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Insurgents claim responsibility for Baghdad r -

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Insurgents claim responsibility for Baghdad raid

Reporter: Norman Hermant

MAXINE McKEW: In Iraq, the group led by the country's most wanted insurgent has claimed
responsibility for a deadly attack on a police station in western Baghdad.

The organisation led by Al Qaeda-linked operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi made the claim on the
Internet after a raid left 11 policemen dead and freed 50 prisoners.

And there was more bloodshed in the Iraqi capital, with bombs exploding near a Shi'ite mosque,
killing at least 14 people, reigniting fears insurgents may be stepping up efforts to exploit
religious divisions in the run-up to elections due in January.

Norman Hermant reports.

NORMAN HERMANT: Attacks and bloodshed are back in Baghdad.

The Iraqi capital had been relatively calm since US forces led the assault on Fallujah last month.

Violence has returned with two attacks today.

At least 11 policemen were killed when insurgents fired mortars and then overran this police
station in western Baghdad.

This was a highly coordinated strike.

More than 50 prisoners were reportedly freed by the insurgents.

In another part of the city more bloodshed.

This, the work of suspected suicide car bombs outside a Shi'ite mosque.

Witnesses say the first blast drew people out into the street, then another bomb exploded.

"The car bomb exploded at 6:00 or 5:45," said this man.

"When the people gathered to put out the fire, "the car exploded again and the bodies of victims
covered the street."

The target of this bombing has led to speculation it may be the beginning of a new insurgent
offensive aimed at exploiting religious tensions over the upcoming election.

The blasts rocked a Shi'ite mosque in a predominantly Sunni suburb.

The interim Government's message that elections will go ahead as scheduled at the end of January
has divided the Sunni and Shi'ite communities.

Shia make up about 60 per cent of Iraq's population and their leaders have insisted the vote go
ahead without delay.

Sunni leaders, representing about 20 per cent of the population, say the security situation is too
uncertain.

They want a delay in the vote.

Political parties not tied to either religious group say they're stuck in the middle of the debate
over election timing even as violence rages on.

YANAR MOHAMMED, IRAQI LABOUR COMMUNIST PARTY: The Government is putting moral pressure on people
that election is a patriotic duty on us.

NORMAN HERMANT: Iraq's interim Government says it expects more attacks and the US agrees.

It's announced it will boost troop numbers to 150,000 - the highest level since the invasion of
Iraq - to secure the country in the lead-up to the vote.

Norman Hermant, Lateline.