Gunmen kill 12 at Baghdad brothel

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Unidentified gunmen shot dead at least seven women and five men at a brothel in Baghdad on Wednesday, in the same area where alcohol shops were attacked last week, security and medical officials said.

The attack took place at a large red and white two-storey house with a backyard surrounded by a sheet metal fence, in a quiet residential part of the Zayouna district of east Baghdad.

The gunmen apparently carried out the killings with silenced weapons, as residents of the area said they did not see or hear anything out of the ordinary.

Soldiers and police mainly armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and pistols cordoned off the site, which was visited by high-ranking officers.

Journalists were not permitted to enter the house, or to take photographs or video.

The attack on the brothel follows another on alcohol shops in the Zayouna area.

On May 14, gunmen restrained federal policemen at a checkpoint in the area, then shot dead 12 people at a row of adjoining alcohol shops nearby.

Both prostitution and alcohol are prohibited by Islam, the religion of the vast majority of Iraq's population.

Zayouna is an upscale, mixed district of Sunni and Shiite Muslims where a number of brothels have opened in recent years.

Violence in Iraq has fallen from its peak in 2006 and 2007, but attacks remain common. More than 200 people have been killed in each of the first five months of this year.

With the latest attack, 399 people have been killed so far this month, according to AFP figures based on reports from security and medical officials.