Iraqi militants explode bomb, storm government compound
Six killed in latest assault targeting protected sites
BAGHDAD — Assailants set off a suicide car bomb and stormed a government compound in a complex attack yesterday, killing six people in a former Sunni insurgent stronghold northeast of Baghdad.
The morning attack in Baqouba matched a growing series of assaults in Iraq this year, where insurgents strike government compounds and buildings, hoping to undermine support for the Baghdad administration by showing that even their most protected facilities are not safe. On Monday a suicide bomber struck a police headquarters in Basra, killing five and wounding 15.
The attack on Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, deepened concerns that the Iraqi security forces cannot protect the country once the remaining 47,000 US forces leave at the end of the year.
“The repetition of the attacks shows that the security forces suffer from serious shortcomings,’’ said Omar al-Haigal, a lawmaker from the Sunni-backed Iraqiya coalition.
The Baqouba assault began when a suicide bomber exploded a car bomb at the entrance to the compound, according to the commander of the Iraqi army’s Fifth Division, which is in charge of Diyala province.
General Dhiaa al-Danbos said two other attackers were killed in the compound yard surrounding the provincial government building, while a third person got inside and opened fire.
The spokesman for Iraq’s defense ministry, General Mohammed al-Askari, told state television that four militants entered the yard, three of them were killed, and one managed to make it into the building. The conflicting accounts could not immediately be reconciled.
Some of the assailants were disguised as policemen, while one was wearing traditional Arab dress, the Ministry of Interior said in a statement.
The attacker who made it into the building killed three civilians before he was wounded by security forces. In total, nine people were killed, including at least three attackers.
A US military patrol that happened to be in the neighborhood joined the search of the building and later helped establish a security perimeter at the scene, the US military said. American military helicopters also provided air surveillance to Iraqi forces.
An Iraqi employee, Ibrahim al-Sahmkhani, said he was in his room with some guests drinking tea when he heard explosions and gunshots. He ran to the window in time to see two rifle-wielding assailants running toward a building while a guard opened fire on them. One of the men fell to the ground while the other blew himself up, Sahmkhani said.
The explosion shattered his windows and Sahmkhani hid inside the room along with the guests and employees already there. About 15 minutes later, a policeman entered the room and told employees to flee. Then a gunmen outside opened fire on them. As the policeman fired back and bullets flew overhead, Sahmkhani and the group fled the room.
He spoke from a nearby hospital where doctors were removing shrapnel from his thigh. He said he would return to work.
“The terrorists tried several times to frighten us, but they failed in the past and they will fail in the future,’’ he said.