Abbas al-Ani, AFP
Last updated: 14 September, 2011

18 killed in attacks against Iraqi security forces

A spate of attacks appearing to target security forces in central and western Iraq on Wednesday killed at least 18 people, including six policemen and two soldiers, officials said.

The violence, which also wounded about 50 people, comes with just months to go before US forces are set to withdraw from the country completely, with questions over the capabilities of their domestic counterparts.

In the deadliest attack, a car bomb exploded outside a restaurant frequented by security force members in the town of Medhatiyah, just east of the central city of Hilla, in Babil province.

Provincial deputy governor Sadiq Rasul al-Mohannah put the toll at 13 dead and 42 wounded. He said three policemen were among the dead, and added that the casualties also included two women and a child.

Bus driver Ali Hamza said he came to the restaurant with some passengers and was about to have breakfast “when there was a huge explosion and then I saw dismembered bodies.”

Meanwhile, a “sticky bomb” attached to a vehicle in an Iraqi air force base in the town of Habbaniyah, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) west of Baghdad in mostly Sunni Anbar province, killed two soldiers and wounded 10 others, according to defence ministry spokesman Major General Mohammed al-Askari.

“There was a sticky bomb against a bus carrying soldiers from the main entrance of the base to their positions inside the base,” Askari told AFP.

An official at the morgue in Anbar capital Ramadi and the provincial security command centre confirmed the toll in the 8:00 am (0500 GMT) attack.

And in Baghdad, insurgents opened fire on a police checkpoint in the Qahira neighbourhood in the capital’s north, killing two policemen and wounding another, an interior ministry official said.

Police brigadier general Bassem Faraj died Wednesday evening after a magnetic bomb attached to his car blew up in the city’s eastern Amine suburb, a source in the interior ministry said.

The unrest comes with US and Iraqi officials deliberating whether to keep American forces in the country beyond a year-end deadline for their withdrawal. Currently, around 47,000 troops are stationed here.

Security officials say Iraq’s security forces are largely capable of maintaining internal security, but cannot yet security the country’s borders, its maritime territory or its airspace.

Violence is down across Iraq from its peak in 2006 and 2007, but attacks remain common. A total of 239 people were killed in violence in the country in August, according to official figures.

A total of 1,860 Iraqis have been killed since the beginning of the year, according to an AFP tally based on government figures.