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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 November 2006, 13:46 GMT
Gunmen raid Iraq health ministry
Iraqi policeman guarding ministry building
Iraqi ministry buildings have come under frequent attack
Gunmen have attacked the health ministry in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, sparking heavy gun battles with guards.

About 30 gunmen are trying to take over the building, Iraqi TV reported.

Reports said they were believed to be Sunni Muslim insurgents. Shia militias were suspected of a mass kidnapping of education ministry staff last week.

Separately, at least 10 people were killed in a series of bombings, including three car bombs in the Shia area of Sadr City, officials said.

One car exploded in the Jamila food market, a regular target of mainly Sunni Muslim, anti-US insurgents.

Eyewitnesses quoted by Associated Press said burned bodies and human flesh littered the ground.

Trapped

Deputy Minister Hakim Zamili told reporters by telephone that that gunmen were in positions outside the health ministry building in the Bab al-Muadham area and were opening fire.

"Terrorists are attacking the building with mortars, machinegun fire and we can even see snipers. Any employee who leaves the building will be killed," Mr Zamili he told Reuters.

He said there were about 2,000 employees trapped inside the building

Ministries and officials have been the target of a series of recent attacks.

On Monday, gunmen attacked Mr Zamili's convoy and on Sunday another deputy health minister was kidnapped.

The health ministry is headed by a group loyal to the Shia cleric, Moqtada Sadr, whose Mehdi Army militia is accused of involvement in sectarian attacks on Iraq's Sunni Muslim community.

Last week, Mehdi Army elements were suspected of kidnapping dozens of employees of the Sunni-run Higher Education ministry in Baghdad.




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