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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 March 2006, 16:15 GMT
Many dead in Iraqi prison break
Empty cartridges the scene of a clash in Miqdadiya
The attack was well-planned, the town's mayor said
Iraqi insurgents have attacked a police station killing at least 20 people and freeing about 30 prisoners, police say.

As many as 100 attackers, armed with assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars, took part in the raid, which began around dawn.

The attack took place in the town of Miqdadiya, near Baquba, 65km (40 miles) north of the capital.

Authorities said 10 insurgents were killed in the fire fight - one of the bloodiest clashes of recent months.

The gunmen arrived in civilian vehicles and attacked the government compound in the centre of town, which included the police headquarters, a court house and city council building.

A civilian guard was among those killed.

US helicopters helped drive the attackers away, security officials told AFP news agency.

Roadside bombs

Police said the suspected insurgents detonated a string of roadside bombs as they escaped, one of which appears to have killed two other police officers rushing to the scene.

At least 13 others were reported injured.

Iraqi police direct people away from the scene of a clash in Miqdadiya
Iraqi police sealed off the scene in Miqdadiya
All of the prisoners held at the police station escaped in the raid. Many of them were thought to be suspected militants linked to the insurgency.

Army and police commando units were sent to the town to try to track down the escapees and the rebel force.

One report quoting police said the investigations were being hampered because the gunmen had seized radio equipment rendering the police network insecure.

The town's mayor, Alewi Farhan, said the attackers bombed access roads to prevent reinforcements coming to the aid of police.

"The insurgents pulled off a very well-planned attack," he said.

Miqdadiya lies in the heart of a mainly Sunni area that has seen a lot of insurgent activity.

While much of the recent focus has been on sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shias, the attack was a reminder that government forces and coalition troops are still being targeted by insurgents, says the BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad.


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