TIKRIT, Iraq, March 30 (UPI) -- Sunni rebels with ties to al-Qaida were behind an attack on a provincial council building in the hometown of Saddam Hussein, Iraqi officials said.
Local government officials were among 56 people killed in Tuesday's attack in Tikrit following a gun battle that lasted more than four hours. Three lawmakers were killed with a single shot to the head each, the BBC reports.
Salah ah-Din provincial Gov. Ahmed Abdullah was quoted as saying the attack was "carried out by ruthless terrorists."
Other Iraqi officials said al-Qaida was tied to the siege, saying the killings and use of suicide vests bore the hallmark of the terrorist group.
Violence in Iraq is down since the height of the insurgency in 2007 and U.S. military forces are on their way out of the country after more than eight years.
Tuesday's attack, however, comes as the government continues its struggles to fill key administrative positions.
The Sunni-backed Iraqiya slate, led by former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, complained it was left out of decisions on nominees for security ministerial posts.
Shiite political movement the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council announced Tuesday that it was moving to the opposition in Parliament after leading member Adel Abdul Mehdi withdrew his name for consideration for vice president.