BAGHDAD — Gunmen on Tuesday tried to take over a small Sunni town in Iraq’s west, sparking battles that left 11 people including six attackers dead, said an official.
The assault on Ana, some 330 kilometers (200 miles) northwest of Baghdad on the road to the Syrian border, comes amid a surge in attacks by Sunni militants building on rising sectarian tensions. The province, Anbar, has been an epicenter of protests by Sunnis against what they consider to be second-class treatment by the Shiite-led government.
Waqas Adnan, the mayor of Ana, said that the assault on the town started at dawn when a car bomb exploded near the town’s police station. The mayor said that about 30 gunmen attacked and seized his house.
He added that his brother died in the two hours of fighting that ensued, as well as four policemen and six attackers.
Adnan, who was unharmed, said that bombs were planted in his house by the insurgents, but they did not explode. Army reinforcements were sent to the town following the clashes.
“The insurgents were trying to seize the city even for few hours in order to show that al-Qaida is still powerful in our area,” Adnan told The Associated Press in a phone interview.
Today’s violence came after a series of deadly attacks, mainly on Shiite and Sunni funerals, that left more than 136 people dead in the past three days.
Security forces and government officials are favorite targets for Sunni insurgents, as are Sunni anti-al-Qaida militias and others opposed to the hard-line group. More than 4,000 people have been killed over the past five months alone, according to U.N. figures.
Associated Press writer Sameer N. Yacoub contributed.