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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 December 2007, 12:35 GMT
Militants kill 14 Iraqi villagers
An Iraqi man walks on the road near the city of Baquba (archive)
Diyala province has seen some of the highest levels of violence
At least 14 Shia civilians have been killed in an attack by al-Qaeda militants on a village near the Iraqi city of Baquba, officials have said.

Local residents said 60 gunmen launched the raid on Duwailiya, 18km north of Baquba, shortly after daybreak.

The attack came as figures suggested the number of Iraqis killed in bombings and shootings was continuing to fall.

Iraqi officials said 606 civilians and security personnel died in November, continuing the trend of recent months.

The data, compiled jointly by the interior, defence and health ministries, showed that 537 civilians, 45 police officers and 24 soldiers were killed.

The figures mark a significant fall from the 887 Iraqis killed in October.

537 civilian deaths
45 police killed
24 soldiers killed
37 US military deaths
Source: Iraqi government

It would also be the lowest since February 2006, when an attack on the Shia shrine in Samarra set off a wave of sectarian violence in which thousands died.

Mirroring the fall, combat deaths among US troops in Iraq are believed to have fallen to a 20-month low of 37 in November, according to calculations by news agencies.

Correspondents have attributed the recent fall in violence to the US and Iraqi troop surge in and around Baghdad that began in February, and US co-operation with Sunni armed groups.

Other key factors are believed to have been the suspension of operations by the Mehdi Army militia of the radical Shia cleric, Moqtada Sadr, and the rejection of al-Qaeda by some Sunni Arab tribes.

Daybreak raid

The attack on the village of Duwailiya began about 0700 (0400 GMT) on Saturday, local residents and officials said.

The village, which is home to members of the predominantly Shia Bawi tribe, was bombarded with mortar rounds before 60 militants streamed in and opened fire.

Fourteen people were killed during the assault, including four women and three children, and at least eight others wounded, local residents said.

Ten houses were destroyed by the militants.

Several armed villagers later fought back, killing four al-Qaeda gunmen in the process, police said.

Twenty-five people were tied up and shot dead by al-Qaeda-linked militants during a similar raid on Duwailiya in July.

The village is in Diyala province, which has seen some of the highest levels of violence in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003.

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