BAGHDAD - Clashes near an Iraqi city held by anti-government fighters and bombings targeting soldiers killed at least eight people Tuesday, officials said, the latest casualties of a protracted surge of nationwide violence. The government has blamed external factors such as the civil war in neighbouring Syria for the bloodshed, but analysts and diplomats say anger among the Sunni Arab minority over alleged mistreatment by the Shiite-led authorities has played a major role in the violence. In Al-Amriyah, south of the city of Fallujah, militants attacked a security forces checkpoint early on Tuesday, sparking clashes.

The violence killed three children and a woman and wounded 15 people, Doctor Ahmed Shami said.

The toll for security forces and militants was not immediately clear. In a sign of both the reach of anti-government militants and the weakness of security forces, all of Fallujah, a short drive from Baghdad, and shifting parts of Anbar provincial capital Ramadi, farther west, have been out of government control since early January. In Abu Ghraib, also west of the capital, a roadside bomb exploded near an army patrol, killing at least one soldier and wounding three, a police colonel and a medical official said.