BAGHDAD: Gunmen Tuesday tried to take over a small Sunni town in Iraq’s west, sparking battles that left 11 people including six attackers dead, an official said.
The assault on Aana, some 330 kilometers northwest of Baghdad on the road to the Syrian border, comes amid a surge in attacks by Sunni militants building on rising sectarian tensions. The province, Anbar, has been an epicenter of protests by Sunnis against what they consider to be second-class treatment by the Shiite-led government.
Waqas Adnan, mayor of Aana, said that the assault on the town started at dawn when a car bomb exploded near the town’s police station. The mayor said that about 30 gunmen attacked and seized his house.
He added that his brother died in the two hours of fighting that ensued, as well as four policemen and six attackers.
Adnan, who was unharmed, said that bombs were planted in his house by the insurgents, but they did not explode. Army reinforcements were sent to the town following the clashes.
In other violence Tuesday, soldiers battled militants in the Hamreen area north of Baghdad, killing four, while two soldiers were killed and nine wounded, officers said.
A helicopter pilot was wounded by gunfire in the operation, during which two militants were arrested and weapons seized, army Staff Lieutenant General Abdul-Amir al-Zaidi said.
Two officers said a helicopter had been shot down, but Zaidi insisted it was able to return to base.
Attacks in Nineveh province in Iraq’s north also killed three people, while violence in Babil province, south of Baghdad, killed two.