September 11, 2009 / 7:29 PM / 9 years ago

Gunmen kill five Iraqi soldiers in drive-by

BAGHDAD, Sept 11 (Reuters) - Gunmen drove two cars up to an Iraqi army checkpoint in northern Iraq and opened fire on Friday evening, killing five soldiers, police said.

The drive-by shooting took place just before Iraqis broke their Ramadan fast in the village of Safara, about 200 km (125 miles) northwest of Baghdad.

Safara is just southwest of the disputed northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, a volatile mix of ethnic Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen. The area around Kirkuk is amongst Iraq’s most dangerous.

Earlier in the day, militants in a speeding car opened fire on and wounded civilians in two different parts of Kirkuk.

The restive city lies at the heart of a feud between Baghdad’s Arab-led government and leaders of the largely autonomous Kurdistan region, which Kurds in the city want to join but Arabs do not.

In nearby Hawija, gunmen in another car shot dead a civilian. It was not clear if this series of similar attacks in the same area of Iraq were linked.

While much of Iraq enjoys its best security in years, parts of the north remain plagued by Sunni Arab insurgents. The north is considered the last haven of Sunni Islamist al Qaeda.

A suicide bomber drove a truck full of explosives into a Kurdish village in north Iraq early on Thursday, killing at least 20 villagers.

Islamist militants are believed to exploit Kurd-Arab tensions in areas claimed by both camps to undermine security. (Reporting by Wathiq Ibrahim; Writing by Tim Cocks)

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