March 4, 2014 - 17:44 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Gunmen in military uniform broke into the city council and court house complex in Samarra in northern Iraq on Tuesday, March 4, trapping a number of staff inside, police and witnesses said, according to Reuters.
At least three policemen were killed, while 25 policemen and eight civilians were wounded, including the deputy head of the city council, Ammar Ahmed, the Samarra hospital's Doctor Omar al-Obeidi said.
The gunmen stormed the area after a suicide bomber detonated his vest at the entrance of the compound, which is sealed off with blast walls, Police Lieutenant Dhafir Ahmed said.
Two of the dead policemen had been racing to help when a parked car bomb blew up their vehicle about 200 meters from the site. Gunmen had taken the city council's second floor and its roof, according to Reuters.
"The gunmen are in the council building. Local council employees and court employees are trapped inside," Ahmed said. "We are waiting for Iraqi army helicopters to give us cover so we can raid the building."
Samarra has long been troubled by unrest. Sunni militant groups have regularly attacked local Sunni government officials along with the Iraqi army and police.
In late December, gunmen seized the state television channel in Tikrit, the capital of Salahuddin province. The fighters employed similar tactics to those used in Samarra on Tuesday.
Sunni Islamist insurgents have been regaining ground in Iraq over the past year and in recent weeks overran several towns.
Last year was Iraq's bloodiest since sectarian violence began to abate in 2008, with more than 8,000 civilians killed. More than 700 people died in violence in Iraq in February, the United Nations said last week.