BAGHDAD — Gunmen killed six Iraqi security personnel Saturday, including a pair of sleeping policemen who were shot and set on fire, amid persistent debate over whether Iraqi forces can protect the country as U.S. troops leave.
The early-morning shootings at Baghdad checkpoints demonstrated the insurgents' aim to weaken confidence in the government and aggravate sectarian tension as all but 50,000 U.S. troops head home by the end of August.
In the first attack, gunmen armed with silenced pistols killed two policemen asleep in their patrol car at a security checkpoint in the Shiite-dominated New Baghdad neighborhood, said an officer with the federal police in Baghdad. The assailants then set the car on fire and fled, he said.
A half-hour later, a drive-by shooting on a checkpoint killed two more policemen in the Amil area, another Shiite neighborhood, in southwest Baghdad, two other police officials said. Two passers-by were injured, they said.
Around the same time, gunmen attacked a checkpoint manned by government-backed Sunni fighters from groups known as Awakening Councils in the mostly Shiite Shaab district in the capital's northeast. One of the fighters was killed and two were injured, the police officials said.
It was not clear if the shootings were coordinated or carried out by the same attackers. Health workers at the Baghdad city morgue and two hospitals confirmed the casualties.
Hours later, a bomb attached to a policeman's personal car killed the driver and wounded two passengers, who were also policemen, officials said. The blast occurred outside Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown 80 miles north of Baghdad.
As the number of U.S. soldiers dwindles at a rate of about 4,000 each week, insurgents have stepped up attacks on Iraqi security forces, demonstrating remaining vulnerabilities.