An attempted hostage rescue and two assaults by gunmen on police stations killed 24 policemen in Iraq's restive Anbar province overnight, police and doctors said on Monday.
Police Lieutenant Colonel Majid al-Jlaybawi said the police and armed forces carried out a joint raid to free kidnapped police in Anbar, but clashes broke out.
Twelve kidnapped police were killed and four wounded during the raid, though it was not immediately clear if they were caught in the crossfire or if killed by their abductors.
Mohammed Hadi, one of the wounded policemen, told AFP they had been kidnapped on the highway between Baghdad and Jordan on Saturday.
In Haditha, a town in Anbar province, gunmen attacked a police station, killing eight police, among them two officers, First Lieutenant Murad al-Hadithi and a doctor said.
And gunmen killed four police and wounded three in an attack on another police station in the town of Rawa, also in Anbar, said Qais al-Rawi, the head of the area's local council.
There have been a number of attacks in recent weeks on security forces in Anbar province, home to Ramadi and Fallujah, two centres of Sunni protests that broke out almost five months ago.
Tensions are festering in Iraq between the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shiite, and Iraqi Sunnis who accuse authorities of marginalising and targeting their community, including through wrongful detentions and accusations of involvement in terrorism.
The government has made some concessions, such as freeing prisoners and raising the salaries of Sunni anti-Al-Qaeda fighters, but underlying issues have not been addressed.