Iraq's government says gunmen have killed three Sunni clerics near the mostly Shiite southern city of Basra.

An Interior Ministry statement said assailants ambushed a car Thursday night carrying the clerics in the mostly Sunni district of Bab al-Zubeir near Basra, shooting dead the three and seriously wounding a fourth cleric traveling with them.

There was no claim of responsibility for the ambush and no reports of retaliatory attacks by Sunnis.

Iraq's sectarian violence peaked in 2006-07, when thousands of Shiites and Sunnis perished in attacks. The violence later eased but has partially resumed after Sunni militants of the Islamic State group swept across much of northern and western Iraq last year.

Shiites make up a majority of Iraq's estimated 30 million people.