Baghdad: Violence in Iraq killed two people on Sunday, officials said, while six militants also died in a series of attempted attacks, the latest in a nationwide surge in unrest.

Mired in its worst bloodshed since 2008, Iraq has been forced to appeal for international help to combat militancy only months before its first general election in four years.

On Baghdad’s southern outskirts, gunmen launched a pre-dawn attack on a local tribal militia leader, sparking clashes that left the militiaman’s brother and two of the attackers dead, police and a medical source said.

From late 2006 onwards, tribal militias, known as the Sahwa, turned against their co-religionists in Al Qaida and sided with the US military, helping to turn the tide of Iraq’s insurgency.

But militants view them as traitors and frequently target them.

North of the capital, a bombing targeting an army patrol killed one soldier and wounded three others, officials said, while clashes between police and militants in the disputed city of Kirkuk left a gunman dead while another was arrested and a third escaped.

Three insurgents also died in the northern town of Tuz Khurmatu when a car bomb they were moving to an attack site went off by mistake with the militants inside, town Mayor Shallal Abdul said.

A fourth militant, also inside the vehicle, was wounded.

“God foiled a massacre that was about to happen today,” Abdul said.

Before the bomb went off, the attackers detonated “sound bombs” in a bid to distract security forces.

The unrest is the latest in a protracted surge in bloodshed that has pushed violence to its highest level since 2008, when Iraq was recovering from the worst of its Sunni-Shi’ite sectarian war.

Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki has called for Washington’s help in the form of greater intelligence sharing and the timely delivery of new weapons systems in an effort to curb the bloodshed.