Iraqi forces battle armed hostage-takers

Oct 3, 2011, 2:52 a.m.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi security forces fought their way back into a local government compound on Monday after it was attacked by suicide bombers and gunmen who took about 15 people hostage in a police station there, authorities said.

At least two policemen were killed and three wounded in the initial attack by suicide bombers on the complex in the town of Baghdadi in Anbar province, about 190 km (120 miles) west of the capital Baghdad.

"Security forces now control part of municipal council building, and there is fighting going on between security forces and the attackers," Hikmet Khalaf, deputy governor of Anbar, told Reuters by telephone. "Some staff from the municipal council and the police are still hostage."

Anbar, a vast mostly Sunni Muslim province in western Iraq, is the former stronghold of Iraq's al-Qaeda affiliates.

Suicide bombers killed four people last month in an attack on another government complex in Ramadi, also in Anbar.

Violence in Iraq has fallen sharply since the height of sectarian strife in 2006-2007, but Sunni Islamist insurgents and radical Shi'ite militias still carry out daily attacks, even as U.S. troops prepare to withdraw at the end of the year.

(Reporting by Muhanad Mohammed; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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