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Seven killed in sectarian attack

Gunmen singled out seven Shia Muslims and shot them in Iraq's north while they were out swimming in a targeted sectarian attack, officials have said.

Shalal Abdoul, mayor of the town of Tuz Khormato, said the attack happened outside the nearby Shia Turkoman village of Amerili. The attackers arrived on motorcycles and executed the Shias after separating them from Sunni Arabs, whom they allowed to go free, he said.

"The terrorists want to ignite sectarian strife in our area. The attack carries a sectarian message," Mr Abdoul said.

Tuz Khormato is about 130 miles north of Baghdad. Tuz Khormato police captain Mazin Abdullah confirmed the attack.

Violence has ebbed in Iraq since its height between 2005 and 2008, but lethal attacks continue to occur almost daily. Attacks against Iraqi Shias are often blamed on al Qaida's Iraqi branch, which has declared its intention to take back areas from which the US and its local allies expelled the militants.

Most Iraqi Shias are Arabs. Turkomen are one of the country's minority ethnic groups, and they include both Sunnis and Shiites.

Iraq's prime minister urged northern neighbour Turkey to deal with his country through the central government in Baghdad, criticising Ankara's direct outreach to Iraq's self-ruling Kurdish region.

Prime minister Nouri al-Maliki said in a statement that Iraq rejects efforts by Turkey to treat the minority Kurds' northern territory "as if it is an independent state".

He added that if Turkey wants to maintain good regional relations, it must do so through Iraq. The statement says Mr al-Maliki made the comments during an interview with a Turkish television channel.

Iraq warned Turkey in July that a deal it has to import Kurdish-produced oil is illegal. Relations deteriorated further earlier this month when Turkey's foreign minister paid a surprise visit to the contested Iraqi city of Kirkuk after meeting Kurdish leaders.

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