|The building targeted on Sunday is now the headquarters of the eastern Baghdad military command [AFP]|
At least 12 people, including four soldiers, have been killed and 29 others wounded after five suicide bombers armed with rifles attempted to storm an army base in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.
Sunday’s attack came less than a week after Washington declared US combat operations in Iraq over.
Two attackers blew themselves up at the back gate of the compound after being shot, while a third detonated a minibus packed with explosives at the entrance.
The remaining two fought an hour-long gunbattle with troops before being killed, Major-General Qassim al-Moussawi, a Baghdad security spokesman, said.
“It was similar to the attack on the central bank but security forces foiled the assault and killed all attackers,” al-Moussawi said, referring to the June 13 siege by up to seven suicide bombers of the Central Bank of Iraq.
All five of the attackers involved in Sunday’s assault on the military base were wearing suicide vests, said al-Moussawi, and arrived at the back gate of the military base in a minibus.
‘Bodies and body parts’
“There are bodies and body parts but we don’t know if they belong to attackers or civilians,” al-Moussawi said.
The US military said its troops opened fire and provided air support for Iraqi forces during the gunbattle. US forces are no longer officially on a combat mission in Iraq, but nearly 50,000 remain to train and assist the Iraqi military.
US military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Eric Bloom said US troops provided “suppressive fire” during the attack, as well as support through helicopters and drones. US explosives experts were also brought in to examine the site.
The assault took place in broad daylight, just over two weeks after dozens of Iraqi army recruits and soldiers were killed by another suicide bomber at the same base.
The base in the the Bab al-Muadham neighbourhood was a defence ministry headquarters under Saddam Hussein, Iraqi’s former president, and now serves as an army recruitment centre as well as a military command centre.
Iraqi fighters are targeting police and troops as the US military gradually pulls out more than seven years after the invasion.
Residents of the Bab al-Muadham neighbourhood reported heavy shooting after the explosions and said the gunfire continued for over an hour.
The area became an al-Qaeda stronghold at the height of the sectarian warfare unleashed after the 2003 US-led invasion, and remained dangerous until mid-2009.
US leaders said last week that the Iraq war was in its final stages and that Iraqi security forces are capable of countering violence in the country, but many Iraqis do not believe their army and police are ready for the task.