Iraq Braces for Fierce Clashes in Seizure of Towns
    2014-06-15 03:20:19     Xinhua       Web Editor: Zhang

Iraqi security forces on Saturday continued fierce clashes with militant groups, while the troops managed to retake control of three towns in Salahudin province, security and medical sources said.

In Iraq's eastern province of Diyala, fierce clashes broke out between security forces and militant groups in the city of Saadiyah, 120 km northeast of Baghdad, resulted in the killing of four gunmen and a policeman, along with wounding six other policemen, a provincial police source said.

Earlier, the source said that the Kurdish security forces took control of parts of Saadiyah on Friday after the withdrawal of Iraqi security forces without fighting.

In a separate incident, a joint police and army force clashed with gunmen of an insurgent group named al-Naqshabandi Army in east of the town of Udheim, 60 km north of the provincial capital city of Baquba, which itself located some 65 km northeast of Baghdad, killing the provincial group leader Abu Ahmed al-Ubeidi and his aide, the source said.

Al-Naqshabandi Army is a Sufi mystic group which has links with Baathist militant group led by Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, former vice president during Saddam Hussein regime. Ubeidi himself is a relative to al-Douri.

Also in the province, the security forces withdrew from the city of Qara-Tabba, 175 km northeast of Baghdad, without fighting, but the Kurdish security forces took over the city, the source added.

The provincial source told Xinhua that there are 17 villages around Qara-Tabba are under control of the rebels, and 16 villages around Saadiyah. They also seized 15 villages around Udheim and 12 villages outside the city of Jalawlaa, 130 km northeast of Baghdad.

In addition, up to seven militant groups were detected fighting besides the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) in the province during the past few days, among which were al-Naqshabandi Army, Islamic Army, Revolutionaries of Tribes, according to the source.

In Anbar province, fierce clashes erupted in al-Qadsiayh district in the provincial capital city of Ramadi, some 110 km west of Baghdad, between gunmen and an army force during the day, leaving three tanks and two military vehicles destroyed, a provincial police source told Xinhua without giving further details.

Separately, the Iraqi air force carried out several airstrikes on several neighborhoods in the city of Fallujah, some 50 km west of Baghdad, killing five people and wounding 14 others, along with damaging several houses, a medical source from the city hospital told Xinhua.

Also in Anbar, two suicide bombers blew up themselves at an army base near the militant-seized town of Saqlawiyah, some 10 km north of Fallujah, killing and wounding many soldiers, the source said without elaboration.

Earlier in the day, the Iraqi troops retook control of three towns in Salahudin province, while the troops buildup continues in south of the provincial capital city of Tikrit to attack it later, a provincial police source told Xinhua.

The troops backed by the residents regained control of the towns of Ishaqi, some 90 km north Baghdad, al- Mu'tasim, some 100 km north of Baghdad, and Duluiyah, some 80 km north of the capital, after they defeated the militants, according to the source.

Two more villages near the city of Baiji, some 200 km north of Baghdad, were also cleared from the militants by the residents and remnant of the local police who took up their arms and clashed with the gunmen, he said, adding that preparations are underway to retake the city of Baiji.

Since earlier in the day, the Iraqi army and police forces, backed by hundreds of volunteers who responded to a call by the country's most revered Shiite cleric, have gathered in Uwynat area, some 15 km south of Tikrit, which is about 170 km north of Baghdad, preparing for a major attack to retake the city, the source said.

He noted that Iraqi helicopter gunships continued their airstrikes on the posts of the militants around Tikrit.

The Sunni-dominated city of Tikrit, which is the hometown of former President Saddam Hussein, has been in the hands of the gunmen since Wednesday.

The fresh gains of the Iraqi security forces came as the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki vowed to defeat the insurgent groups, as the troops and volunteers are gathering in the city of Samarra, some 120 km north of Baghdad to fight militant groups who are trying to march toward the capital.

"Samarra is not the last line, but it will be a gathering point and a launch pad to clear all areas," Maliki said in a speech broadcast on Saturday during his visit to Samarra late Friday.

"Hundreds of thousands of volunteers are with you. It is only hours to the volunteers to arrive to support the security forces in their war against the gangs of Daash (Arabic first letters of the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant ISIL)," Maliki said in a meeting with military officers and provincial officials.

On Friday, Maliki paid a surprise visit to the embattled city of Samarra, some 120 km north of Baghdad, to discuss security measures, as well as a counter-attack plans to retake Salahudin's provincial capital city of Tikrit, some 170 km north of Baghdad, which was seized by extremists militant groups on Wednesday.

Thousands of volunteers have responded to a call by the country 's most revered Shiite cleric in Iraq Grand Ayatollah Ali al- Sistani, who called Friday on Iraqis to take up arms to defend their country against insurgent groups who took control of large parts of the country.

"The situations in Iraq are very serious, entailing those who are able to volunteer to take up arms to defense their homeland," Sistani said in his order read on the weekly Friday prayers.

The security deterioration in Iraq started last week when bloody clashes broke out between the Iraqi security forces and hundreds of gunmen who took control of several neighborhoods in western part of Mosul and expanded later to other areas and provinces after the Iraqi security forces withdrew from the city.

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