43 killed in clashes, airstrikes against IS in Iraqi province

Baghdad : At least 43 people were killed on Wednesday in clashes with Islamic State (IS) militants and airstrikes by Iraqi and US-led coalition aircraft in Iraq’s western Anbar province, a government statement and a provincial security source said.

The security forces and allied militias known as Hashd Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) carried out an offensive against the positions of IS militants in areas northwest of Iraq’s capital Baghdad and near the IS-held town of Garma, some 40 km west of Baghdad, said a statement issued by the Baghdad Operations Command (B.O.C.).

The troops clashed with IS militants and killed at least 17 militants besides destroying some of their positions and a vehicle carrying rockets, the statement said.

Meanwhile, international warplanes carried out an airstrike on a four-wheel drive vehicle in Albu Diyab area west of the militant-seized provincial capital city of Ramadi, some 110 km west of Baghdad, destroying the vehicle and killing five IS militants aboard, a provincial security source told Xinhua news agency.

Separately, an army helicopter gunship pounded an IS position in the town of Saqlawiyah near the IS-seized city of Fallujah, some 50 km west of Baghdad, leaving seven militants dead and destroying a vehicle carrying heavy machine gun, the source said citing intelligence report.

Also near Saqlawiyah, IS militants ambushed soldiers in Zagharid area, just north of Saqlawiyah, leaving 12 soldiers dead, the source said.

In addition, two soldiers were killed and seven wounded in a mortar barrage by IS militants on Habbaniyah airbase, some 80 km west of Baghdad, the source said, adding that one of the rounds set fire to a fuel tanker at the scene.

The IS group has seized most of Anbar province and tried to advance toward Baghdad during the past few months, but several counter attacks by security forces and Shia militias have pushed them back.

The security situation in Iraq has drastically deteriorated since June 10, 2014, when bloody clashes broke out between Iraqi security forces and IS militants.