Iraq: Gunmen kill 58 after storming council HQ

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The Independent Online

Iraq's Prime Minister has vowed to punish those behind an attack on a provincial council headquarters in Saddam Hussein's hometown which left 58 people dead as gunmen stormed in and took hostages.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki did not say who was behind the attack, but officials pointed the finger at al-Qa'ida. "All initial indications show that it is al-Qa'ida, but maybe there are also other elements co-operating with them," said Ali al-Moussawi, an adviser to Mr Maliki, adding that Iraqi security forces may have been infiltrated by militants.

Tuesday's attack in Tikrit, a former stronghold of al-Qa'ida, was the deadliest in Iraq this year. "Once again the terrorist murderers commit an atrocious crime by targeting innocent civilians in Salahuddin province," Mr Maliki said. "The criminals who planned and carried out this crime will not escape punishment and the investigation committee must submit its findings as soon as possible."

The attackers set off car bombs, explosive belts and hand grenades as they stormed the building and seized hostages. Those who did not die as a result of explosions were murdered, execution-style, by the gunmen.

The death toll stands at 58 with 98 people wounded, said Jasim al-Dulaimi, head of the health operations centre in the northern province of Salahuddin. Sabah al-Bazee, an Iraqi journalist who worked for Reuters, was among those killed.

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