Insurgents dressed as soldiers with explosives strapped to themselves raided an Iraqi police compound Sunday in what’s the first major test for police there since America’s military mission there ended.
The rebels blasted through a compound near Baghdad in hopes of freeing terrorism suspects; the battle reportedly lasted several hours, the Wall Street Journal reported.
As many as eight insurgents attacked the compound in Ramadi, the WSJ said, in an area once considered Al Qaeda activity in the Sunni Arab province of Anbar.
While the attack happened, meetings in Baghdad to end a growing political crisis in the area stalled.
As many as eight police officers and seven rebels were killed, according to the Washington Post.
“It was a bold, unexpected attack,” Brig. Gen. Khamis Jasem said in the Post. “They made the security forces busy with explosives here and there. Then they attacked.”
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Six civilians were caught in the crossfire and died, police Maj. Mahmoud Khaleel said. Sunday’s hours-long battle may only signal further violence. Police said extra officers are being sent to Fallujah.
“We are expecting similar attacks in the coming days,” said Jasem.
The Associated Press reported a car bomb signaled the start of the shooting. The gunmen are said to have detonated a bomb in another area of the city to draw security forces away from the compound.
Iraq is on the brink of escalating violence. A bomb blast on Saturday killed at least 50 people during a Shia procession. It’s reminding political observers of 2003 sectarian violence that cost thousands of lives after the US-led invasion.
The political crisis stems from charges Sunni vice-president Tariq al-Hashemi, who fled to the autonomous Kurdish region, was running death squads. On Sunday, a court ruled Hashemi must stand trial on terror charges in Baghdad, rejecting his appeal to have the trial in the more ethnically diverse Kirkuk.