Gunmen Storm Police Building in Western Iraq

Posted January 15th, 2012 at 6:00 am (UTC-5)
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Iraqi officials say gunmen stormed a police building in the western city of Ramadi Sunday, as at least one suicide bomber detonated explosives outside the facility.

Police say clashes are ongoing inside the building. It is not clear if there are any casualties.

A day earlier, a suicide bomber handing out food and pastries blew himself up outside the mainly Shi'ite port city of Basra, killing at least 53 people and wounding 137 others. Local authorities said the blast targeted Shi'ite worshippers taking part in a major religious commemoration.

Deputy Health Minister Jabbar al-Saedi said Sunday that medical services are still available around the clock to deal with the wounded.

“Our hospitals have carried out needed operations for the wounded. A number of the wounded has already been discharged from hospitals and there are now between 60 to 70 wounded who are still in the hospital receiving medical care. Some of the wounded will be discharged today, while others will be discharged in the coming days, God willing. Medical services are available around the clock and all our medical institutions are on full alert and ready to handle similar situation'.”

There has been no claim of responsibility for Saturday's blast. It is the latest in a series of attacks during Shi'ite religious commemorations, threatening to further increase sectarian tensions in the country, just weeks after the U.S. withdrawal.

The United Nations' top envoy in Iraq, Martin Kobler, condemned the attack. He urged all Iraqis to maintain their shared values and break what he called the “vicious” cycle of violence in the country.

Iraq's government, headed by Shi'ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, is dominated by Shi'ites, but it includes Sunnis and Kurds in a fragile power-sharing system that is rife with sectarian tensions.

More than 100 people have been killed in a spate of attacks on Shi'ites since the government issued an arrest warrant for Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi last month. He is charged with operating a death squad. Hashemi, who fled to Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region to avoid detention, has denied the charges.