Gunmen killed at least 27 police officers in coordinated attacks in western Iraq on Monday. The attacks raised fears that al Qaeda could reestablish a stronghold in the region.
Several policemen have been killed in a series of coordinated attacks in the town of Haditha, in Iraq's western Anbar province.
"We received 27 dead bodies, all of them policemen, and treated three policemen who were wounded," Fadhil al-Nimrawi, director of Haditha's hospital, told the AFP news agency. A 28th body belonged to one of the assailants.
A senior police officer said gunmen wearing military uniforms and travelling in stolen army vehicles attacked two checkpoints in Haditha in the early hours of Monday.
"They then entered the city and were distributed throughout Haditha, where other gunmen were waiting for them in civilian cars," police Lieutenant Colonel Owid Kalaf told AFP.
Among those killed were two senior police officers, who were kidnapped from their homes and later found shot dead. Police said they had launched a major operation to search for the gunmen and that a curfew had been imposed.
Following the withdrawal of US forces late last year, some Iraqi security officials expressed fears that the al Qaeda terror network could reestablish a foothold in Anbar. For a time, the province was a hotbed of the Sunni insurgency during the US war in Iraq. Sunni insurgents later turned against al Qaeda and joined forces with the US Army.
pfd,sjt/ncy (Reuters, AFP)