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Officials: Gang of gunmen kills 25 police in early morning shooting spree in western Iraq
BAGHDAD (AP) ' A gang of gunmen wearing military-style uniforms killed 25 police Monday in a carefully planned early morning shooting spree in western Iraq, officials said.
The killings began with the gang kidnapping two police commanders from their homes in the western Iraqi city of Haditha around 2 a.m. It ended with the gang raising the flag of al-Qaida at a police checkpoint in the latest bloody strike against Iraq's security forces.
Officials in Haditha, 140 miles (220 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, described a systematic plot to kill city police, with attackers disguising themselves in military uniforms and driving cars painted to look like Iraqi interior ministry vehicles.
Both of the two commanders were rousted from their homes by gunmen claiming they had warrants for their arrests, said Mohammed Fathi, spokesman for the governor of Iraq's western Anbar province where Haditha is located.
The commanders ' a captain and a colonel who served as the city's SWAT team ' were taken less than a quarter-mile (400 meters) away and shot, Haditha police said.
Fathi said the gang had false arrest warrants for 15 police officials in Haditha. As their convoy moved through the city ' stretching what one Haditha police lieutenant described as 13 vehicles long ' they were stopped at two police checkpoints.
Fierce gunfights ensued at each checkpoint, and the gang raised the black flag of al-Qaida at the second one, the lieutenant said. Haditha is a former Sunni insurgent stronghold of about 85,000 people along the Euphrates River valley.
The entire raid lasted about a half-hour, officials said. Fathi said 25 policemen were killed and three wounded.
Police at the scene said three of the gunmen were killed but the rest escaped.
Associated Press Writers Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Lara Jakes in Baghdad contributed to this report.