Allawi declares martial law as 21 policemen shot dead

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The Iraqi government declared a 60-day state of emergency throughout most of the country yesterday.

The Iraqi government declared a 60-day state of emergency throughout most of the country yesterday.

Violence by insurgents in retaliation to the impending US assault on Fallujah continued with widespread bombings and assassinations.

Iraq's interim Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, who called a meeting with his defence minister, interior minister and provincial police commanders yesterday, said the state of emergency was a "very powerful message that we are serious" about reining in insurgents before elections scheduled for late January. "We want to secure the country so elections can be done in a peaceful way and the Iraqi people can participate in the elections freely, without the intimidation by terrorists and by forces who are trying to wreck the political process," he said.

Insurgents waged a second day of multiple attacks across the Sunni Triangle north and west of Baghdad, storming police stations, assassinating government officials and setting off car bombs. About 60 people have been killed and 75 injured in the two days of attacks.

At dawn yesterday, rebels stormed three police stations in the towns of Haditha and Haqlaniyah, 220 kilometres (137 miles) north-west of Baghdad.

At Haditha, militants attacked the police station with rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. After a 90-minute firefight, in which six policemen were injured, the building was taken over and 21 officers were led away at gunpoint and shot dead in the street outside.

The assaults followed suicide bombings and attacks on a police station in Samarra which killed 37 people, most of them members of Iraqi security forces, on Saturday, in a continuing pattern of targeting of Iraqi security forces.

In an attack on a police station in Haqlaniyah, gunmen killed Brigadier Shaher al-Jughaifi, the Iraqi interim government's head of security for western Iraq.

Jassim Mohammed, a governor's aide for refugee affairs, was killed along with Diyala provincial council members, Shihab Ahmed and Dureid Mohammed, as they headed to the city of Karbala for the burial of the mayor of Hebheb, who was killed by gunmen last week.

Government officials are frequent targets of insurgents, who accuse them of collaborating with the US occupation. The attacks mark the third time in the past two weeks that Diyala province officials have been killed.

Assassins gunned down a Diyala governor's aide and two provincial council members south of Baghdad as they were on their way to a funeral in Karbala for a fourth colleague assassinated earlier this week.

Three attacks on US convoys in and around Baghdad killed two American soldiers and wounded five others yesterday.

A car bomb exploded near the home in Baghdad of Iraq's interim Finance Minister, Adil Abdel-Mahdi, a leading Shia politician, killing a bystander and wounding another.

In unverified web postings, the group headed by the Jordanian militant, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claimed responsibility for the attacks in Samarra and Baghdad.

Under the emergency law, a 24-hour curfew was imposed on Fallujah and surrounding areas, banning men between 15-55 years of age from the streets, as well as all traffic. All members of the Fallujah police and security services were suspended indefinitely. All roads into Fallujah and neighbouring Ramadi have been closed indefinitely.