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Gunmen assault town in Iraq

| Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, 9:21 p.m.

BAGHDAD — Gunmen on Tuesday tried to take over a small Sunni town in Iraq's west, sparking battles that left 11 people — including six attackers — dead, a town official said.

The assault on Ana, about 200 miles northwest of Baghdad on the road to the Syrian border, comes amid a surge in attacks by Sunni militants building on rising sectarian tensions. The province, Anbar, has been an epicenter of protests by Sunnis against what they consider to be second-class treatment by the Shiite-led government.

Waqas Adnan, the mayor of Ana, said the assault on the town started at dawn when a car bomb exploded near the town's police station. The mayor said about 30 gunmen attacked and seized his house.

He added that his brother, as well as four policemen and six attackers died in the two hours of fighting that ensued.

Adnan, who was unharmed, said bombs were planted in his house by the insurgents, but they did not explode. Army reinforcements were sent to the town as a result of the clashes.

“The insurgents were trying to seize the city even for a few hours in order to show that al-Qaida is still powerful in our area,” Adnan said.

The violence came after a series of deadly attacks, mainly on Shiite and Sunni funerals, that left more than 130 people dead in the past three days.

Security forces and government officials are favorite targets for Sunni insurgents, as are Sunni anti-al-Qaida militias and others opposed to the hard-line group. More than 4,000 people have been killed over the past five months alone, according to U.N. figures.

In other violence, police said a car bomb exploded near a supermarket in Baghdad's neighborhood of Ghazaliyah, killing two people and wounding nine others.

A medic in a nearby hospital confirmed the casualty figure for the Baghdad attack. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media.

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