(Reuters) - Gunmen killed four Shi'ite farmers in the northern outskirts of Baghdad on Monday, police and hospital sources said, in the latest attack to highlight underlying sectarian and ethnic tensions in Iraq.
Violence in Iraq has declined since the height of sectarian conflict in 2006-07, but bombings and shootings still take place on a daily basis. Most attacks are blamed on Sunni Arab insurgents who have refused to lay down arms after the withdrawal of U.S. forces in December.
Tensions within Iraq's fragile coalition government of Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds have been mounting since December, raising concerns of a return to sectarian warfare that nearly drove the country to the edge of civil war a few years ago.
Police sources said the Shi'ite farmers, who tended date palms at a ranch in Rashidiya, just north of Baghdad, were killed when gunmen opened fire on them. Three other farmers were wounded in the attack.
In a separate incident on Monday, a suspected militant was killed in the town of Saadiya, northeast of Baghdad, when he set off explosives in his house as army forces surrounded his plot in an attempt to arrest him, the town's mayor said.
The mayor said the suspected militant's wife and three children were also killed in the blasts.
In the town of Jalawla, 115 km (70 miles) northeast of Baghdad, a militant was killed when he tried to plant a bomb near a house belonging to a Shi'ite family, while another explosion by a bus terminal killed one person and wounded three, police said.
Fighters have frequently targeted Shi'ite areas and Iraq's security forces since the U.S. withdrawal.
Seven Shi'ite pilgrims were killed on Friday by armed men while bombings targeting Shi'ite families killed five people on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Kareem Raheem; Writing by Ahmed Rasheed; Editing by Serena Chaudhry and Jon Hemming)