Mar 21, 9:30 AM (ET)
By VANESSA ARRINGTON
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Insurgents stormed a jail around dawn Tuesday in the Sunni Muslim heartland north of Baghdad, killing 19 police and a courthouse guard in a prison break that freed dozens of prisoners and left 10 attackers dead, authorities said.
As many as 100 insurgents armed with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades stormed the judicial compound in Muqdadiyah, about 60 miles northeast of the capital. The assault began after the attackers fired a mortar round into the police and court complex, said police Brig. Ali al-Jabouri.
At least 33 prisoners were freed in the jail break.
After burning the police station, the insurgents detonated roadside bombs as they fled, taking the bodies of many of their dead comrades with them, police said. At least 13 policemen and civilians and 15 gunmen were wounded.
Later Tuesday, a roadside bomb killed one policeman and wounded three in Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, authorities said.
Five other police were wounded in two separate roadside bomb attacks targeting patrols in northern and southern Baghdad early Tuesday, police said.
On Monday, 39 people were reported killed by insurgents and shadowy sectarian gangs, continuing the wave of violence that has left more than 1,000 Iraqis dead since the bombing last month of a Shiite Muslim shrine.
Police found the bodies of at least 15 people - including a 13-year-old girl - dumped around Baghdad. The discoveries marked the latest execution-style killings that have become an almost daily occurrence as Sunni and Shiite extremists settle scores.
As night fell Monday, a bomb struck a coffee shop in northern Baghdad, killing at least three people and injuring 23 others. The bomb was left in a plastic bag inside the shop in a market area of the Azamiyah neighborhood, police Maj. Falah al-Mohammadewi said.
At about the same time, gunmen killed two engineers leaving work at the Beiji oil refinery north of Baghdad, police Lt. Khalaf Ayed al-Janabi said.
Separately, the owner of a small grocery in downtown Baghdad was shot and killed.
In southeast Baghdad, a roadside bomb blew apart a minibus, killing four pilgrims returning from the holy city of Karbala, where millions of Shiites gathered to mark the 40th and final day of the annual mourning period for Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. Five pilgrims on their way to Karbala were wounded in a drive-by shooting earlier in the day, police said.
Otherwise, the commemoration passed largely without incident and the bomb attacks of the past two years.
Baghdad's international airport remained closed Tuesday by authorities who cited the need to protect the Karbala commemoration.
Jordanian authorities closed their border with Iraq until further notice to "prevent those without valid travel documents from entering the country," said Maj. Bashir al-Da'ajah, spokesman of Jordan's Public Security Department. The New York Times reported the border was closed because Palestinians living in Iraq were trying to enter Jordan without proper documents.
In Baghdad, a group of U.S. senators met with interim Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari to discuss prospects for forming a national unity government, a step viewed as important in working toward peace and a withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Al-Jaafari predicted a new government would be ready in the coming weeks.
"I hope that the formation of the new government does not last beyond April," al-Jaafari said.
Sen. Carl Levin, ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said such a commitment must be kept "in order for there to be continued support for the presence of American troops in Iraq."
Committee chairman Sen. John Warner, R-Va., said decisions on U.S. troops would be made not only by President Bush, Congress and other leaders, but also by the American people - a seeming allusion to declining U.S. popular support for the war.
In show of Shiite support for al-Jaafari's bid for a second term as prime minister, Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi said after meeting Iraq's top Shiite cleric that "Dr. al-Jaafari is still the (Shiite) alliance nominee. The alliance has not presented anyone else."
The Shiite alliance is under pressure from Kurds and Sunni Muslims to drop al-Jaafari because they say he cannot unify the country.
In the holy city of Najaf, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Shiite bloc in parliament, met the top cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who told him to "speed the moves to form the new government," said al-Hakim aide Haitham al-Husseini.
A hundred insurgents attacking a jail, freeing the inmates and laying roadside bombs to insure their getaway? That sounds awfully damn organized to me. Like a military organization. Organized and with goals. That's not even mentioning the death squads the Shi'ites have organized.
Over the weekend, Allawi actually said there is a civil war in Iraq. After reading the above, I think its getting into full swing.