BAGHDAD, (Reuters) – Guerrillas killed at least 10 Iraqi policemen and soldiers in separate attacks north of Baghdad on Monday in the latest flare-up of violence after a largely peaceful election nearly two weeks ago.
In the capital, at least four people were killed and 17 wounded by five explosions in quick succession. Car bombs were responsible for at least four of the blasts.
In the second major assault on Iraqi security forces in three days, guerrillas stormed a police checkpoint near an Interior Ministry commando base north of Baghdad, killing five policemen and wounding four.
Attackers jumped out of a minibus in the early morning and began firing mortar rounds and rocket propelled grenades at the checkpoint in Buhriz, a small town about 60 km (37 miles) from the Iraqi capital, police said.
As they got closer, they also began hurling hand grenades.
At least six guerrillas were killed in the ensuing clashes that lasted several hours, police said. In a sign of elaborate planning, a main road leading to the checkpoint was laid with roadside bombs, delaying backup police forces sent in to help from the nearby town of Baquba, police said.
"They attacked us from all sides," said one police officer at the scene. He said he saw at least 10 guerrillas killed.
Further north, in the small village of Dhabab, gunmen shot dead five Iraqi army soldiers in separate, but apparently coordinated attacks as they left for work or went about their morning routine, the army said.
The attacks come on the heels of a similar dawn assault on an Iraqi army post on Friday, when a large group of insurgents fired rocket propelled grenades and used heavy machineguns to kill 10 soldiers and wound 20 others.
Insurgents frequently target Iraqi soldiers and police, who are on the frontlines of maintaining law and order in the country, but lack the heavy-duty armour and equipment used by their U.S. counterparts.
The area northeast of Baghdad, particularly Baquba, is known for its frequent outbursts of violence, including execution-style assassinations of those with ties to U.S. forces.
A VIOLENT CHRISTMAS
Violence in Iraq has surged in the past few days after a lull during the Dec. 15 election, partly due to an informal truce by some Sunni Arab insurgent groups and strict security.
On Christmas day, at least five Iraqis and two U.S. soldiers were killed in car bomb explosions and mortar attacks.
Al Qaeda”s wing in Iraq also claimed in an Internet posting on Sunday it had abducted and killed three Arab women and an Arab man working for U.S. authorities and the Iraqi government.
It was not immediately clear if the killings were those of three women working in the fortified Green Zone government and diplomatic compound in Baghdad, who were abducted days earlier.
The latest bloodshed in Iraq came after partial election results from the parliamentary ballot threatened to deepen already fragile sectarian divisions within the country.
The results show the incumbent Shi”ite Islamic bloc in a strong lead in crucial areas like Baghdad, despite a large turnout by Sunni Arabs who had boycotted a previous vote.
Thousands of Sunni Arabs have taken to the streets in recent days, crying foul over the results and demanding fresh elections or a recount. Behind the tough talk, however, Sunni Arab politicians are said to be jockeying for powerful positions within the coalition expected to form the next government.