Gun battle after attack on Iraq police station

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The Independent Online

A gun battle followed an attack on a police station and a government building in Iraq today, reportedly leaving up to 20 people dead.

The attackers, riding in vehicles, opened fire on the buildings in Fallujah with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, said police officer Essam Yaseen.

The wounded included five policemen and three civilians, he said. The two buildings are about half a mile apart.

In the gun battle that ensued, Iraqi security forces took cover under a hail of gunfire. A petrol bomb burned in the street and a rocket propelled grenade could be heard whizzing by.

Abdul Hamid al-Janabi, a security official at Fallujah hospital, said at least 18 police and civilians were killed, along with two attackers.

Of the 30 wounded, most were policemen, though two women and a child were among the injured, al-Janabi said. Two wounded attackers taken to the hospital were arrested, he said.

"Ambulances are still bringing more people," al-Janabi said.

The attack came two days after insurgents carried out a bold attack against an Iraqi security forces base in Fallujah just as the top US commander in the Middle East, General John Abizaid, was visiting. Abizaid was unharmed.

In that attack, the gunmen opened fire with RPGs and automatic weapons from rooftops after Abizaid's convoy pulled into the walled compound. Abizaid escaped unharmed, and there were no US injuries. Iraqi police reported that two Iraqis were killed.

Fallujah, 36 miles west of Baghdad, lies in the so-called Sunni Triangle, the heartland of the guerrilla campaign against the US-led occupation. Supporters of the ousted regime of Saddam Hussein and foreign fighters are thought to be leading the insurgency.