BAGHDAD (AP) — Militants ambushed a truck convoy with Iraqi Shiites in a remote area in the country's north and killed 14 drivers, police said Thursday, the latest in a series of brazen attacks aiming to further destabilize the nation.
The attackers first fired mortar rounds at a nearby military base and bombed a communication tower to draw security forces' attention away before intercepting the convoy late Wednesday night near Sarha village, said Col. Hussein Ali Rasheed. The village is located just outside the northern city of Tuz Khormato, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Baghdad.
According to Rasheed, the city's police chief, all the casualties were Shiite truck drivers from Baghdad and their assistants. Their bodies were found with gunshots to the head, he said.
Further north, in the city of Kirkuk, a parked car bomb targeted a passing police patrol on Thursday morning, critically wounding six policemen, police Col. Salah Abdul-Qadir said. Kirkuk is 290 kilometers (180 miles) north of Baghdad.
Across Iraq, insurgents have in the recent months escalated attacks on civilians and government forces. The violence has reached levels not seen since 2008, fueling worries of a return to the widespread sectarian killing that pushed the country to the brink of civil war after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. More than 3,000 people have been killed since April.
Insurgent attacks have also become more audacious, such as Sunday's raids against two major high-security prisons near Baghdad that killed dozens and set free hundreds of inmates, including al-Qaida-linked militants.
On Tuesday, al-Qaida's Iraq branch claimed responsibility for the prison attacks. The following day, the international police agency Interpol issued a security alert to warn counties in the region about the fugitives, saying the breakouts from the Iraqi prisons pose "a major threat to global security."
Many of the escaped prisoners were senior members of al-Qaida in Iraq, including some who were facing the death penalty, according to Interpol.
Associated Press writer Adam Schreck contributed to this report in Baghdad.