BAGHDAD – A string of attacks across Iraq killed 17 people on Saturday, including a senior military commander, a colonel and five soldiers who all died during a raid on an al-Qaida hideout, officials said.
Police officials said army Maj. Gen Mohammed al-Karawi, the colonel and the five troops were killed when they stormed the booby-trapped hideout in Rutba in Iraq’s volatile Anbar province.
Al-Karawi, who commanded the Iraqi army’s 7th Division, was leading a search operation hunting for al-Qaida fighters in the area. Four soldiers were wounded in the operation, police said.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki extended his condolences in a statement to those killed in the operation.
“Those heroes were carrying the noblest battles against the enemies of God and humanity,” al-Maliki said.
He urged the Iraqi security forces to “eradicate the evil gangs and chase them everywhere.”
Also in western Iraq, gunmen in a speeding car opened fire at a police checkpoint in the city of Fallujah earlier on Saturday, killing four officers.
In the north near the city of Kirkuk, an army officer and a soldier were killed when two mortar shells struck a military camp, officials said.
Shortly before sunset, gunmen broke into a food store in western Baghdad and killed two people and wounded three others, police said.
And in the town of Latifiyah, 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Baghdad, a mortar shell hit a group of Shiite pilgrims heading to the holy sites in the city of Karbala, killing two people and wounding seven, authorities said.
The pilgrims were commemorating Arbaeen, the end of 40 days of mourning following the anniversary of the death of Prophet Mohammed’s grandson, Imam Hussein, a revered Shiite figure.
Hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims make their way every year to Karbala for Arbaeen. Al-Qaida fighters and other Sunni insurgents frequently target Shiites, whom they consider to be infidels. Iraqi security forces also often poorly protect Shiite marches and pilgrimages to holy sites.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for any of the attacks Saturday.
Medical officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to journalists.
Violence has spiked in Iraq since a deadly crackdown on a Sunni protest camp in a northern town in April. At least 369 people have died in attacks across the country so far this month, according to an Associated Press count.
Associated Press writer Qassim Abdul-Zahra contributed to this report.