Rebel ambush kills 24 policemen in Iraq: US
A vicious battle between Iraqi police and rebels north of Baghdad left at least 24 officers, 18 rebels and one civilian dead, the US military said on Friday.
An American reaction force of troops and aircraft was diverted to an area near Khan Bani Saad after an Iraqi police unit was ambushed.
"The police under fire fought back in intense house to house fighting," a US statement said.
"Iraqi and coalition forces engaged AIF (rebels) with direct fire, killing 18 AIF, wounding eight and capturing 27 more."
One Iraqi civilian and 24 police were killed "in action" while seven police were wounded and taken to a US base for treatment, it added.
Iraqi interior ministry spokesman Brigadier General Abdel Karim Khalaf said the pre-dawn clash began when insurgents ambushed a police squad responding to an intelligence report of a death squad hideout.
"The clashes took place over an area 25 kms long. All nearby police units were involved, including the rapid response squad," the ministry spokesman told the agency.
Khalaf said that the town's police chief was among the dead.
"We had 18 policemen injured, then we managed to secure the region. The situation is stable now," he said.
Police also raided a Baquba hospital to arrest two wounded insurgents, he added.
Thursday's battle erupted near the village of Ibn Khaldun, west of Baquba and 40 kms north of Baghdad, in an area of Diyala province notorious for rebel violence and brutal sectarian warfare.
Over the past week Diyala police have been drawn into a fierce conflict with suspected Sunni insurgents, who killed 17 unarmed Shiite police trainees in an ambush on Sunday and kidnapped several more.