53 killed in al Qaeda in Iraq suicide assault in Tikrit
Al Qaeda in Iraq shattered several weeks of relative calm in the country with a massed suicide assault on the provincial council in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit today. The attack appears to have been well planned and executed, based on the information currently available. From Reuters:
One provincial official said the gunmen threw hand grenades and opened fire at a checkpoint of the headquarters before they managed to charge in. "When security forces tried to intervene as they reached the entrance, a parked car bomb exploded. It was a powerful explosion and as a result, some of the security forces were killed," said the official.
"Two suicide bombers detonated themselves inside the provincial building, while other gunmen managed to seize members of the provincial council as hostages." The gunmen kept hostages on the second floor of the building.
The terrorists then proceeded to execute the hostages who had not been killed in the initial attack. After receiving word that the hostages were dead, Iraqi forces opened fire on the provincial headquarters, killing the remaining enemy fighters.
Today's attack took place as the Iraqi government is seeking to reconcile with several major insurgent groups, many that allied with al Qaeda in the past but broke with the terror group in 2006-2007 as al Qaeda stepped up attacks against civilians and the Iraqi security forces. The Islamic Army, the 1920 Revolution Brigades, HAMAS - Iraq (a 1920s splinter group), the Mujahideen Army, the Rashidin Army, and the Shariah Commission of Ansar al Sunnah (an Ansar al Sunnah splinter group) are all said to be in reconciliation talks with the Iraqi government.
An attack such as the one today may be intended to sabotage such talks; the Iraqi government may be less inclined to conduct peace talks with insurgents after today.