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Insurgent attacks in Samarra kill at least 20

Insurgents detonated at least two car bombs and attacked a police station Saturday in the central Iraqi town of Samarra, killing at least 20 people, officials said.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Insurgents set off at least two car bombs and attacked a police station Saturday in the central Iraqi town of Samarra, killing at least 20 people and injuring 23 people, according to police and health officials.

Police officer Qahtan Mohammed confirmed that a group of armed militants stormed a police station at 9 a.m. (1 a.m. ET) in the Zera district, leaving 12 policemen dead and injuring one.

In the other attacks, a suicide car bomber detonated explosives inside a stolen police car near the mayor's office, police said. Samarra's mayor was reportedly injured in the bombing.

A second car bomb exploded in a residential area of the town near a U.S. base and a mortar fell on a crowded market.

Arabic television and some wire services were reporting much higher casualty figures from all the incidents.

National Guard commander killed
Samarra Hospital officials said a commander of the Iraqi National Guard, Abdel Razeq Shaker al-Garmali, was also killed in the attacks. Most of the 23 people injured were policemen, the hospital said.

Residents said U.S. forces announced through loudspeakers an indefinite curfew in the town. American warplanes and helicopters were heard roaming overhead. Throughout Samarra, U.S. forces clashed with small bands of insurgents.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military confirmed two car bombs had exploded in Samarra, wounding five Iraqi security forces, but it was unclear if they were referring to the same incidents.

Four soldiers from an Iraqi police battalion were wounded when a car bomb detonated near a coalition patrol in Samarra at 10 a.m. (2 a.m. ET), the military said. There were no reports of any coalition casualties.

At 9:30 a.m. (1:30 a.m. ET), during a joint U.S.-Iraqi patrol, an Iraqi National Guard soldier identified a car bomb and destroyed the vehicle, which appeared to have been a stolen police truck. One Iraqi soldier and four civilians was wounded in the blast, the military said.

The U.S. military also said a mortar attack near a police station killed three Iraqi policemen and wounded six others. Small arms fire was also reported.

In September, U.S. and Iraqi forces seized control of Samarra, 60 miles north of the capital. Since then, Iraqi officials said the city has been an example of how the Americans and the Baghdad government can restore order in restive towns and cities from the insurgents.

Insurgents waging a 17-month campaign here have frequently targeted Iraqi officials -- viewed as collaborators with the occupying forces -- in a bid to undermine the country's U.S.-backed interim authorities.