Gunmen storm Iraq government complex

Assailants set off a suicide car bomb and then stormed a government compound in a complex attack Tuesday, killing nine people in a former Sunni insurgent stronghold northeast of Baghdad.

BAGHDAD — Assailants set off a suicide car bomb and then stormed a government compound in a complex attack Tuesday, killing nine people in a former Sunni insurgent stronghold northeast of Baghdad.

The morning attack on the government compound in Baqouba matched a growing series of assaults in central Iraq this year, where insurgents strike government compounds and buildings, hoping to undermine support for the Baghdad administration by showing that even their most protected facilities are not safe.

The attack on Baqouba, 35 miles (60 kilometres) northeast of Baghdad, only deepened concerns that the Iraqi security forces cannot protect the country once remaining 47,000 U.S. forces leave at the end of the year.

“The repetition of the attacks shows that the security forces suffer from serious shortcomings,” said Omar al-Haigal, a lawmaker from the Sunni-backed Iraqiya coalition.

The Baqouba assault began when a suicide bomber exploded a car bomb at the entrance to the compound, according to the commander of the Iraqi army’s 5th Division, which is in charge of Diyala province.

Gen. Dhiaa al-Danbos said two other attackers were killed in the compound yard surrounding the provincial government building, while a third person got inside and opened fire. The spokesman for Iraq’s defence ministry, Gen. Mohammed al-Askari, told state television that four militants entered the yard, three of them were killed and one managed to make it into the building.

The conflicting accounts could not immediately be reconciled.

Some of the assailants were disguised as policemen, while one was wearing traditional Arab dress, the Ministry of Interior said in a statement.

The attacker who made it into the building killed three civilians before he was wounded by security forces. In total, nine people were killed, including at least three attackers.

A U.S. military patrol that happened to be in the neighbourhood joined the search of the building and later helped establish a security perimeter at the scene, the U.S. military said. American military helicopters also provided air surveillance to Iraqi forces on the ground.

An Iraqi employee, Ibrahim al-Sahmkhani, said he was in his room with some guests drinking tea when he heard explosions and gunshots. He ran to the window in time to see two rifle-wielding assailants running toward a building while a guard opened fire on them. One of the men fell to the ground while the other blew himself up, al-Sahmkhani said.

The explosion shattered his windows and al-Sahmkhani hid inside the room along with the guests and employees already there.

About 15 minutes later, a policeman entered the room and told employees to flee. Then a gunmen outside opened fire on them. As the policeman fired back and bullets flew overhead, al-Sahmkhani and the group fled the room.

He spoke from a nearby hospital where doctors were removing shrapnel from his thigh. He said he would return to work.

“The terrorists tried several times to frighten us, but they failed in the past and they will fail in the future,” he said.

Television coverage obtained by The Associated Press from a local station showed at least three dead bodies on the bloodstained ground of the building’s reception office. Shattered glass and rubble were strewn everywhere.

Violence in Iraq has fallen dramatically since 2006 and 2007 when the insurgency was in full swing, and Sunni and Shiite militants battled each other for supremacy. But Iraqis still suffer through daily violence, reflecting the tenacious nature of the insurgency and the havoc that a small, but determined group of insurgents can cause.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but al-Qaida in Iraq has claimed previous assaults this year on government compounds similar to the one carried out Tuesday.

In March, gunmen wearing military uniforms over explosives belts charged into a government building in Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit. The attack killed 56 people.

In early June a suicide bomber attacked a mosque filled with Iraqi politicians and policemen in Tikrit and another blew himself up inside the hospital where the wounded were taken. Twenty-one people died.

Sunni militant groups like al-Qaida often target Iraqi government facilities or Iraqi security forces because they abhor the Shiite-led government. They say they view anyone working for the government as a collaborator.

Shiite militants, on the other hand, tend to target U.S. forces in an attempt to show they are pushing the U.S. out of the country.

Two U.S. soldiers were killed Monday during operations in southern Iraq, U.S. military officials said.

The new deaths bring to 4,462 the number of American service members who have died in Iraq since the war began in 2003, according to an Associated Press count. Eight American soldiers have been killed so far this month.

Iraqi government and politicians are weighing whether to ask the U.S. to keep some of its 47,000 troops in Iraq beyond the Dec. 31 deadline for them all to withdraw.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

House sales remain hot in central Alberta with first-quarter sales nearly double last year’s numbers. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Central Alberta real estate market hot in 2021

Residential sales nearly double 2020 in first quarter

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer gave an update on Olymel's COVID-19 situation on Wednesday. (File photo by Advocate staff).
Veer addresses rising COVID-19 cases in Red Deer

Red Deer has added nearly 200 cases of active COVID-19 cases in past week

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw and Premier Jason Kenney say the province would look at adding additional COVID-19 measures in the coming weeks if the virus continues to spread. (Photo by Government of Alberta)
Walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinic to open in Red Deer

Alberta adds 1,345 new cases of the virus

Innisfail RCMP are investigating a single-vehicle crash that happened west of Bowden on March 21, 2021. (File photo by Advocate staff)
RCMP investigate culturally insensitive graffiti at Sylvan Lake school

Sylvan Lake RCMP is investigating a vandalism incident. On April 17 around… Continue reading

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks' Tanner Pearson, right, celebrates after scoring against Toronto Maple Leafs goalie David Rittich during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Pearson, Sutter each score twice as Canucks dump Leafs 6-3

Pearson, Sutter each score twice as Canucks dump Leafs 6-3

Everton's Gylfi Sigurdsson celebrates with teammates after scoring his side's second goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park in Liverpool, England, Friday, April 16, 2021. (Peter Powell/Pool via AP)
Super League collapses after the 6 English clubs withdraw

Super League collapses after the 6 English clubs withdraw

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez delivers against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at Fenway Park in Boston. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Bogaerts’ 3-run HR, Rodriguez lift BoSox over Blue Jays 4-2

Bogaerts’ 3-run HR, Rodriguez lift BoSox over Blue Jays 4-2

Pound says Olympic qualifying issues a concern to IOC

Pound says Olympic qualifying issues a concern to IOC

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Ontario Hockey League cancels 2020-21 season as COVID-19 cases surge in province

Ontario Hockey League cancels 2020-21 season as COVID-19 cases surge in province

Lionel Desmond (front row, far right) was part of the 2nd battalion, of the Royal Canadian Regiment, based at CFB Gagetown and shown in this 2007 handout photo taken in Panjwai district in between patrol base Wilson and Masum Ghar in Afghanistan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Facebook-Trev Bungay MANDATORY CREDIT
Desmond inquiry: Veterans Affairs submits internal review after initial refusal

Desmond inquiry: Veterans Affairs submits internal review after initial refusal

FILE - In this Feb. 18, 2021 file photo State representatives gather at the Capitol, in Phoenix. Two years after Arizona lawmakers repealed a law barring any instruction on HIV or AIDS that that "promotes a homosexual lifestyle," they are close to enacting a broad remake of the state's sex education laws with a particular focus on LGBTQ issues. (AP Photo/Matt York,File)
Arizona governor vetoes strict sex education legislation

Arizona governor vetoes strict sex education legislation

Most Read