Iraqi forces bat­tle IS in western town, far from Mo­sul

Malta Independent - - WORLD -

Iraqi forces, backed by U.S.-led coali­tion airstrikes, bat­tled Is­lamic State mil­i­tants for a third day on Tuesday in a re­mote western town, hun­dreds of kilo­me­ters (miles) to the south of the op­er­a­tion to re­take Mo­sul, U.S. and Iraqi of­fi­cials said.

The clashes un­der­way in Rutba, in Iraq’s western An­bar prov­ince, are ap­par­ently part of the ex­trem­ist group’s tac­tics to di­vert at­ten­tion — as well as Iraqi and coali­tion re­sources — from the bat­tle to re­take Mo­sul from Is­lamic State mil­i­tants.

“Fight­ing is on­go­ing in Rutba, which is still con­tested,” said Col. John Dor­rian, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coali­tion.

“The coali­tion con­tin­ues con­duct­ing strikes to sup­port the Iraqi se­cu­rity forces’ response ef­forts, in­clud­ing one against a Daesh con­voy that was at­tempt­ing to flee the area,” he added, re­fer­ring to IS by an Ara­bic acro­nym.

Brig. Gen. Yahya Ra­sool, an Iraqi mil­i­tary spokesman, said the sit­u­a­tion was un­der con­trol and there were no IS fight­ers in the town. But Ra­jeh Barakat, an An­bar pro­vin­cial coun­cil­man who sits on the se­cu­rity com­mit­tee, said IS fight­ers were still clash­ing with se­cu­rity forces in two south­ern neigh­bor­hoods of Rutba.

“The clashes are still on­go­ing,” he said. “We have re­ports say­ing the mil­i­tants killed some civil­ians and mem­bers of the se­cu­rity forces, but we don’t know how many.”

IS launched a com­plex at­tack on Rutba on Sun­day, al­most a week into the op­er­a­tion in Mo­sul, where U.S.-backed Iraqi forces are wag­ing a wide-scale of­fen­sive to drive the mil­i­tants from Iraq’s sec­ond-largest city.

Last week IS launched a sim­i­lar as­sault in and around the north­ern city of Kirkuk, some 170 kilo­me­ters (100 miles) southeast of Mo­sul. The wide-rang­ing as­sault ig­nited gun­bat­tles that lasted two days, killing at least 80 peo­ple.

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