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The Mideast

Al Qaeda claims attack on Iraqi government center

An Al Qaeda front group in Iraq has claimed responsibility for a bloody attack on a government compound in the Islamist militants' former stronghold west of Baghdad last month.

Seven policemen were killed in a three-hour battle between Shiite-dominated security forces and Sunni militants Jan. 14 in the Anbar provincial capital of Ramadi. It was the first serious gunbattle for Iraqi forces against insurgents without American backup.

A statement by Al Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq late Tuesday praised the attackers as a "group of the heroes" for targeting Iraqi troops, who it said were agents of Iran. The group vowed more attacks, saying the recent blasts were "very small" compared to those coming.

Violence has surged since U.S. troops left in December. More than 22 people were killed last month.