Al Qaeda in Iraq fighters disguised as Iraqi security personnel disarmed and executed 27 Iraqi policemen in the towns of Haditha and Barwanah in Anbar province. The attacks were well planned and executed (the attackers were dressed in police uniforms and drove police vehicles, and even used fake warrants), and indicate a degree of infiltration in the security forces. From Reuters:
A police source, who had been ferrying victims to the hospital morgue, said gunmen dressed in uniforms of the security forces had driven from checkpoint to checkpoint slaughtering police in Haditha, a town 190 km (120 miles) northwest of Baghdad.
“The gunmen used security vehicles and from 2:00 a.m. (2300 GMT) until 3:30 a.m. they carried out attacks on checkpoints in central Haditha and the nearby town of Barwana,” the police source, who did not give his name because he was not authorized to speak to the media, told Reuters in Fallujah.
Fathi, the governor’s spokesman, said the attackers arrived at checkpoints with fake arrest warrants, confiscated the mobile phones of the police guards and executed them.
Another police source said one of the damaged vehicles left behind had fliers signed by an al Qaeda affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq, which threatened Iraqi police forces with death if they did not abandon their jobs.
The 27 dead included a lieutenant colonel and a captain who were dragged out of their homes in Haditha and killed, the police source said. A curfew was imposed on the town and its exits were sealed off.
The targeting of policemen in Haditha and Barwanah, two Sunni-dominated towns (Haditha once served as a headquarters for Abu Musab al Zarqawi), by fighters disguised as policemen is a clever move by al Qaeda in Iraq that was likely designed to stir up Sunni-Shia tensions. Iraq’s National Police force is widely considered a Shia-dominated institution. Al Qaeda in Iraq’s spokesman recently indicated that the terror group is seeking to revive sectarian tensions (note: this has been obvious for some time, given AQI’s selection of targets for attacks).
Al Qaeda has now executed seven mass-casualty attacks since the turn of the year, when the US military fully withdrew its forces from the country [see Threat Matrix report, Wave of bombings across Iraq kills 60]. In the last such attack, which took place on Feb. 23, more than 60 Iraqis were killed in coordinated attacks nationwide.