BAGHDAD — The death toll for a grisly hostage situation at a government building north of the capital continued to rise yesterday as grieving families buried the victims and Iraqi officials questioned how it could have happened.
Gunmen wearing explosives belts under military uniforms charged into the provincial council building in Tikrit on Tuesday afternoon, shooting hostages execution-style and spraying bullets and tossing grenades through the building during the five-hour siege.
Dr. Raied Ibrahim, the health director for Salahuddin Province, said 57 people have so far been counted dead and 98 wounded.
Funeral processions yesterday crisscrossed the nearby city of Samarra, where officials said many of the victims lived, while those from Tikrit had mostly already been buried.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said he would launch an investigation into how the government compound could so easily be overrun by insurgents.
“Such crimes will not deter our people and security forces from chasing and eliminating them,’’ Maliki said. “The criminals who planned and carried out this crime will not escape punishment.’’
The assault was so horrific that US forces stationed nearby responded, according to The New York Times.
Some US soldiers suffered minor injuries in the rare intervention. No group yet has claimed responsibility for the strike.