Al-Qaida claims attack on Iraq security HQ

August 13, 2012 - 3:50 PM

BAGHDAD (AP) — Al-Qaida's branch in Iraq claimed responsibility Monday for a double bombing that targeted a counterterrorism unit in Baghdad last month.

The al-Qaida statement claimed 70 people were killed in the July 31 attack on the security headquarters. Government and security officials put the death toll for all the violence that hit the capital that day at 21.

In a statement posted Monday on a militant website, the Islamic State of Iraq, al-Qaida's Iraqi branch, said a group of "believers from the Sunni people" attacked a unit that is part of the pro-Iranian forces in the country. Iran is a regional Shiite powerhouse.

The militant group also claimed responsibility for 27 shootings and other attacks on government and security officials from June 17 until July 20.

Also Monday, gunmen with silenced pistols shot dead three policemen at a checkpoint in Sadiyah neighborhood in western Baghdad, a police official said.

A medic at a nearby hospital confirmed the death toll. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to reporters.

Security forces and government offices are top targets for insurgents seeking to undermine the Shiite-led Iraqi government's authority.

Al-Qaida's local wing has for years had a hot-and-cold relationship with the global terror network's leadership.

Both shared the goal of targeting the U.S. military in Iraq and, to an extent, undermining the Shiite government that replaced Saddam Hussein's regime. But al-Qaida leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri distanced themselves from the Iraqi militants in 2007 for also killing Iraqi civilians instead of focusing on Western targets.

Generally, al-Qaida in Iraq does not launch attacks or otherwise operate beyond Iraq's borders. But in early 2012, al-Zawahri urged Iraqi insurgents to support the Sunni-based uprising in neighboring Syria against President Bashar Assad, an Alawite. The sect is a branch of Shiite Islam.