Militants Storm Police Building in Western Iraq, Killing 3 Officers

Posted January 15th, 2012 at 8:50 am (UTC-5)
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Iraqi authorities say militants have raided a government security compound in the western city of Ramadi, killing at least three policemen and wounding 14 other people.

Officials say at least one suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance to the compound Sunday, allowing other militants to shoot their way inside. Iraqi security forces exchanged fire with the gunmen and the battle was ongoing as of mid-afternoon.

The compound raided by the militants houses Ramadi's police headquarters and an anti-terrorism police squad. Government buildings in the capital of Iraq's Anbar province have been frequent targets of militants attacks in recent years.

Ramadi was a stronghold of Sunni militants linked to al Qaida in the years after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. But, local Sunni militias eventually turned against al-Qaida and sided with U.S. forces, helping to reduce violence in Anbar significantly.

In earlier violence on Saturday, a suicide bomber attacked Shi'ite pilgrims in the southern city of Basra, killing at least 53 people and wounding more than 130. The pilgrims were taking part in the Shi'ite religious commemoration of Arbaeen. There has been no claim of responsibility.

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 includes Sunnis and Kurds in a power-sharing system riven with sectarian tensions.

A series of attacks on Iraqi Shi'ites has killed more than 100 people since Mr. Maliki issued an arrest warrant for Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi last month. Hashemi fled to Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region to avoid detention on charges of running a death squad. He denies the charges.