BAGHDAD, June 5 (Xinhua) -- A total of 80 people were killed and some 88 wounded in separate attacks in Iraq on Thursday as Iraqi security forces re-took control of the city of Samarra in Salahudin province which was seized by extremist Sunni insurgents early in the morning, security and medical source said.
The troops carried out a major offensive and after fierce clashes they managed to regain six neighborhood in Samarra, some 120 km north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, which were seized earlier by groups of gunmen believed to be linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL), an al-Qaida breakaway group in Iraq, a source from Salahudin provincial police told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
In the early morning hours, dozens of insurgents entered the city on their vehicles, some with heavy machine-guns, and attacked the security checkpoints and police stations, killing up to nine policemen and wounding some 45 people, the source said.
Some of the militants attacked the house of Abdul-Karim al- Samarraie, Minister of Sciences and Technology, and killed three of his guards before they leave the house which was empty during the attack, the source added.
Major General Sabah al-Fatlawi, Commander of Samarra Operation Command, told Xinhua that his troops and helicopters have killed 11 militants and destroyed more than eight vehicles during the morning battles, and that reinforcement troops still arriving from Baghdad and other provinces to defeat the gunmen.
The gunmen raised their black flag belonging to the ISIL on several government buildings and the main Sunni mosque in the city, and announced the "liberation" of the city by loudspeakers, urging the residents to join their jihad (holy war) against the Shiite government.
The insurgents were located in neighborhoods just 1,500 meters away from the Shiite shrine of Imam Ali al-Hadi in central the city. The shrine contains the tombs of Ali al-Hadi, who died in A. D. 868 and his son Hassan al- Askari who died in A.D. 874 .
The two are the 10th and 11th of the Shiite's 12 most revered Imams. Shiite pilgrims visited the shrine from all over the world.
Iraqi security forces surrounded the Shiite shrine as well as the security headquarters of Samarra's Operations Command to prevent the insurgent from reaching such sensitive targets and are waiting for reinforcement troops to prepare for a counter-attack.
On Feb. 22, 2006, Samarra's shrine, which was also called the Golden Mosque, was hit by a bomb attack in which its 100-year-old Golden Dome was badly damaged.
In 2007, insurgents again bombed the two minarets of the shrine. The attacks sparked reprisal killings between Shiite and Sunni communities that claimed lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.
The major attack by insurgents in Samarra prompted authorities in the volatile province of Nineveh and its capital Mosul, some 400 km north of Baghdad, to tighten security measures and imposed curfew in the city, while security forces backed helicopter gunships carried out preemptive strikes against suspected insurgent positions of ISIL militant group and clashed with gunmen in Ayn al-Jahash area in south of Mosul, Mohammed Ibrahim, head of security committee of the provincial council, told Xinhua.
The offensive in Nineveh resulted in the killing of some 40 militants and the destroying of 12 of their vehicles, Ibrahim said.
Also in the day, a suicide bomber drove his explosive-laden car into a police checkpoint in western the city of Baiji, some 200 km north of Baghdad, leaving a police officer killed and four policemen wounded, a source from Salahudin Operations Command told Xinhua.
Meanwhile, groups of gunmen attacked several army checkpoints in Baiji and killed two soldiers and wounded five others, the source said.
In Anbar province, airstrikes, artillery and mortar shelling struck several neighborhoods in the militant-seized city of Fallujah, some 50 km west of Baghdad, continued from midnight until Thursday morning and left eight people killed and nine others wounded, a medical source from the city hospital told Xinhua.
Elsewhere, three mortar rounds landed on the local government building in the town of Tarmiyah, some 40 km north of Baghdad, killing three people and wounding six others, a police source told Xinhua.
Two employees and a policeman were among the wounded by the mortar barrage, which also damaged parts of the building, the source said.
In a separate incident, a roadside bomb went off near an army patrol on a main road near Tarmiyah, destroyed a military vehicle and leaving a soldier killed and three others injured, the source added.
Separately, a car bomb detonated at the wholesale market of Jamilah in the Shiite bastion of Sadr City district in eastern Baghdad, killing a civilian and wounding ten others, along with damaging several nearby shops and buildings, a police source said.
In another incident, a civilian was killed and six others were wounded when a roadside bomb ripped through the city of Mahmoudiyah, some 30 km south of Baghdad, a local police source said.
Iraq is witnessing some of its worst violence in recent years. According to the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, a total of 8,868 Iraqis, including 7,818 civilians and civilian police personnel, were killed in 2013, the highest annual death toll in years.