25 policemen killed in Iraq attacks

2012-03-05 10:00

Fallujah - Gunmen killed up to 18 members of Iraq's security forces in an attack on checkpoints in the town of Haditha in western Iraq on Monday, Iraqi officials said.

Mohammed Fathi, spokesperson for the governor of Anbar province in the west of the country, said 18 soldiers were killed when gunmen sped up to a checkpoint and opened fire.

A police source in the province said the victims were police, not soldiers, and that 17 had died. The gunmen rode in Interior Ministry vehicles and attacked several checkpoints before dawn, the source said.

Iraqi security forces have expressed concern that al-Qaeda may regain a foothold in Anbar, once a hotbed of the Sunni insurgency, after the withdrawal of US forces in mid-December.

Last month 10 people were killed when gunmen wearing explosive belts stormed a police building in Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar, which witnessed some of the worst violence at the height of the sectarian war in 2006-07.

Tribal leaders and thousands of Sunni insurgents eventually turned against al-Qaeda and formed the "awakening" militia, which joined US forces and forced al-Qaeda out.

Tension has also risen between Anbar and the Shi'ite-led central government recently, following an arrest campaign against former members of Saddam's banned Baath party.

Although violence in Iraq has fallen dramatically since the worst of the violence five years ago, Sunni insurgents and rival Shi'ite militia still carry out near-daily attacks, especially against government buildings and security forces.