baghdad's restive northern Sunni district of Adhamiyah on Sunday in an attempt to "reduce sectarian violence and insurgency activities." "In a coordinated effort dubbed Operation Cougar Iraqi security forces and coalition forces are conducting a cordon-and-clear operation in Adhamiyah early this morning with Iraqi police forces providing perimeter checkpoint security," the US military reported.
Meanwhile, outgoing US Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld paid a surprise visit to Iraq on Sunday and stated American forces should not quit the war until the "enemy is defeated."
"For the past six years, I have had the opportunity and, I would say, the privilege, to serve with the greatest military on the face of the Earth," Rumsfeld said in a speech Saturday to more than 1,200 troops and Marines at Al-Asad, an air base in Anbar province.
"We feel great urgency to protect the American people from another 9/11 or a 9/11 times two or three. At the same time, we need to have the patience to see this task through to success. The consequences of failure are unacceptable," he was quoted as saying on the Department of Defense Web site. "The enemy must be defeated."
Rumsfeld also met with American soldiers in Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad, it said.