Militants assault government building in Baghdad

BAGHDAD (AP) – Gunmen and suicide bombers staged a brazen assault on a government building in Baghdad on Thursday, officials said, killing two people in the latest such attack in the heart of the Iraqi capital by militants trying to undermine further the Shiite-led government’s shaky authority.

The firefight at a state-run transportation company was one of several attacks that left 11 dead across the city, and came as Iraq grapples with a stubborn insurgency in the country’s western Anbar province. Government troops are trying to oust al-Qaida-linked fighters and their allies from cities in the area.

At least six gunmen were involved in Thursday’s attack, said Interior Ministry spokesman Saad Maan Ibrahim. The attackers stormed the state-run Company for Transportation in Baghdad’s Canal Street, where numerous government offices are located.

The police shot and killed four of the militants inside the building while the other two blew themselves up at the entrance, Maan said. He also said that the stand-off ended with at least one employee and a policeman killed in the attack, but gave no details on how they died.

Troops sealed off the area as armored vehicles rushed to the scene. At least one military helicopter was seen hovering overhead.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks. But coordinated and brazen attacks against Shiites, security forces and government buildings are frequently the work of al-Qaida’s affiliate in Iraq, which has been emboldened by the successes of its fellow militants in the civil war next door in Syria and by widespread Sunni anger at the government.

Last year, insurgents – some of them suicide bombers – unleashed a large and carefully planned assault on the Iraqi Justice Ministry that included car bombs and gunmen disguised as police, killing at least 24 people.

In that attack, for which al-Qaida took credit, about six gunmen wearing police uniforms stormed the ministry’s building and one-hour battle erupted between the intruders and the security force. The security forces cleared the building after killing all the attackers.

Also Thursday, a parked car bomb ripped through a market in Baghdad’s northern Kasra neighborhood, killing at least four people and wounding 11, a police officer and a medical official said. Another car bomb exploded at a bus station in Baghdad’s eastern Ur neighborhood, killing five civilians and wounding 11, police and medical officials said.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

The bombings in Baghdad occurred as Iraqi security forces and allied tribal militia fight to recapture parts of the Anbar provincial capital Ramadi and the city center of nearby Fallujah from al-Qaida-linked rebels and other groups. Clashes continued on Thursday with state TV saying that at least 24 militants were killed, but gave no details.

At night, gunmen abducted three brothers of Sabah Karhout, the head of the Anbar provincial council, but released them an hour later, said councilman Faleh al-Issawi.

The gunmen blew up Karhout’s house in Karmha, near Fallujah, before taking the brothers away. Al-Issawi said that Karhout was not in the house during the attack. It was not clear why the abducted brothers were released.

Violence has escalated in Iraq over the past year. Last year, the country saw the highest death toll since the worst of the country’s sectarian bloodletting began to subside in 2007, according to United Nations figures. The U.N. said violence killed 8,868 last year.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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