Middle East

Iraqi traffic police 'given guns' after attacks

A policeman armed with a Kalashnikov directs traffic in Baghdad, 6 August
Image caption At least one traffic policeman could be seen with a Kalashnikov assault rifle in recent days

Traffic police in the Iraqi capital Baghdad are reportedly being given Kalashnikov assault rifles to defend themselves after a series of attacks.

Previously they only carried pistols but at least 12 policemen were reported killed during the past week alone.

Traffic policemen have died in cross-fire and bombings since the US-led invasion seven years ago.

But recently they have been singled out for attack in an apparent bid to sabotage basic law and order efforts.

"The traffic police are security forces so they have to be armed with weapons to be able to defend themselves," Lt-Gen Ali Gaidan, commander of Iraq's ground forces, told reporters.

"The terrorists target them because they are easy targets."

Lt Ahmed Ali, who works on the central Baghdad junction of Karamana Square, told AFP news agency that insurgents were pursuing a "sick strategy".

"We are working to serve the people, to organise the traffic," he said.

"These attacks are being carried out by al-Qaeda, which wants to target the government, and so attacks those who represent the state in an attempt to topple it."

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