Attacks across Iraq kill at least 26 people

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Associated Press

Posted on December 23, 2013 at 8:02 AM

Updated Monday, Dec 23 at 3:03 PM

BAGHDAD (AP) — A new wave of attacks across Iraq including an assault on a TV station killed at least 26 people on Monday, officials said, as the government pressed on with its offensive to hunt down al-Qaida-linked militants in the country's volatile western desert.

Five attackers stormed the offices of the channel owned by the provincial government of Salaheddin in the city of Tikrit north of Baghdad, one blowing up a suicide car bomb at the gate and two more setting off explosive suicide belts inside, police said. Two more were killed by security forces.

Six channel staff died in addition to the attackers, and six others were wounded, police and health officials said. A security source said one of the dead was a female presenter.

Also Monday, militants fired mortar rounds into a military base near Baghdad's western suburb of Abu Ghraib, killing three officers and three soldiers, a police officer said. Seven soldiers were wounded in that attack.

Hours later, a bomb went off next to a passing military patrol in the same area, killing two, an officer and a solider, he added. Two other soldiers were wounded.

In Baghdad's southern district of Dora, gunmen broke into a pet shop and killed four men, another police officer said.

Three civilians were killed and nine were wounded when a bomb ripped through an outdoor market in the Iraqi capital's northwestern Tobchi district. And on a highway in eastern Baghdad, drive-by shooters opened fire at a bus, killing two commuters and wounding nine, he said.

Separately, gunmen attacked a bus in the town of Baqouba, a former al-Qaida stronghold located about 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad, killing three commuters and wounding six there, police said.

Four medical officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Speaking at a press conference in the southern city of Karbala, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said on Monday that the operation in Anbar "will continue until it is purged of terrorists, with the help of the Iraqi people."

Video released by the military on Monday showed an airstrike hitting what appeared to be a camp, the capture of militant banners and the arrest of one individual.

Also Monday in western Iraq, police said gunmen seized three trucks with a load of about two dozen SUVs on the main highway to Jordan and kidnapped the drivers.

The military operation in Anbar province followed the weekend killing of a senior military commander, a colonel and five soldiers in an ambush there during a raid on a militant hideout early Saturday.

A government statement said security forces backed by helicopters have been combing the desert near the borders with Syria and Jordan. Syria's civil war and chaos have encouraged widespread cross-border movement of al-Qaida fighters between the two countries.

Insurgents have stepped up attacks across Iraq in the past months, sending violence to levels not seen since 2008.

Monday's attacks brought the total number of people killed so far this month to 400. According to U.N. estimates, more than 8,000 people have been killed since the start of the year as insurgents seek to undermine government efforts to maintain security nationwide.

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