More than a dozen gunmen staged a brazen dawn raid on a hospital in the volatile northern oil city of Kirkuk, killing several police officers and freeing an injured insurgent being held there.
The attack on Jumhuriya Hospital in downtown Kirkuk, about 150 miles north of Baghdad, began about 5 a.m. with gunmen arriving in three vehicles, said Salem Jalal, head of hospital security.
“The hospital came under strong attack from 20 armed men. They were wearing police uniforms and holding police badges. The operation was well planned,” Jalal said.
Several of the gunmen infiltrated the hospital and killed the police officers guarding Youssef Ali, who was recovering from injuries suffered about a week ago while planting a roadside bomb, police said.
Ali’s father, Mohammed Ali, was one of several men arrested in Kirkuk in late November for allegedly plotting to kill one of the judges involved in the trial of former President Saddam Hussein and seven co-defendants, police said.
Both father and son are members of a Baathist militant group, the 1920 Revolution Brigade, Kirkuk police said.
The attackers apparently split into several groups, with one group infiltrating the hospital and catching by surprise the officers guarding Youssef Ali’s room.
“It was like an American movie,” a doctor said, asking out of fear for his safety that his name not be published. “Armed men wearing police uniforms killed two of the guards ... with shots in the back of the head while they were sleeping.”
The gunmen exchanged fire with police as they took Ali from the hospital, with the insurgents apparently overwhelming the officers. A third officer was killed and seven wounded in the fight before the insurgents escaped with their comrade.
“They used heavy machine-gun fire,” said Jalal, the security director. “They broke the handcuffs of the terrorist. We found them later on the ground.”
In Baghdad, a bomb tore through a combination billiard hall and Internet cafe in the southern neighborhood of Zafaraniya late Tuesday night. The blast killed three people and injured 20, police said.
Three of the injured were police officers who were using the billiard hall’s restroom, but it was unclear whether they were the target of the attack.
Times staff writer Khalil reported from Sulaymaniya and special correspondent Windawi from Kirkuk.