Iraqi forces break IS siege on town in Iraq's eastern province

Iraqi forces break IS siege on town in Iraq's eastern province

Iraqi security forces Wednesday broke the Islamic State (IS) Sunni radical group's months-long siege of a town in Iraq's eastern province of Diyala, provincial and security sources said.

Security forces, backed by Shia militias and Kurdish forces, known as Peshmerga, carried out an offensive against the IS militants in the rural area around the town of Qara-Tabba, about 140 km northeast of Iraq's capital Baghdad, Rahim Aziz al-Kabchi, mayor of the town, told Xinhua.

The troops freed 27 villages around the besieged town of Qara-Tabba from IS militants after an offensive carried out in the early morning from three directions, al-Kabchi said.
"Qara-Tabba and surrounding areas are now 100 percent free after the troops killed at least 14 IS militants today," he said.

Earlier in the day, Lieutenant General Jamil al-Shimary, the provincial police chief, told Xinhua that Iraqi forces clashed with IS militants in the rural area near Himreen Lake, which is located between Qara-Tabba and the nearby town of Jalawlaa.

The army managed to free several villages in south of Qara-Tabba, leaving at least nine IS militants dead, including two suicide bombers, and destroyed four vehicles carrying heavy machine guns, Shimary said.

The operation was designed to break the siege on Qara-Tabba after clearing the rural area around the town from the IS militants who fled the battles in the nearby towns of Jalawlaa and Saadiyah during the past few days.

The offensive near Qara-Tabba came one day after security forces and the Peshmerga fighters recaptured the towns of Saadiyah, some 120 km northeast of Baghdad, and the nearby Jalawlaa after heavy clashes with IS militants.

The ethnically mixed towns of Jalawlaa, Saadiyah and Qara-Tabba are part of the disputed areas which are ethnically mixed with Kurds, Arabs, Turkmens and others.

The Kurds have demanded expansion of their autonomous region in northern Iraq to include the oil-rich province of Kirkuk and other areas in the Iraqi provinces of Nineveh, Salahudin and Diyala, but their move is being fiercely opposed by the Baghdad government.

Also in the day, fierce clashes erupted between security forces and IS militants in north of the town of Maqdadiyah, some 100 km northeast of Baghdad, killing seven militants, including a suicide bomber, a provincial security source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

The security situation in Iraq has begun to drastically deteriorate since June 10, when bloody clashes broke out between the Iraqi security forces and the IS group, an al-Qaida offshoot, which took control of the country's northern province of Nineveh and later seized swathes of territories after Iraqi security forces abandoned their posts in other Sunni provinces.

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