Iraq officials: checkpoint attacks kill 9 soldiers

Mourners unload the coffin of Imad Younis, 22, who was killed in a car bomb attack, in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013. A wave of car bombs on Wednesday killed and wounded dozens of people, the latest attacks in a months-long surge in violence. More than 3,000 people have been killed in violence during the past few months, raising fears Iraq could see a new round of widespread sectarian bloodshed similar to that which brought the country to the edge of civil war in 2006 and 2007. (AP Photo/Haider Hamdani)

BAGHDAD (AP) — Attacks on security checkpoints in central Iraq killed nine soldiers and wounded five others Saturday, officials said.

The killings were the latest episode in a rising tide of violence across the country since a deadly crackdown by government forces on a Sunni protest camp in April. Security forces are favorite targets for insurgents who seek to undermine the Shite-led government.

Police officials said that the deadliest attack occurred early in the morning when gunmen opened fire on an army checkpoint just south of Baghdad, killing four soldiers and wounding four others.

Police said three soldiers were killed and one was wounded in another checkpoint attack near Muqdadiyah, a town 90 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad.

In the city of Tikrit, police said gunmen opened fire on an army checkpoint, killing two soldiers.

Tikrit is 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Baghdad.

Also, a car bomb exploded in in the southern port city of Um Qasr, said Anmar al-Safi, the media official in the port department. He added that the explosion left no casualties.

Medical hospital officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to journalists.