59 IS militants killed in Iraq fighting

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Mosul (Iraq): At least 59 Islamic State (IS) militants were killed in fierce fighting involving the Sunni radical group, the Iraqi security forces and allied fighters, media reported.

While Iraqi security forces and allied tribal fighters repelled attacks by IS militants in two towns in the western province of Anbar, leaving more than 32 militants dead, at least 27 other militants of the group were killed during clashes with Sinjar Protection Forces in northern Iraq.

In one of the attacks, IS militants advanced in the early hours of Wednesday on the town of Ameriyat al-Fallujah, some 40 km west of Iraq's capital Baghdad, but were repelled by Iraqi security forces and allied local Sunni tribesmen, a source from Anbar provincial operations command, told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

The militants tried to enter the town, which has been under their siege for more than two weeks, from three directions but, after several hours, they withdrew from the scene because of the fierce opposition and heavy bombardment by the warplanes of the US-led coalition and Iraqi aircraft, the source said.

At least 32 militants were killed and nine of their vehicles destroyed, the source added.

The strategic town of Ameriyat al-Fallujah is the last major town under the control of the government ahead of Baghdad, located some 60 km north of the Shia holy city of Karbala which lies 108 km south of Baghdad. If the militants seize the town they will be closer to the Iraqi capital and will also be able to move closer to Karbala and pound it with artillery and mortars.

Also in the province, the security forces and allied Sunni tribesmen repelled another attack in the morning by IS militants in the partially seized town of Heet, some 160 km west of Baghdad, a provincial security source told Xinhua.

The militants apparently failed to advance further into the town, the source said, adding that there were no immediate reports about casualties as sporadic clashes continued after the major battle.

Most of Heet has been under the control of IS militants since Oct 13 except for its al-Furat suburb on the eastern side of Euphrates river which has been seized by the Sunni tribe of Albu-Nimer and some security forces.

The IS is seizing some 80 percent of Iraq's largest province of Anbar and is trying to surround Baghdad from its outer belt, but observers feel that it is not possible for the extremist Sunni group to enter the capital, the majority population of which is from the Shia community and is heavily fortified with security forces and thousands of Shiite militias.

Since December last year, insurgent attacks have continued in the Sunni Arab heartland west of Baghdad that stretches through Anbar province, which has been the scene of fierce clashes that flared up after Iraqi police dismantled an anti-government protest site outside the city of Ramadi.

Meanwhile, Efe news agency reported from Iraq's second largest city, Mosul, that at least 27 militants of the IS were killed during clashes with Sinjar Protection Forces in northern Iraq.

The Sinjar Protection Forces managed to gain control over the two shrines of Sharaf al-Din and Amadin in Nineveh province, both of which are revered by the Yazidi religious minority, a Sinjar Forces official said Wednesday..

Luqman Khansuri, commander in the Sinjar forces, said that four of his men were killed during the fighting late Tuesday and three others wounded.

The clashes broke out after the jihadis took control of the area, situated around two km from Mount Sinjar.

Khansuri said that the fighting lasted for more than three hours and was led by the al-Hababa tribe, one of the units in the Sinjar Protection Forces.

The jihadis threw explosives at the Amadin shrine before withdrawing, destroying its dome.

Mount Sinjar has been a sanctuary for the Yazidi minority since August when they fled the brutality of the IS jihadis who had seized Sinjar city.

More than 500,000 Yazidis and other minorities fled northern Iraq after the IS murdered several hundred people, according to estimates by the UN.

The Sunni IS considers Yazidis, Shia Muslims, Christians and other religious minorities as infidels.

At the same time, the IS launched an offensive against Nineveh province and took control of its capital Mosul.

IANS

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