KIRKUK, Iraq - Masked gunmen wearing Iraqi army uniforms shot dead seven members of a government-backed militia on Friday in a northern town, in an apparent attempt to provoke unrest against Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

No group claimed responsibility, but Sunni insurgents have increased their attacks over the past two months, a year after US troops pulled out of the country, where Shi'ite, Sunni and ethnic Kurdish factions still struggle over how to share power.

Riding motorbikes, the gunmen dragged "Sahwa" fighters from their beds in a caravan and killed seven of them, seriously wounding an eighth near the town of Tuz Khurmato, 170 km (105 miles) north of Baghdad.

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