Karim Kadim, Associated Press
Iraqis inspect the aftermath of a car bomb attack, in the Shiite enclave of Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, July. 29, 2013.

BAGHDAD — Attackers in Iraq set off three car bombs and engaged security forces in the country's north on Wednesday, killing nine people in the latest episode of deadly violence to hit the country, officials said.

The brazen assault in the town of Hawija started with the car bombs at the local council building, where an hour-long firefight then ensued, the commander of the army's 12th Division, Brig. Gen. Mohammed Khalaf told The Associated Press by telephone.

Khalaf said at least one of the car bombs was driven by a suicide attacker. He put the death toll at seven civilians and two soldiers in addition to 21 others wounded. Four militants were killed while the rest fled, he added.

Sunni-dominated Hawija, a former insurgent stronghold, is about 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of Baghdad. The attack came a day after security forces foiled an attempt by insurgents to take over a Sunni town near the Syrian border. Eleven people were killed there, including six attackers.

Earlier in the day in Baghdad's northern Shaab neighborhood, gunmen armed with weapons fitted with silencers broke into the house of an Interior Ministry employee, killing him, his wife, mother-in-law and three children, a police officer said. The children were aged three, six and eight years old, he added.

Police said they did not know the motive behind the killings, but insurgents often target government officials and their families in a bid to undermine confidence in the government.

In another attack, gunmen ambushed off-duty soldiers traveling through the town of Taji, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of the Iraqi capital, opening fire on their car and killing two, another police officer said. Three others were wounded, he added.

Two medical officials confirmed the causality figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.

The attacks are the latest in a growing surge of violence since April that has left more than 4,000 people dead, according to U.N. figures. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but they bear the hallmarks of al-Qaida's local branch in Iraq, known as the Islamic State of Iraq.


Associated Press writer Sinan Salaheddin contributed.