BAGHDAD (AP) — Gunmen burst into a house north of Baghdad early Wednesday, killing three people and sending the surviving children to an Iraqi army checkpoint to lure soldiers to the residence. As the troops arrived at the booby-trapped house, it blew up, leaving eight soldiers dead.

The pre-dawn incident in the volatile Diyala province underlines the unrelenting dangers that members of Iraq's security forces still face as American forces prepare to reduce their numbers by the end of the month and end all combat operations.

It also highlights the constantly evolving and sophisticated tactics of insurgents that American and Iraqi officials say have been seriously debilitated since the deaths of their top leaders last spring.

Wednesday's incident occurred about 1 a.m. in the town of Sadiyah, 60 miles (95 kilometers) north of Baghdad.

A top town official, Sheik Ahmed Al-Zarqushi, told The Associated Press that gunmen broke into the house, and killed a man and two women inside. Then they sent the two children in the house to the Iraqi army checkpoint to get help.

"When the Iraqi army forces arrived and broke into the house, the house blew up and killed eight soldiers and wounded four others," he said.

He did not say if the gunmen had gotten away before the troops arrived.

Al-Zarqushi added that groups linked to al-Qaida are very active in the area. Earlier reports indicated that gunmen in the house had opened fire on the checkpoint, but the sheik said that was incorrect. The checkpoint was about 380 yards (300 meters) from the house, he said.

The death toll and account was confirmed by Capt. Qais Ahmed, from the Iraqi army in Sadiyah.

Meanwhile in Baghdad, gunmen broke into the house of a senior female doctor and killed her, Iraq's health minister and a police official said.

The minister, Saleh al-Hasnawi, said the gunmen broke into the house of Dr. Intissar al-Tuwaijri at about 6:00 a.m., tied up her husband and killed her.

Al-Hasnawi said he believed the killing of the physician he described as one of the best doctors in the country was a criminal incident, and that his ministry was waiting for the results of a police investigation.

Al-Tuwaijri was the general director of Alwiyah Maternity hospital in Baghdad's central Karradah area.

A police officer said the preliminary investigation showed that the gunmen used pistols fitted with silencers and stole 250 million Iraqi dinars (about $215,000).

All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release information.


Associated Press Writer Yahya Barzanji in Sulamaniyah, Iraq, contributed to this report.