A Karbala police spokesman said on Wednesday that up to 65 police officers were ambushed on Sunday in the town of Rutba near the Jordanian border.

"There was an attack on a hotel occupied by policemen coming back from training in Jordan," he said.

The spokesman cited a Karbala policeman who returned from Rutba as saying that an armed group had kidnapped some of the policemen, many of whom were from Diyala province, north of Baghdad.

Not all kidnapped

The police officer said 20 armed men stormed the hotel rooms where the police were staying, covering the captives' heads with black bags and tying their hands before dragging them away. 

The armed men took mobile phones, cameras and documents from the unarmed policemen, the Karbala officer said.

The officer said he was beaten but not taken by the armed men. 

No official verification

The spokesman said he could not verify the report's authenticity, but added that no police officers from Karbala city were missing. 

The police have been criticised for
aiding the US-backed government

A Jordanian official at the Jordan International Police Training Centre, the US-run desert camp training Iraqi police cadets, said the latest batch of 1440 Iraqi policemen concluded training in November. 

Some returned to Iraq last Thursday, before the Eid holiday, and at least 800 headed to the borders on their way back home overland on Tuesday, the official said. 

Police targets

Fighters opposed to the US-led government have repeatedly targeted new members of the Iraqi security forces that the US military has been training.

On 23 October, a group of Iraqi soldiers was ambushed in eastern Iraq, on their way home after a US training course.

About 50 of the soldiers - who were unarmed - were killed execution-style with gunshots to the back of the head. 

On 16 October, nine Iraqi policemen returning home from a training course in Jordan were ambushed and killed en route to Karbala when their bus was attacked in the town of Latifiya, 40km south of Baghdad.