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100 Gunmen Attack Iraqi Jail, Kill At Least 20

Hope for civil war spring eternal at the DNC's Associated Press:

Iraqi police officers look at their damaged car at a police station, in Muqdadiyah, about 90 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, March 21, 2006. Insurgents stormed a jail at dawn Tuesday in the Sunni Muslim heartland north of Baghdad, killing at least 15 policemen and a courthouse guard.

Gunmen Kill 20 in Breakout at Iraqi Jail

By SINAN SALAHEDDIN, Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq – About 100 masked gunmen stormed a prison near the Iranian border Tuesday, cutting phone wires, freeing all the inmates and leaving behind a scene of devastation and carnage — 20 dead policemen, burned-out cars and a smoldering jailhouse.

At least 10 attackers were killed in the dawn assault on the Muqdadiyah lockup on the eastern fringe of the Sunni Triangle, police said. The raid showed the mostly Sunni militants can still assemble a large force, capable of operating in the region virtually at will — even though U.S. and Iraqi military officials said last year that the area was no longer an insurgent stronghold.

The insurgency's strength, spiraling sectarian violence and the stalemate over forming a government in
Iraq have led politicians and foreign policy experts to say Iraq is on the brink or perhaps in the midst of civil war.

In all, 33 prisoners were freed, including 18 insurgents who were detained Sunday during raids by security forces in the nearby villages of Sansal and Arab, police said. It was the capture of those insurgents that apparently prompted Tuesday's attack. The 15 other inmates were a mix of suspected insurgents and common criminals.

In an Internet posting Tuesday night, the military wing of the Mujaheddin Shura Council, a militant Sunni Muslim insurgent group, purportedly claimed it carried out the operation. The posting said the group killed "40 policemen, liberated 33 prisoners and captured weapons."

The claim was posted on the Iraqi News Web site. Neither the higher casualty toll among policemen nor the captured weapons could not be independently verified.

The cutting of the telephone lines made it impossible for jailers or security men, who apparently did not have cell phones, to call other police for backup. Residents of the town informed authorities of the situation after hearing the firing.

With the wires cut, the insurgents had 90 minutes to battle their way into the law enforcement compound before police reinforcements showed up from the nearby villages of Wajihiyah and Abu Saida, police said. Muqdadiyah is about 25 miles from the Iranian frontier and 60 miles northeast of Baghdad.

By the time the insurgents fled, taking away the bodies of many of their dead compatriots, nearly two dozen cars were shot up and set on fire and the jail was a charred mass of twisted bunk bed frames and smoldering mattresses.

Afterward, U.S. helicopters hovered in the air above the jail. Police said residents fired into the air, but it was not clear if the American aircraft were the target. None was hit.

It was not the first time militants have targeted a jail.

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, March 21st, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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