BAGHDAD, Apr 17: Fighting broke out overnight in the Sunni Arab district of Adhamiya in Baghdad after gunmen attacked a police station, police and Interior Ministry sources said today.
They said it was still not clear who was involved in the clashes, which later drew reinforcements from police commandos.
The sources said the police commandos were accompanied by members of a Shi'ite Muslim militia.
Residents of Adhamiya, a stronghold of Sunni insurgents, took up arms to prevent the Shi'ite militia from entering, the sources said.
''Adhamiya residents have taken up arms to prevent the Shi'ite militia from entering. There are bodies on Omar bin Abdul Aziz street but police forces can't get to the area,'' said the police official.
It was not clear if they were civilians, insurgents or government forces.
''I could not reach work. Adhamiya is cordoned off. There were fierce clashes last night. I heard explosions. Fighting is still taking place but it is not as heavy,'' Adhamiya resident Ghina told Reuters by telephone.
Sunni leaders have accused the Shi'ite-led Interior Ministry of sanctioning militia death squads, a charge the government denies.
Sectarian tensions have exploded since a Shi'ite shrine was bombed in the city of Samarra in February touching off reprisals and pushing Iraq to the brink of sectarian civil war.