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21 Killed, Dozens Wounded in Fallujah Attack - 2004-02-14


More than 20 people were killed and dozens were wounded Saturday in Iraq's violent Sunni triangle when insurgents conducted a daring raid on a police station to free prisoners.

The attackers fired rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons at the police station in a well-coordinated attack in the troubled town of Fallujah Saturday morning. Scores of prisoners held at the police compound were reportedly freed by the attackers.

The insurgents arrived in vehicles and on foot for the raid and quickly overwhelmed the police on duty. They stormed the building throwing hand grenades and killing many of the guards before releasing an unknown number of prisoners.

Police and hospital officials in Fallujah say most of the dead were police, but several of the attackers also died, as well as some civilians caught in the crossfire.

The deadly raid underscores security problems as the U.S.-led coalition prepares to hand over power to Iraqis at the end of June. The U.S. army has already gradually started handing over policing duties to the reconstituted Iraqi security forces.

No U.S. soldiers were seen near the scene after the battle despite being deployed in the area.

The attack came two days after the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East was ambushed in Fallujah at the same police compound. General John Abizaid's convoy was assaulted with rocket-propelled grenades from nearby rooftops Thursday, although no injuries were reported.

Attacks on Iraqi security forces have surged recently. Two car bombings this week, one outside a police station and another at an army recruitment center, killed more than 100.

Fallujah has been one of the most troublesome and violent towns in Iraq for U.S. soldiers. Considered a hotbed of anti-American activity, Fallujah is an area where Saddam Hussein apparently still draws a lot of support, and violent attacks have become very common.