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18 killed in Baghdad attack

The attackers, equipped with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and rifles, set police headquarters on fire.
None | By Reuters, Baghdad
UPDATED ON MAR 21, 2006 01:01 PM IST

Guerrillas attacked the police headquarters and courthouse in the Iraqi town of Miqdadiya on Tuesday, killing at least 18 people and releasing prisoners, police said.

They said initial reports indicated 14 policemen were killed at the police headquarters in the town north of Baghdad and then two bodies were found at the courthouse after guards at the building came under attack.

Two other policemen were killed by a roadside bomb as their unit rushed to Miqdadiya from the nearby town of Baquba to help defend the headquarters, said police.

They said the attackers, equipped with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and AK-47 assault rifles, set fire to the headquarters and badly damaged it.

It was not immediately clear how many prisoners were released by the guerrillas, who draw support from Iraq's minority Sunni Arab community, dominant under Saddam Hussein.

The attack occurred as Iraq's Shi'ite Muslim, Kurdish and Sunni leaders struggled to form a national unity government more than three months after elections.

Such a coalition is widely seen as vital to avert any slide into an all-out sectarian war in the country.

Police say Al-Qaeda militants are active in Miqdadiya near Baquba, which is 65 km north of Baghdad.

A US troop withdrawal from Iraq hinges on the ability of Iraqi security forces to combat insurgents on their own.

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