Iraq: Gunmen kill Iraqi police, mayor in ambushes

January 11, 2012 - 12:16 PM

BAGHDAD (AP) — Gunmen in Iraq killed three police officers and a local mayor Wednesday, targeting symbols of government control in former insurgent strongholds in the country's west.

The killings in Sunni-dominated Anbar province are the latest in a string of bloody attacks that has left more than 100 Iraqis dead over the past week.

Many Iraqis fear the country risks descending into a wave sectarian violence like the one that nearly led to civil war in 2006 and 2007. Well-armed Shiite militias continue to operate in the country, as do Sunni insurgents who seek to undermine the Shiite-dominated government.

Before dawn, gunmen ambushed a police post in Qaim, a town near the Syrian border, about 200 miles (320 kilometers) west of Baghdad. Three officers were killed in a gunbattle with the attackers, police and hospital officials said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.

Around sunset, two insurgents riding a motorcycle sprayed the mayor of Hit, Said Hamdan, with bullets at the gate of a Sunni mosque after he finished praying, according to Jasim al-Halbusi, a member of the Anbar provincial council.

Al-Halbusi condemned the killing as a "brutal act" against a civil servant working on behalf of his countrymen.

There were no claims of responsibility. Attacks on police and government officials are often the work of al-Qaida's Iraq branch or other Sunni insurgents, who see their targets as too closely aligned with the Shiite-dominated government.