March 16, 2012 / 9:57 AM / 8 years ago

Islamists claim Iraq attack that killed at least 27

DUBAI (Reuters) - An Iraqi Islamist group linked to al Qaeda claimed responsibility for attacks in western Iraq on March 5 that killed dozens of policemen, a statement posted on Islamist websites said late on Thursday.

Gunmen disguised as police raided checkpoints and homes in and around the western Iraqi city of Haditha, killing at least 27 members of the security forces.

Anbar was once the country’s most violent province and the attacks raise concern that Iraq’s branch of al Qaeda may be regaining a foothold there after the withdrawal of U.S. troops last December.

“On the night (of the attack), ninety fighters who pledged to die set out, many of them wearing explosive belts, to the city of Haditha in four groups,” the statement claiming to be from Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) said.

It went on to detail how the fighters killed seven police officers in an attack on one checkpoint outside Haditha, 190 km (120 miles) northwest of Baghdad, before killing 12 more at two other checkpoints either side of a bridge leading to the city.

“We then entered the city center and clashed with police patrols ... the city then fell under the total control of the fighters,” the statement said.

Anbar was almost entirely under control of al Qaeda during the height of Iraq’s insurgency from 2005-07, when the militants were defeated by local tribesmen and U.S. forces.

(Reporting By Nour Merza; Editing by Ben Harding)

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