BAGHDAD (Reuters) – At least 25 people were killed in a battle between Sunni Arab militants and Sunni Islamist al Qaeda northeast of Baghdad on Thursday, police said.
Police and residents of the Sheikh Tamim and Ibrahim Yehia villages said about 200 gunmen stormed into their villages early on Thursday and executed three young men and the imam of a mosque. This triggered a confrontation with local militants who killed 10 of the attackers.
Police said they arrested 22 of the attackers. The two villages are in Diyala province, where U.S. troops are cracking down on al Qaeda and other Sunni Arab militants who are using the region as launch pad for attacks in Baghdad.
Baquba police chief Brigadier-General Ali Delayan said the attackers shelled the two villages with mortars before storming them. They also used rocket-propelled grenades and reduced some houses to rubble.
He said the attackers took five women hostage before retreating.
The fighting is an example of the violent power struggle between al Qaeda-linked militants and Iraqi Sunni Arab militant groups who, until just few months ago, were fighting side by side against U.S. forces and the Shi’ite-led government.
Al Qaeda’s severe interpretation of Islam and indiscriminate killing of civilians have provoked Sunni Arab tribes in Iraq’s western and central provinces to revolt against them.