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Gunmen attack Iraqi ministry in central Baghdad

Written by: Staff
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BAGHDAD, Nov 23 (Reuters) About 30 militants attacked the Iraqi Health Ministry in central Baghdad with mortars and gunfire today, an Interior Ministry source and the deputy health minister told Reuters.

Deputy Minister Hakim al-Zamily said he could see gunmen outside the building in Bab al-Muadham district who were shooting at staff.

He said mortar rounds had also been fired.

''Terrorists are attacking the building with mortars, machine gun fire and we can even see snipers. Any employee who leaves the building will be killed,'' Zamily said.

An Interior Ministry source said gunmen had surrounded the ministry and were clashing with Iraqi security forces. Some casualties had been taken to hospital, he said.

The source said the gunmen had attempted to break into the ministry compound but had been driven back.

Zamily said the ministry officials had called the Iraqi Defence Ministry for help but so far none had arrived.

Zamily, who is a member of a Shi'ite party, is one of two deputy health ministers attacked earlier this week. Gunmen attacked his convoy on Monday and killed two of his guards.

His colleague Ammar al-Saffar, a member of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite Dawa party, was kidnapped from his home by gunmen in uniform last weekend.

Those attacks came after gunmen suspected of belonging to Shi'ite militias last week abducted dozens of civil servants from the Sunni-run Higher Education Ministry.

REUTERS AB BST1818

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