6 policemen killed as insurgents seize part of Iraq's Samarra

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At least six policemen were killed and some 45 people were wounded when dozens of extremist Sunni insurgents took control of six districts in the city of Samarra in Salahudin province on Thursday, a provincial police source said.

In the early morning hours, groups of gunmen believed to be linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL), an al-Qaida breakaway group in Iraq, stormed Samarra, some 120 km north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, and seized six of the city's southern and eastern neighborhoods after fierce clashes with security forces, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

The insurgents entered the city on their vehicles, some with heavy machine-guns and several shovels. They attacked the security checkpoints and police stations, and built their own defenses as they took control of the neighborhoods, the source said.

The gunmen raised their black flag belonging to the ISIL on several government buildings and the main Sunni mosque in the city, which located just 1,500 meters away from the Shiite shrine of Imam Ali al-Hadi in central the city. The shrine contains the tombs of Ali al-Hadi, who died in 868 A.D. and his son Hassan al- Askari who died in 874 A.D.

The two are the 10th and 11th of the Shiite's 12 most revered Imams. Shiite pilgrims visited the shrine from all over the world.

Iraqi security forces surrounded the Shiite shrine as well as the security headquarters of Samarra's Operations Command to prevent the insurgent from reaching reach such sensitive targets and are waiting for reinforcement troops to prepare for a counter- attack, the source said.

Fierce battles are still underway in several parts of the city and the troops killed many militants, the source said, adding that there is no immediate reports about the exact numbers of casualties in the battlefields.

On Feb. 22, 2006, Samarra's shrine, which was also called the Golden Mosque, was hit by a bomb attack in which its 100-year-old Golden Dome was badly damaged.

In 2007, insurgents again bombed the two minarets of the shrine. The attacks sparked reprisal killings between Shiite and Sunni communities that claimed lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Endi

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