Guards die in gruesome slaying
Baghdad - Gunmen killed five Sunni security guards - including one by beheading - in a gruesome pre-dawn slaying on Tuesday at a village checkpoint in central Iraq, officials said.
The five victims were members of the Sons of Iraq, or Awakening Councils - a Sunni-dominated security force now on the government payroll that has been targeted in revenge attacks after helping turn the tide against al-Qaeda.
Authorities were alerted to the checkpoint in the village of Tal Massoud shortly after the 02:00 shooting, said one police official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to discuss the attack with the media.
The village is about 50km north of Baghdad.
The police official described a scene of bullet-riddled bodies littered across the checkpoint. One of the bodies, he said, had been beheaded.
The leader of the village Awakening Council, Awad Sami al-Halbosi, said he also inspected the bodies after the checkpoint shooting.
"The families of the victims were called and asked to take their sons for burial, which was done," al-Halbosi told The Associated Press.
The victims were part of the Sunni tribe of Khazraj. They are the latest example of attacks on Sahwa, the Arabic word for Awakening.
Some of the force fought American troops as insurgents, before tiring of the violence and turning on their former allies, the militant group al-Qaeda in Iraq.
The councils have been widely credited with stabilising Iraq after joining up with US and Iraqi forces in the anti-al-Qaeda drive about three years ago.
But they have been hit by a steady barrage of revenge attacks since then.
Some also have complained of delayed or missed paycheques after the US military stopped bankrolling the Sahwa last year and turned over the accounts to Iraq's Shi'ite-led government.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has repeatedly said he would honour the pledge to continue paying them.
The US is seeking to ease some of the group's concerns.