Iraqi Forces Ward Off Insurgent Raid on Police Station

Before dawn on Wednesday, around 60 gunmen attacked the station in Madaen, about 25 miles southeast of Baghdad, with rocket-propelled grenades, mortar bombs and automatic rifles. Among those detained after the assault was a Syrian found with leaflets by the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. None of the attackers died.

Wednesday’s raid is the second attack in as many days on Iraqi police stations, raising questions about the effectiveness of Iraqi security forces. A U.S. pullout depends on how well Iraq’s police can cope with the insurgency and the rise in sectarian violence after the bombing of a Shiite mosque on Feb. 22.

On Tuesday, around 100 insurgents launched a similar attack at a police post and jail at Muqdadiya, northeast of Baghdad near the Iranian border that killed at least 22 people and freed 30 prisoners who had been captured in raids on Sunday. Before the attack, insurgents reportedly cut telephone lines and the tried to block reinforcement troops from arriving by detonating roadside bombs.

Raad Rashid al-Mula Jawad, the governor of the surrounding Diyala Province, suspects that local police chief and several officers might have conspired with the insurgents. U.S. and Iraqi officials said last year that the area was no longer an insurgent stronghold.

An Internet posting Tuesday night by the military wing of the Mujaheddin Shura Council, a militant Sunni Muslim insurgent group, claimed responsibility for the operation.

The two attacks come as politicians and foreign policy experts say that Iraq is on the brink or perhaps in the midst of a civil war. Former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said earlier this week that Iraq was already in a state of civil war.

Also in Baghdad, gunmen ambushed Shiite pilgrims returning from the Arbain mourning ritual in Karbala, killing six and wounding 50 others traveling in minivans and the back of trucks on Wednesday, according to police.