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General among 18 soldiers killed in Iraq

22 December, 2013

RAMADI, Iraq: Five senior Iraqi officers, including a divisional commander, and 18 soldiers were killed on Saturday in a raid on an al-Qaeda hideout in the west of the country, military officers said.

Violence elsewhere killed five policemen, including the police chief of Al-Sharqat district northwest of Baghdad, and wounded five others, police and a doctor said.

Mohammed al-Karoui, the commander of the army's 7th Division, was leading an operation to attack "hideouts of militants belonging to the al-Qaeda organisation" in Sunni-majority Anbar province, which borders Syria.

He was killed along with four other senior army officers and 10 soldiers when they attacked a camp near Rutba, 380-km west of Baghdad, the military officers said.

Soldiers were attacked by suicide bombers during the assault on the camp and hit by bombs that exploded when they entered buildings, the sources said, without specifying at what point the officers died.

The defence ministry said the operation was launched after reports that al-Qaeda militants had set up camps in the area to train militants in bomb-making. Intelligence indicated that "the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation opened camps to train its terrorist elements to make bombs and explosive belts" as well as car bombs, and that more than 60 militants were present in the Wadi Huran region of Anbar province, the ministry said.

Reconnaissance flights pinpointed targets, which helicopters then attacked ahead of the ground assault. Karoui's unit was tracking fleeing suspects when a bomb exploded, killing the major general, the other officers and the soldiers, the ministry added.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who also heads the armed forces, offered his condolences. "These heroes... were carrying out the most noble battles against the enemies of God and humanity," said Maliki. "They are fighting battles daily" to protect Iraq and its people, he said.

End.

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