[QODLink]
Middle East
Iraqi forces targeted in deadly attacks
Armed men dressed in police uniforms kill 27 officers, including two commanders, after raids on checkpoints in Haditha.
Last Modified: 05 Mar 2012 16:22
Haditha remains under curfew as security forces search for the attackers [EPA]

At least 27 members of Iraq's security forces are reported to have been killed in a wave of attacks that targeted checkpoints in the city of Haditha, in the western Anbar province.

Police sources told Al Jazeera on Monday that the attacks specifically targeted police personnel across several checkpoints. The dead included two police colonels.

Lieutenant-Colonel Owaid Khalaf told the AFP news agency that dozens of armed men carried out the attacks, which began late on Sunday.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has reportedly sacked the top security official in Anbar province, Lieutenant General Abdul Aziz Al Obaidi.

Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf, reporting from Baghdad, said Haditha remained under curfew as authorities searched for the assailants.

"This was obviously a very well-planned attack," she said,

"It began when gunmen, dozens of them according to police sources, commandeered and stole SWAT vehicles. The SWAT teams are part of the counterterrorism forces. They drove around the city, dressed as SWAT members, in black-and-blue uniforms. As they were stopped at a checkpoint, they opened fire."

Follow in-depth coverage of the nation in flux

The assailants also entered the homes of a colonel and a captain in the interior ministry security force, kidnapping them and shooting them, Mohammed Fathi, a spokesman for Anbar's governor, told the Associated Press news agency.

The two commanders were later found shot dead in the street not far from their homes, Haditha police said.

Fathi said the attackers had false arrest warrants for 15 police officers in Haditha.

Major Tareq Sayeh Hardan, a police spokesman in Haditha, blamed al-Qaeda for the attacks, saying that literature belonging to the group had been found in one of the attackers' vehicles.

The attacks in Haditha are the first major instance of violence in the city since a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a bank, killing nine people, including three police officers, and wounding eight others on March 2011.

Haditha is in the mostly Sunni Arab province of Anbar. It was one of several towns along the Euphrates valley that became al-Qaeda strongholds after the 2003 US-led invasion that removed Saddam Hussein from power.

Tribal leaders and thousands of Sunni fighters eventually turned against al-Qaeda, forcing the group's fighters out of the town.

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

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Featured
About 500,000 participated around the globe in the Peoples Climate March, and Al Jazeera spoke to some in New York.
Separatist movements in Spain, Belgium and Italy may face headwinds following Scotland's decision to stay in the UK.
A fishing trawler carrying 500 migrants across the Mediterranean was rammed by another boat, causing hundreds to drown.
Anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party - with roots in the neo-Nazi movement - recently won 12.9 percent of the vote.
Palestinian doctor who lost three daughters in previous Gaza war is fighting to bring 100 wounded kids to Canada.