Iraq hit by wave of deadly attacks

En Iraqi Christian lights candles at the Chaldean Church of Virgin Mary in Baghdad. Tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians fled Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003 (AP)

23 December 2013
A new wave of attacks across Iraq including an assault on a TV station has killed at least 26 people as the government pressed on with its offensive to hunt down al Qaida-linked militants in the country’s volatile western desert.
Five attackers stormed the offices of the channel owned by the provincial government of Salaheddin in the city of Tikrit north of Baghdad, one blowing up a suicide car bomb at the gate and two more setting off explosive suicide belts inside, police said. Two more were killed by security forces.

Six channel staff died in addition to the attackers, and six others were wounded.

Also today, militants fired mortar rounds into a military base near Baghdad’s western suburb of Abu Ghraib, killing three officers and three soldiers. Seven soldiers were wounded.

Hours later, a bomb went off next to a passing military patrol in the same area, killing two, an officer and a solider, he added. Two other soldiers were wounded.

In Baghdad’s southern district of Dora, gunmen broke into a pet shop and killed four men.

Three civilians were killed and nine were wounded when a bomb ripped through an outdoor market in the Iraqi capital’s northwestern Tobchi district. And on a highway in eastern Baghdad, drive-by shooters opened fire at a bus, killing two commuters and wounding nine.

Separately, gunmen attacked a bus in the town of Baqouba, a former al Qaida stronghold about 60 kilometres (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad, killing three commuters and wounding six there.

Speaking at a press conference in the southern city of Karbala, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said that the operation in Anbar “will continue until it is purged of terrorists, with the help of the Iraqi people.”

Video released by the military showed an airstrike hitting what appeared to be a camp, the capture of militant banners and the arrest of one individual.

A government statement said security forces backed by helicopters have been combing the desert near the borders with Syria and Jordan. Syria’s civil war and chaos have encouraged widespread cross-border movement of al Qaida fighters between the two countries.