Suspected al-Qaida militants killed five Iraqi soldiers in a brazen dawn attack Tuesday at a western Baghdad checkpoint and planted the terror group's black banner before fleeing the scene, officials said.
It was the second time in a week that al-Qaida's flag has appeared at the scene of an attack. On Thursday, in Baghdad's Sunni Azamiyah district - a former al-Qaida stronghold - suspected al-Qaida militants stormed a checkpoint, killed 16 members of the security forces and briefly planted their banner nearby before fleeing.
Such attacks raise concerns that insurgents are successfully taking advantage of the enduring political vacuum nearly five months after Iraq's parliamentary elections failed to produce a clear winner. Politicians are still bickering over the formation of a new government, with the main hurdle being who should become the next prime minister.
Tuesday's attackers arrived in three cars and used pistols fitted with silencers in the assault in the mainly Sunni Mansour district, police and hospital officials said. The assailants, according to the officials, then planted the al-Qaida banner on a pole next to the checkpoint.
An Interior Ministry official familiar with the incident said five gunmen first shot dead two soldiers who were on duty, then moved to a nearby spot where three soldiers were sleeping and shot them dead at close range. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.