At least 35 die in ambush north of Baghdad

Insurgent gunmen have killed a at least 35 policemen and anti-al Qaeda fighters in an ambush in the Diyala province north of Baghdad, security officials announced.


Gunmen ambushed and killed at least 35 policemen and eight anti-Qaeda fighters in Diyala province north of Baghdad on Wednesday as rebel violence continued despite a security force crackdown.

The gunmen struck at around 3:30 pm (1230 GMT) in the village of Al-Dulaimat in Diyala of which Baquba is the capital, a security official said.

He said the policemen and the anti-Qaeda fighters had gathered in the village when they were ambushed by the gunmen.

Doctor Ahmed Fuad of Baquba hospital confirmed it had received 20 dead.

"The bodies are riddled with bullets," he told AFP.

The security official said the area surrounding the village is a longstanding Al-Qaeda stronghold.

He said the slain policemen included three officers -- a colonel, a lieutenant colonel and a captain.

The ambush took place as the police detachment deployed to the village to take part in a raid against Al-Qaeda militants alongside the allied fighters of the Sahwa, or Awakening, Council.

"They were in three vehicles when several armed men ambushed and killed all of them," the official said.

Diyala is the most dangerous of Iraq's 18 provinces despite a US-backed offensive which the security forces launched against Al-Qaeda and other insurgents in May.

The province has seen a spate of suicide bombings, several of them carried out by women, that commanders have blamed on the jihadists.

On September 15, a woman suicide bomber blew herself up in a crowd of people during a feast in the town of Balad Druz in Diyala, killing 22 people and wounding dozens more.

A few days before he left Iraq earlier this month, the outgoing commander of US forces, General David Petraeus, told AFP that Al-Qaeda was still capable of launching lethal attacks in the country.

He said the jihadist group had been significantly damaged but was still not defeated.

Al-Qaeda has been blamed by the US military for the most brutal attacks in Iraq since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime in the 2003 invasion.

The persistent violence in Diyala comes despite a sharp reduction in bloodshed nationwide that has seen casualty tolls reach four-year lows.

The number of attacks has picked up again slightly in recent weeks, particularly in provinces around Baghdad.

On August 24, a suicide bomber carried out an attack on a Ramadan feast in the town of Abu Ghraib, west of the capital, in which 30 people were killed.

On August 21, a suicide bomber blew up an explosives-filled truck near a police station in the Shiite town of Dujail, north of Baghdad, killing 31 people.


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