Two suicide bombers on Wednesday killed four policemen in a police station in Iraq’s northern city of Mosul, including an officer who oversaw a deadly raid on militants, security officials said.
A third bomber was shot dead before setting off his explosives belt in the attack targeting Lieutenant Colonel Shamil Ahmed Oglah, who commanded the operation last week against an Al-Qaeda affiliate, a police officer said.
The early morning bombings killed Oglah and three other policemen, an interior ministry source said, and destroyed most of the police station in the Qabr al-Binat area of western Mosul, according to the officer.
He said Oglah had commanded an operation in western Mosul in which a Syrian leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, Al-Qaeda’s Iraqi affiliate, was killed, and pinned the blame for the police station bombings on Al-Qaeda.
“The attack was carried out by Al-Qaeda members because the lieutenant colonel coordinated an operation against Al-Qaeda in the last week,” he said.
Suicide bombers had made four previous attempts to kill Oglah, he said.
The latest attack came two days after twin bombings in the western city of Ramadi killed nine people, including four policemen, and wounded 49, among them five women and four children.
In other large-scale attacks on police, six policemen and eight other people were killed in December 12 suicide attacks targeting a police checkpoint and a Shiite Muslim procession in western and central Iraq.
And on August 25, at least 19 policemen were killed in apparently coordinated car bombings across Iraq, including 15 who died at a passport office in Kut, southeast of Baghdad.
A total of at least 53 people were killed and some 250 wounded in the August attacks, which were blamed on Al-Qaeda and remnants of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party.
Mosul, 350 kilometres (220 miles) north of Baghdad, and the surrounding Nineveh province are among the most violent areas of Iraq.
The province is split between Sunni Arab and Kurdish communities bitterly divided over the ambitions of Kurdish leaders to incorporate large parts of it into their autonomous region in northern Iraq.
It also has Assyrian, Shabak, Turkmen and Yazidi minorities.
Iraqi army special forces on December 20 killed three Libyans allegedly planning suicide bombings ahead of Christmas in a raid in Mosul, defence ministry spokesman Major General Mohammed al-Askari said.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who was approved by parliament for a second term in office along with a national unity cabinet on December 21, has cited security as one of his top three priorities.
But 10 ministries, including those responsible for security, which are controlled by Maliki in the interim, still have acting heads only.
While violence has dropped dramatically across Iraq since its peak in 2006 and 2007, attacks remain common, especially in the capital and Mosul.
The number of people killed in Iraq last month was the lowest in a year for the second month running, with 171 people — 105 civilians, 23 soldiers and 43 policemen — losing their lives in attacks.
In his first address after being reappointed, Maliki committed his new government to tackling the “enormous” challenges to improve security across the country.