Senior Iraqi army officer killed in Haditha attack

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A senior Iraqi army officer and seven others were killed overnight when Islamic State militants attacked a military headquarters near the town of Haditha, security officials said on Tuesday.

Haditha and its nearby dam, which the command is charged with protecting, are in one of the few parts of the Sunni Muslim province of Anbar still controlled by Iraq’s Shi’ite-led government forces and local police backed by tribal fighters. The area is about 190 km (120 miles) northwest of Baghdad.

Brigadier Ali Abboud, the command’s chief of staff, was killed when four suicide bombers attacked an entrance to the base and clashed with soldiers, said Major General Ali Daboun, the commander of Jazeera and Badiya operations in charge of the western desert bordering Syria, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

“Four terrorists attacked the entrance to the command headquarters and our soldiers managed to kill them. Regrettably Brigadier Ali Abboud was martyred in the attacks,” Daboun said by phone.

A news flash on state television confirmed Abboud’s death.

Seven other police and army personnel were killed, including a second army officer, two police sources said.

Initial investigations showed the militants managed to reach the base by dressing in army uniforms, security officials said.

Islamic State said in an online statement that two of its fighters had infiltrated a police headquarters near Haditha dam and attacked soldiers stationed there with light weapons and hand grenades before detonating their explosive vests.

The statement named Abboud and several other security officers it said were also killed.

The last major attack on Haditha in January by about 200 Islamic State militants was repelled with the help of U.S.-led coalition air strikes. A coalition spokesman said at the time that offensive was in response to the group’s losses in the provincial capital of Ramadi, which Iraqi forces recaptured in December.

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a string of attacks in recent days in and around Baghdad and in the eastern province of Diyala which have killed more than 100 people.

Reporting by Saif Hameed; Additional reporting by Ali Abdelaty in Cairo; Writing by Ahmed Rasheed and Stephen Kalin; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Gareth Jones