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Gunmen storm government compound

Iraqi security forces have battled gunmen who detonated a car bomb before blasting their way into a government compound and killing seven policemen.

The three-hour stand-off between Shiite-dominated security forces and suspected Sunni insurgents in the Anbar province capital of Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, marked the first serious gun battle for Iraqi forces against insurgents without American back-up since the US military completed its withdrawal last month.

On Sunday morning, five gunmen wearing military uniforms and explosive-rigged vests stormed a compound in Ramadi, two police officials said. The compound houses Ramadi police headquarters and several federal security agencies, including an anti-terrorism police task force and a detention facility where terrorism suspects are interrogated.

Before reaching the compound in central Ramadi, the gunmen set off an explosives-filled car in the eastern part of the city, in an apparent effort to draw security personnel from the heavily guarded government area, according to an Anbar government official. Comrades of the attackers were being held there on suspicion of involvement in terror attacks.

One policeman was killed and three others were injured in the blast, police and health officials said.

Dhari Arkan, the deputy governor of Anbar, commented: "There were explosions in other parts of Ramadi meant to attract the attention of police and engage them, because there was a bigger aim of the attackers, which was to occupy the main police station."

An army officer in the Ramadi operations centre said there were several suspected insurgents who were being held in the detention facility along with criminals and thieves. The makeshift prison is in the basement of the building the attackers stormed, the officer said.

Six policemen were killed in the gunfight and 13 others were wounded.

Violence has surged since American troops left including straight sectarian attacks, like a bombing on Saturday that killed more than 50 pilgrims during a Shiite procession, and attacks against the government.

The violence has raised concerns that Iraq will return to sectarian bloodshed that killed tens of thousands of civilians after the US-led invasion and brought the country to the brink of civil war just a few years ago.

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