x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Militants kill 25 policemen in Haditha

The killings began with an attack on a suburban checkpoint and the kidnapping of two police commanders from their homes.

BAGHDAD // A gang of gunmen disguised in military-style uniforms and carrying forged arrest warrants killed 25 police today, then hoisted the battle flag of Al Qaeda in a carefully planned early morning shooting spree in western Iraq, officials said.

The killings began with an attack on a suburban checkpoint and the kidnapping of two police commanders from their homes in the western Iraqi city of Haditha at 2am. It ended with the gang disappearing into the desert in this latest bloody strike against Iraq's security forces.

At least one of the attackers was killed in a raid that lasted about a half-hour.

"We consider this attack as a serious security breach and we believe that Al Qaeda or groups linked to it are behind this," said Mohammed Fathi, the spokesman for the governor of Iraq's western Anbar province where Haditha is located.

Iraqi officials described a systematic plot to kill police in Haditha, 220 kilometres north-west of Baghdad, with attackers disguising themselves in military uniforms and driving cars painted to look like Iraqi interior ministry vehicles.

Mr Fathi said the gang claimed they were military officials with arrest warrants for city police. They were stopped at a checkpoint outside Haditha, where they took away the guards' mobile phones before shooting nine of them, he said.

The gang's convoy, described by one Haditha police lieutenant as stretching 13 cars long, then stopped at the homes of two Haditha police commanders, including the colonel who served as the city's Swat team leader.

Brandishing the fake arrest warrants, the gunmen forced the commanders into the convoy, then shot both less than 400 metres away, Mr Fathi said.

The gang had false arrest warrants for 15 police officials in Haditha. As their convoy moved through the city, they were stopped at another checkpoint near the city's main market.

A fierce gun battle broke out, with the gang raising the black flag of Al Qaeda in a show of defiance. Six policemen were killed in that skirmish, and another six were killed in shootings as security forces chased the gang through the city.