Ten dead in militant attack in Iraq's Ramadi

Sun Jan 15, 2012 10:19am EST
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BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Ten people were killed when gunmen wearing explosive belts stormed a police building in the Iraqi city of Ramadi on Sunday, police and provincial officials said.

The attack in mainly Sunni Anbar province followed several weeks of bombings targeting Shi'ites after the eruption of a political crisis that has threatened to break up the coalition government and raised fears of renewed sectarian violence.

The assault in Ramadi, a onetime al Qaeda hotspot where militants frequently attack government facilities, provided a new test for Iraqi security forces without the support of U.S. troops, the last of which pulled out in mid-December, nearly nine years after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Six gunmen, three policemen and a civilian died in the assault on the Ramadi police building, which houses an anti-terrorism unit and a jail, and 18 other people were wounded, police and hospital sources said.

One of the attackers detonated his explosive belt at the entrance to the police building and others tried unsuccessfully to take hostages but were turned away by intense gunfire from security forces inside, police and provincial officials said.

Three of the gunmen were killed by police gunfire and three blew themselves up, the last after he was cornered by security forces on a rooftop, the officials said.

Ramadi, the Anbar provincial capital, witnessed some of the worst violence during the height of the war that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. It was the heart of a Sunni Islamist insurgency tied to al Qaeda.

Anbar tribal leaders and thousands of Sunni insurgents eventually turned against al Qaeda and formed the Sahwa militia, which joined U.S. forces and helped turn the tide of the war.

Iraqi security officials have expressed concern that al Qaeda may regroup in Anbar following the U.S. withdrawal.   Continued...