81 killed in fighting with IS in Iraq, 5 villages freed

2014-10-01 14:58:38 GMT2014-10-01 22:58:38(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

BAGHDAD, Oct. 1 (Xinhua) -- At least 81 people were killed on Wednesday in air strikes and clashes between the Iraqi security forces and insurgent militants, including those with the Islamic State (IS) group, security sources said.

In Salahudin province, north of Baghdad, Iraqi security forces backed by allied militias launched an offensive in the early morning hours against extremist militants of the IS, an al-Qaida offshoot, who have been seizing a cluster of villages scattered west of the town of Tuz-Khurmato, some 90 km east of the provincial capital city of Tikrit, a provincial security source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

The troops initially faced stiff resistance by IS militants, but heavy fire and aircraft enabled them to retake control of five villages and forced IS militants to withdraw toward the west. The militants planted dozens of bombs in the roads and buildings behind them to slow the advance of the troops, the source said.

The offensive also targeted IS positions in other areas north of the town of Amerli, some 70 km east of the militants-seized city of Tikrit, aiming to seize the main road between Tuz-Khurmato and Tikrit, the source added.

"The main target for the security forces is to catch the main road and a bridge leading to Tikrit. Later the troops will have only 50 km of uninhabited plain to push to the west to free the provincial capital of Tikrit," the source said.

Salahudin province is a predominantly Sunni province and its capital Tikrit, some 170 km north of Baghdad, is the hometown of former President Saddam Hussein. The city has been under control of extremist Sunni militants since June 11, a day after bloody clashes broke out between Iraqi security forces and Sunni militants who had taken the country's northern city of Mosul and later seized swathes of territories in Nineveh and other predominantly Sunni provinces.

Separately, hundreds of IS militants carried out a major attack late on Tuesday night against the northern part of the town of Dhuluiyah, some 90 km north of Baghdad, but were repelled by the security forces that were backed by helicopters and allied fighters of the Sunni tribe of Jubour. The heavy clashes ended in the early hours of Wednesday, leaving at least 50 IS militants killed, a local police source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

IS militants carried out another attack on Jubour tribesmen in Dhuluiyah on Wednesday morning, and were also repelled by the troops and tribal fighters. Some 15 IS militants were killed, while seven tribesmen and security members were killed and 16 others wounded, the source said.

Jubour tribesmen and local police have been fighting IS militants for more than two months, repelling many attacks by the extremist group which once seized the town but was later driven out.

In Kirkuk province, a provincial security source told Xinhua that U.S.-led warplanes struck a camp belonging to IS militants near the town of Hawijah, some 55 km west of the provincial capital Kirkuk, leaving at least nine militants killed and 11 others wounded. The air strikes also destroyed five vehicles and a cache of weapons and ammunition, the source said, citing intelligence reports.

The security situation in Iraq began to drastically deteriorate on June 10, when bloody clashes broke out between Iraqi security forces and hundreds of IS militants.

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