Raids kill 16 in Iraq`s restive western province

Insurgents launched two days of bloody assaults on security force posts in Iraq`s restive Anbar province, killing at least 16.

Updated: Jul 11, 2013, 20:48 PM IST

Baghdad: Insurgents launched two days of bloody assaults on security force posts in Iraq`s restive Anbar province, killing at least 16 at the start of the holy month of Ramadan, authorities said on Thursday.

The killings are the latest in a wave of bloodshed that has left more than 2,600 people since the start of April. The months-long eruption of violence Iraq`s worst in half a decade is raising fears the country is again returning to the brink of a civil war pitting its Sunni and Shi`ite Muslim sects against one another.

The deadliest attack happened at sundown yesterday as Iraqis were marking the end of the first day of Ramadan fasting.

Gunmen launched their assault on the Army checkpoint near the town of Barwana, which lies across the Euphrates River from the town of Haditha, about 220 kilometres (140 miles) northwest of Baghdad.

Barwana`s Mayor, Meyasser Abdul-Mohsin, said three soldiers were killed and four were wounded in that attack.

The attackers then made their way to a trailer not far away that is used by special oil industry police assigned to protect a nearby pipeline. The men inside were sitting down to have the iftar meal that breaks the daytime Ramadan fast at sunset, Abdul-Mohsin said.

The gunmen shot up the trailer and then set it on fire before making their getaway, the mayor said. Eleven police were left dead, with some of their bodies badly burned and making them difficult to identify, he said.

"This is a crime carried out by terrorists during iftar on the first day of Ramadan," Abdul-Mohsin said. "It just proves what a cowardly act it is."

A security official in nearby Haditha gave a similar account and confirmed the death toll. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to release the information.

Exxon Mobil Corp, BP PLC and other international oil companies have flocked to Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion to capitalise on Iraq`s vast oil wealth. The country is now the second-largest producer in OPEC, after Saudi Arabia. Oil revenues account for 95 percent of the country`s budget.

Insurgents launched more attacks today.

A police station in the Anbar provincial capital Ramadi came under attack by militants in the morning in an assault that left two policemen dead, provincial council member councilman Talib Hamadi and Deputy Provincial Governor Dhari Arkan said. Ramadi is 115 kilometres (70 miles) west of Baghdad.