Gunmen attacked a prisoner convoy north of Baghdad on Thursday, officials said, setting off a gun battle with Iraqi troops in which 52 prisoners and eight soldiers were killed. The attack came hours before parliament elected Kurdish politician Fouad Masoum to the largely ceremonial post of president.
This appointment was part of country’s troubled political transition that has seen repeated delays despite Iraq’s struggle against militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had also touched down in Baghdad on Thursday, on a trip to encourage politicians to form a more inclusive government and thus soothe sectarian tensions.
Some of the explosions could reportedly be heard in Baghdad, some 25 kilometers (15 miles) to the south. The circumstances surrounding the dawn attack were not immediately clear, but one security source said the convoy had set off at short notice after mortar rounds were fired at the army bases in Taji where the prisoners were being held. The interior ministry said the convoy then encountered an ambush.
“At least 60 people, prisoners and policeman, were killed in a suicide attack followed by several IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and shooting,” an interior ministry official told the AFP news agency…