Iraqi forces advance after seizing key town from IS

Iraqi security forces regained the town of al-Baghdadi after fierce clashes with the Islamic State (IS) militants and also fought with them in the province of Anbar, security and medical sources said Saturday.

IANS| Last Updated: Mar 07, 2015, 19:19 PM IST

Baghdad: Iraqi security forces regained the town of al-Baghdadi after fierce clashes with the Islamic State (IS) militants and also fought with them in the province of Anbar, security and medical sources said Saturday.

The troops and allied Shia and Sunni militias, backed by US-led coalition aircraft, cleared the small town of al-Baghdadi on Friday after they drove out the IS militants who had controlled the town for months and threatened the nearby military airbase of Ain al-Asad which houses hundreds of US marines, a source told Xinhua news agency on condition of anonymity.

The Ain al-Asad military base is used by Iraqi military forces and about 300 US marines working as military trainers and advisers.

"The security forces and al-Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation of Shia and Sunni militias) have seized the centre of al-Baghdadi, including its police station and bridges," the source said.

It added that the adjacent areas of al-Doulab and Sin al-Deeb southwest of the town are still in the hands of the IS militants.

Separately, the IS militants in the morning drove out the security forces and allied Shia militias from al-Hitawiyn area, just near the town of Garma, some 40 km west of Baghdad, after heavy clashes which left at least eight militants dead and 10 wounded, a security source told Xinhua.

The clashes near Garma came just two days after the troops seized the area as part of an offensive designed to drive out the militants who from time to time approached Baghdad from the areas located in the east of the militant-held town of Garma and fired mortars and rockets on the Shia neighbourhood of Shula, in northwestern Baghdad, killing and wounding dozens of civilians during the past few months.

Also in the province, fierce clashes erupted in the morning in central and western parts of the provincial capital city of Ramadi, about 110 km west of Baghdad, between the security forces and IS militants who seized parts of the city, a provincial security source said, without giving further details.

A medical source from the city hospital told Xinhua that the hospital received 13 bodies of security members and 20 others were admitted for treatment.

The IS has seized around 80 percent of Iraq`s largest province Anbar and has been trying to advance toward Baghdad, but several counter-attacks by security forces and Shia militias have pushed them back.

The IS has taken control of the country`s northern province of Nineveh, and then seized swathes of territory after Iraqi security forces abandoned their posts in other predominantly Sunni provinces.