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At least 23 dead in Iraq attacks

BAGHDAD — A series of bombings, beheadings and shootings rippled through Iraq on Monday, leaving at least 23 people dead, including nine children, and intensifying concern about a spike in violence with less than two weeks until national elections.

The authorities detected no discernible pattern to the violence, with rockets exploding in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, car bombings aimed at government buildings, assassinations of security officers and government officials and the killings of two families in their homes in Baghdad.

The killings of the families were reminiscent of the attacks common during the height of the bloodletting between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq a few years ago.

In the largely Shiite town of Madaen, south of Baghdad, a gang of gunmen stormed a home of a family and killed all eight people there, including six children.

"The criminals have beheaded some of the victims," according to a brief statement from Baghdad Operations Command.

Beheading is considered a trademark of Al-Qaida in Mesopotamia, a largely domestic insurgent group with some foreign leaders created in the aftermath of the American-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in April 2003.

In another Shiite district in Baghdad, a mother and her three children were gunned down in the middle of the night, according to government officials.

Meanwhile, the police found two bodies riddled with bullets dumped in the street of the Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiya, according to Iraqi officials.

The rocket attacks on the Green Zone injured six people, according to Iraqi officials. An official at the U.S. Embassy said there were no reports of Westerners injured.

Two mortar rounds landed near a complex that had been used as Saddam Hussein's central security directorate in eastern Baghdad, near an American base, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

In northern Baghdad, gunmen carried out a drive-by shooting of a convoy of officials working for the Ministry of Defense and killed two people. Separately, a police officer and a civilian were injured when gunmen open fire on their parked vehicles.

West of Baghdad, in the city of Ramadi, a suicide car bomber targeting a police garrison killed three people and injured seven.

Several Iraqi police and army checkpoints in the city of Mosul were attacked by gunmen, and four officers were killed, according to Iraqi officials.