Eight members of a Shiite (search) family, including a 2-year-old, were shot to death in their sleep early Sunday, police said. The father suspected it was a sectarian crime.

Residents of the eastern Baghdad neighborhood of Baladiyat (search) discovered the bodies early Sunday, said Col. Ahmed al-Alawi, the director of al-Rashad police station. The eight — seven siblings and their mother — died of gunshot wounds, he said. Six of the dead were aged between 2 and 14 years. One boy was injured.

The father, Hussein al-Tarash, was not home at the time of the killings.

"This is because we are Shiites. I have no enemies," a distraught al-Tarash told reporters. "We have no political leanings."

Al-Tarash said that about three months ago, he had an argument with a barber who insulted Shiites. Later, the barber, a Sunni (search), was kidnapped and killed. Al-Tarash believed the barber's tribe may have wanted to take revenge, thinking he was responsible.