An entire family of eight were slaughtered in a sectarian attack at their home outside Baghdad today.
Sunni militants were blamed for the murders. Some of the victims were beheaded, others shot.
It was just one of a series of pre-election shooting and car bombing attacks that swept the country, killing 22 people in all.
Attacks on civilians were commonplace at the height of the sectarian fighting in 2006 and 2007.
The targeting of civilians on today, especially the beheadings in Wahda, a mixed Shiite-Sunni village, raised concerns that the vicious sectarian violence that nearly tore the country apart could resurface.
The Baghdad-area security command said that a “terrorist group” using silencers shot and beheaded eight members of a single family.
It did not say how many were shot and how many were beheaded, and provided few other details of what they described as an “ugly crime.”
Although sectarian violence dramatically diminished after many Sunni insurgents turned against al Qaida in late 2006 and joined forces with the US military, there are signs it might be reigniting.
Insurgents have repeatedly targeted government institutions across Iraq in recent months in an attempt to destabilise the country ahead of the parliamentary vote on March 7.
In other violence today two police officers and three civilians died after a booby-trapped car blew up outside the Internal Affairs office in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province.
In Baghdad, gunmen broke into the home of a family, killing a couple and their two daughters.
While the family was Shiite and living in a Shiite neighbourhood, authorities said the motive might have been robbery, noting that the gunmen took the family’s car.
Elsewhere in the capital a sniper shot and killed a policeman manning a checkpoint, and gunmen opened fire on a group of street cleaners, killing one, authorities said. Six other people were hurt and homes and cars were damaged after three mortar rounds struck the Green Zone, the neighbourhood housing the main Iraqi government compound and the US Embassy.
In two separate incidents in northern Iraq, gunmen killed a policeman manning a police official in Kirkuk and two soldiers stationed at a checkpoint in the northern city of Mosul.