Four killed in Iraq violence, gunmen seize town

Baghdad, Feb 13: Gunmen seized a Sunni town in Iraq’s Salahudin province after clashes with security forces Thursday while bomb attacks in Baghdad and eastern Iraq killed four people and wounded 21 others.

Militant groups took control of the town of Sulaiman Beg, some 90 km east of Salahudin’s provincial capital city Tikrit in the early hours Thursday, Talib Hameed Mustafa, mayor of the town, told Xinhua by phone.

The security forces could not stand long in front of a large number of gunmen who spread out on the streets of the town, Mustafa said, adding that in the morning the gunmen took control of several suburbs and villages around the town.

Reinforcements from other cities started to move towards the town while many families began to leave for fear of fighting, Mustafa added.

Salahudin province is Sunni-dominated and its capital, Tikrit, some 170 km north of Baghdad, is the hometown of former president Saddam Hussein.

In downtown Baghdad, two roadside bombs detonated in and near al-Qadsiyah building in the major commercial area of Shorja, leaving a civilian dead and nine others wounded, a police source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

In Iraq’s eastern province of Diyala, three people were killed and 12 wounded when two roadside bombs detonated in quick succession near provincial capital Baquba, some 65 km northeast of Baghdad, a provincial police source told Xinhua.

Iraq is witnessing its worst violence in recent years. According to the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, a total of 8,868 Iraqis, including 7,818 civilians and civilian police personnel, were killed in 2013, the highest annual death toll in years.