(AP)- The bodies of a Sunni policeman and four of his family members were found on the outskirts of a village north of Baghdad early Tuesday, just hours after they were abducted from their home by unknown gunmen, authorities said.
The assault occurred in Diyala province, where al- Qaida in Iraq retains a presence and violence has stubbornly remained despite drops elsewhere. Extremists have long targeted Iraqi policemen and al- Qaida in Iraq has repeatedly said it will aggressively target Iraqis who join security forces.
Tuesday's attack happened on the northern outskirts of Jalula , a city with mixture of Shiite and Sunni Muslims 80 miles northeast of Baghdad.
An unknown number of gunmen attacked the policeman's home at dawn. Authorities found his body and that of his father, two brothers and a cousin about two hours later, a local policeman said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Hours later in the same province, a Shiite man and his 16-year-old son where killed in a drive-by shooting, police said. The two were standing outside their home in Tahwelah , about 19 miles east of Baqouba .
Late Monday, Iraq's government released statistics on the number of civilians and security force members it said were killed in 2007.
According to the health, defense and interior ministries, 16,232 civilians, 432 soldiers and about 1,300 Iraqi policeman died in 2007. The year before, the ministries said that 12,371 civilians, 603 soldiers and 1,224 policeman were killed by violence.
The Iraq government's figures were roughly in line with a count kept by The Associated Press.
For 2007, the count found that 18,610 Iraqis were killed. In 2006, the only other full year an AP count has been tallied, 13,813 died.
The AP count - which includes civilians, government officials, and police and security forces - is compiled from hospital, police and military officials, as well as accounts from reporters and photographers. Insurgent deaths were not included. Other counts differ and some have given higher civilian death tolls.
In addition to policeman and Iraqi soldiers, the more than 70,000 Sunni fighters who have joined an anti-al- Qaida in Iraq movement are being targeted by extremists.
On Monday, a suicide bomber attacked a checkpoint manned by such fighters, killing 12 people in one of a series of strikes against the movement singled out by Osama bin Laden as a "disgrace and shame."
Leaders of the rapidly expanding U.S.-backed movement, credited with helping reduce the overall number of attacks across the country by 60 percent since June, condemned bin Laden's latest message to his followers.
"We consider our fighting against al- Qaida to be a popular revolution against the devil," said Sheik Mohammed Saleh al- Dohan , head of one of the groups in southern Ramadi , a city in Anbar province where the movement was born.
Al- Dohan blamed al- Qaida , which espouses a radical version of Sunni Islam, for bringing destruction to Iraq: "They made enemies between Sunnis, Shiites and Christians who lived in peace for centuries."
Bin Laden and his fighters "are the traitors who betrayed the Muslim nation and brought shame to Islam in all the world," he said.
In an audiotape that emerged on Saturday, bin Laden warned Iraq's Sunni Arabs against joining the groups, known as "awakening councils," or participating in any unity government. He said Sunni Arabs who join the groups "have betrayed the nation and brought disgrace and shame to their people. They will suffer in life and in the afterlife."