9 killed as Iraq police station hit by shells, gunfire

Militants attacked a police station in north Iraq on Wednesday with mortar rounds and automatic weapons, killing nine police, while seven people died in other violence, security officers and doctors said.

The violence comes a day after an Al-Qaeda front group claimed brazen assaults on two prisons in Iraq that killed more than 40 people, among them 20 security forces members, and saw hundreds of inmates, including senior militants, escape.

Security forces are hunting the prisoners who escaped during the assaults that began on Sunday night and continued into Monday, to prevent them rejoining the ranks of the militants and carrying out further attacks.

"Security forces are continuing their (deployment) in the areas surrounding the two prisons," interior ministry spokesman Saad Maan said, adding that a "large number" of escapees had been apprehended, without specifying a figure.

Wednesday's assault on the police station, which occurred about 60 kilometres (37 miles) south of the northern city of Mosul, also left two policemen wounded.

It was followed by a roadside bomb explosion as emergency personnel travelled to the scene, wounding another two people.

In a separate incident, gunmen killed a soldier in Mosul itself, while armed men shot dead a man in Baquba, another city north of Baghdad.

A suicide bomber driving an explosives-laden vehicle attacked an army patrol in the northern city of Kirkuk, killing a soldier and wounding seven other people.

And on a highway in Anbar province, west of Baghdad, militants in vehicles mounted with machineguns attacked an army checkpoint and a joint army-police convoy in an apparent attempt to free a captured senior Al-Qaeda member who was being carried in the convoy.

The attack left four militants dead, while a soldier and a militant were wounded.

Iraq has faced years of attacks by militants, but analysts say widespread discontent among members of its Sunni Arab minority, which the government has failed to address, has fuelled the surge in unrest this year.

Iraqi security forces are frequently targeted by militants opposed to the government in Baghdad.

With the latest unrest, more than 650 people have been killed so far in July, making it the deadliest month in a year marked by spiralling violence.

Iraq's Sunni Arabs accuse the Shiite-led government of marginalising and targeting their community, including through unwarranted arrests and terrorism charges.

Protests broke out in Sunni-majority areas at the end of 2012 and are still ongoing.

In addition to the major problems with security, the government in Baghdad is also failing to provide adequate basic services such as electricity and clean water, while corruption is widespread.

Political squabbling has further paralysed the government, which has passed almost no major legislation in years.

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