Militants attack city council as Iraq unrest kills 44

Militants attacked and temporarily occupied a city council headquarters and assaulted a police station in Iraq on Monday, as violence across the country killed 44 people, officials said.

Tikrit: Militants attacked and temporarily occupied a city council headquarters and assaulted a police station in Iraq on Monday, as violence across the country killed 44 people, officials said.

The attacks on the city council and the police station, both in Salaheddin province, north of Baghdad, illustrate the impunity with which militants in Iraq can strike even targets that should be highly secure.

Violence in Iraq has reached a level not seen since 2008, when the country was emerging from a period of brutal sectarian killings, and has raised fears it is slipping back into all-out conflict.

The attack on the city council headquarters in Tikrit began when militants detonated a car bomb near the building and then occupied it, with employees still inside.

Iraqi security forces surrounded the building, and then carried out an assault that Counter-Terrorism Service spokesman Sabah Noori said freed 40 people who were held inside.

"We freed all the hostages" and killed one suicide bomber, while two others blew themselves up, Noori said.

A police major and a doctor meanwhile said that a city council member and two police were killed, though it was unclear whether they died during the initial attack or the later assault by security forces.

Following the initial attack by the militants, security forces had ordered all government employees in the city, including teachers, to go home for the day.

The assault came after suicide bombers struck a police station in the town of Baiji, also in Salaheddin province.

One bomber detonated a car bomb at the gate of the station, after which three entered, shot dead an officer and a policeman, and waited for security forces to arrive.

SWAT forces then attacked, killing one of the militants, while the other two blew themselves up, killing three police.

Gunmen also killed three soldiers guarding an oil pipeline near Tikrit, while two oil protection police were killed and three wounded by a bomb south of the northern city of Kirkuk.

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