Gunmen storm Iraq university: Dozens of students taken hostage in Ramadi

Students at Anbar University are trapped in rooms after attackers killed three guards and stormed the building

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The Independent Online

Gunman have stormed a university in Iraq and taken dozens of students hostage inside a dormitory, officials have said.

The attackers charged into Anbar University, near the provincial capital Ramadi, parts of which have been held by Islamic extremists and other anti-government militants for months.

Police and army officials said they broke in by killing three guards and blowing up a bridge that led towards the main gate. Security forces have since cordoned off the campus after the assault, which is the third major operation by militants within the last three days.

Ahmed al-Mehamdi, a student who was taken hostage, told the Associated Press he awoke to the crackle of gunfire, looked out the window and saw armed men dressed in black racing across the campus. Minutes later, the gunmen entered the dormitory and ordered everybody to stay in their rooms. 

"The gunmen took some students to other university buildings. For the rest of us, we are still trapped in our rooms and everybody is in panic, especially the Shiite students," al-Mehamdi said in a phone interview from inside the dormitory.

An al-Qa'ida splinter group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other Sunni-led militants have controlled parts of Anbar province, including the city of Fallujah and parts of Ramadi, since late December.

Iraq is currently grappling with its worst surge in violence since the sectarian bloodletting of 2006 and 2007, when the country was pushed to the brink of civil war despite the presence of tens of thousands of US troops.

Additional reporting by agencies