Iraqi general among 24 troops killed in attack

BAGHDAD — Twenty-four Iraqi military personnel, including a senior commander, were killed on Saturday in an attack in western Iraq, according to police.

A series of back-to-back bombings occurred as troops were raiding a hideout of insurgents with suspected links to al-Qaeda in Anbar, west of Baghdad.

The senior officer killed was identified as Major-General Mohammed al-Karawi, the commander of the Iraqi army's Seventh Division.

The dead also included intelligence officers, police said.

At least 35 soldiers were wounded in the attack, which prompted the authorities to put security forces on heightened alert in the mainly Sunni province, media reports said.

Military reinforcements have been sent to Anbar in preparation for the launch of a large-scale campaign in the area, reports said.

In the aftermath of the attack, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki vowed an "iron-fist" policy to tackle the insurgents.

"I call on personnel of our brave army to strike with an iron fist against the heads of the evil minority, and pursue them everywhere until Iraq is purged of their wickedness," he said.

An increase in attacks by insurgents in recent months has raised the prospect of a return to the violence that pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war in 2006 and 2007.

According to UN estimates, 659 people were killed in attacks in Iraq in November.

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