Twenty-five Iraqi police die in gun massacre

Twenty-five police officers were killed when a gang of gunmen wearing military-style uniforms carried out a carefully-planned early-morning shooting spree in western Iraq, officials said today.

The killings began with the gang kidnapping two police commanders from their homes in the western Iraqi city of Haditha at around 2am.

It ended with the gang raising the flag of al Qaida at a police checkpoint in the latest bloody strike against Iraq’s security forces.

Officials in Haditha, 140 miles (220km) north-west of Baghdad, described a systematic plot to kill city police, with attackers disguising themselves in military uniforms and driving cars painted to look like Iraqi interior ministry vehicles.

Both of the commanders were taken from their homes by gunmen claiming they had warrants for their arrests, said Mohammed Fathi, spokesman for the governor of Iraq’s western Anbar province where Haditha is located.

The pair – a captain and a colonel who served as the city’s Swat team – were taken less than a quarter of a mile (400m) away and shot, Haditha police said.

Mr Fathi said the gang had false arrest warrants for 15 police officials in Haditha. As their convoy moved through the city – stretching what one Haditha police lieutenant described as 13 vehicles long – they were stopped at two police checkpoints.

Fierce gunfights ensued at each checkpoint, and the gang raised the black flag of al Qaida at the second one, the lieutenant said.

Haditha is a former Sunni insurgent stronghold of about 85,000 people along the Euphrates River valley.

The entire raid lasted about half an hour, officials said. Mr Fathi said 25 policemen were killed and three others injured.

Police at the scene said three of the gunmen were killed but the rest escaped.

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