In one of the attacks, a group of gunmen and a suicide bomber hit the house of Wisam al-Hardan, leader of the Sunni paramilitary groups of Sahwa of Anbar province, in Hartiyah district near Baghdad Green Zone, killing six of his bodyguards and injuring eight others, police source said.

Hardan escaped the attack with wounds, it added. He was appointed recently by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki as leader of the Sahwa groups of the predominantly Sunni Anbar province to replace the former leader Ahmed Abu Risha who joined the months-long anti-government Sunni protests.

The Sahwa militia, also known as the Awakening Council or the Sons of Iraq, consists of armed groups, including some powerful anti-US Sunni insurgent groups, who turned their rifles against the Al-Qaida network after the latter exercised indiscriminate killings against both Shiite and Sunni Muslim communities.

Two civilians were shot dead by gunmen in two separate attacks in eastern and southern Baghdad, said a police officer who did not wish to be named. Iraq is witnessing its worst eruption of violence in recent years, which raises fears that the country is sliding back to full-blown civil conflict that peaked in 2006 and 2007, when monthly death toll sometimes exceeded 3,000.


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