Attack on Iraq govt. office leaves 8 dead

Attackers set off two car bombs outside a government compound east of Baghdad Tuesday, then stormed into the building and took an unknown number of hostages, Iraqi officials say.

Attackers set off two car bombs next to a government compound Tuesday, then opened fire and took an unknown number of hostages, Iraqi officials said. Eight people were killed in the assault.

There were conflicting reports about whether the situation had been brought under control in Baqouba, which was once an al-Qaeda in Iraq stronghold. There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the complex attack bore the hallmarks of the insurgent group.

Gunmen first set off two car bombs near a gate protecting the government compound in Baqouba, 60 kilometres northeast of Baghdad, said Samira al-Shibli, a spokeswoman for the Diyala provincial council. The compound houses buildings including the provincial council headquarters and the governor's office.

Two officials with the Diyala Operations Command said at least some of the gunmen made their way into the compound and one of the officials said the gunmen took hostages. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

An Iraqi army officer, Col. Sabah al-Kuzi, said eight people died in the assault but he did not know how many of the attackers were among the dead.

One of the officials at the Diyala Operations Command said there were five gunmen: three were killed, one wounded and authorities were still searching for the fifth.

However, a member of the Diyala provincial council said 10 gunmen had stormed into the compound.  

"I am trying to call my colleagues and employees in the building but all their mobiles are switched off," Nasreen Bahjat said. "The situation now is tense."

Another council member, Zainab al-Sufi, described a chaotic situation where the assailants armed with machine-guns randomly opened fire after the bombs went off. They clashed with security forces and killing some civilians before storming into the compound, al-Sufi said.  

Abdullah Hassan, a provincial council member, said the gunmen may have intended to target a council meeting scheduled for Tuesday morning. But the meeting was delayed and no council members were there when the attack happened.  

"The aim of such attack is to create more chaos and to hinder any attempts to push the country forward," he said.