​Bombs and shootings kill 24 in Iraq

January 15, 2014 - 9:41:18 am

BAGHDAD: Sunni militants staged coordinated attacks near the western Iraqi city of Fallujah yesterday, destroying two army tanks and capturing a police station, police said.

There was no immediate word on the casualty toll from those assaults, which occurred during a standoff between the army and Al Qaeda-linked militants who overran Falluja two weeks ago.

Elsewhere, car bombs and shootings killed at least 24 people, mainly in the capital Baghdad, police and medics said.

A suicide bomber in an explosives-laden fuel tanker blew it up under a highway bridge near the town of Saqlawiya, about 10 km (six miles) north of Falluja, causing the bridge to collapse and destroying one of two army tanks parked on top, police said. Gunmen then attacked and destroyed the second tank.

Simultaneously, dozens of militants stormed a police station in Saqlawiya, forcing its occupants to surrender. Army helicopters later attacked the gunmen in the police station.

The destroyed bridge lies on the main highway leading west from Baghdad across the vast Sunni desert province of Anbar towards Syria and Jordan. Police said the suicide truck bomber had driven from Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar.

Two years after US troops left Iraq, violence has climbed back to its highest levels since the Sunni-Shia bloodshed of 2006-07, when tens of thousands of people were killed.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the spate of attacks in Baghdad but the Shia-led government has blamed Al Qaeda-affiliated militants who have regained a strong presence in western Iraq, helped by the civil war in neighbouring Syria.

Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki has sworn to eradicate Al Qaeda, but has ruled out an army assault on Fallujah, saying tribesmen and residents must force the militants to leave.