Al Qaeda-linked Sunni Muslim militants have intensified attacks on
the security forces, civilians and anyone seen as supporting the
Shi'ite-led government in Baghdad, tipping Iraq back into its
deadliest levels of violence in five years.
In Baiji, 180 km (112 miles) north of Baghdad, four men wearing
explosive belts took over a police station after detonating a car
bomb parked outside, police sources said.
Two blew themselves up inside the station, killing five policemen.
The other two did the same about an hour later as Iraqi special
forces counter-attacked, the sources said.
"We believe the attack was aimed at freeing detainees who are being
held in the building next door," said Major Salih al-Qaisi, a police
officer at the scene.
"All the militants were killed before they reached the police
department building where the detainees are held."
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but
suicide bombings are the trademark of al Qaeda's Iraqi wing, which
merged this year with its Syrian counterpart to form the Islamic
State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Two hours later, three suicide bombers seized the local council
building in Tikrit, 150 km (95 miles) north of the capital, after
setting off two car bombs outside, security sources said. At least
three people were killed.
Security forces surrounded the building, where the militants were
thought to be holding hostages, and imposed a curfew on the city,
the sources said.
The Interior Ministry put the toll for the attacks in Baiji and
Tikrit at 11 dead, including the suicide bombers, and three wounded.
WAVE OF BOMBINGS
A spate of car bombs and roadside bombs in mainly Shi'ite
neighborhoods of Baghdad also killed at least 27 people and wounded
scores, police and medical sources said.
In Mosul, 390 km (240
miles) north of Baghdad, militants in a car intercepted a bus
carrying Shi'ite pilgrims to the shrine city of Karbala from the
northern Shi'ite town of Tal Afar, and shot 12 of them dead, police
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Security services have been on high alert since last week because
they expect more attacks on Shi'ites before Iraq's majority
community marks the ritual of Arbaeen, commemorating the death of
Imam Hussein, grandson of Prophet Mohammad.
Shi'ites are considered apostates by Sunni militants, whose
resurgence is blamed by the government partly on the impact of the
increasingly sectarian war in neighboring Syria.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's critics say his policies have also
fuelled Sunni discontent, giving al Qaeda an opportunity to rebuild
after its setbacks at the hands of Sunni tribal militias backed by
U.S. troops before they left in 2011.
This year has been Iraq's most violent since 2006-7, when tens of
thousands died in strife between Sunnis and Shi'ites.
Hundreds of Iraqis were killed last month, figures from the United
Nations and the Iraqi government showed.
ISIL has targeted government buildings and security headquarters
since the start of the year with apparently coordinated attacks
involving suicide bombers on foot, car bombs, rockets and gunfire
several times a month.
Earlier this month, gunmen and suicide bombers attacked a police
intelligence headquarters and a nearby shopping mall in the northern
city of Kirkuk, killing 11 people and wounding 70. ISIL claimed
responsibility for that assault.
(Reporting by Kareem Raheem in Baghdad, Ghazwan Hassan in Tikrit;
writing by Suadad al-Salhy; editing by Alexander Dziadosz and
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