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Battles against IS militants persist, as bomb attacks hit across Iraq
Iraqi security forces and allied militias continued on Friday heavy battles with the Islamic State (IS) militants in the provinces of Anbar and Salahudin, while bomb attacks struck the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and the U.S. consulate in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan.
In Iraq's western province of Anbar, the IS militants in the morning advanced in the provincial capital city of Ramadi, some 110 km west of Baghdad, and managed to seize the Grand Mosque area in central the city and came close to the heavily fortified government compound in central Ramadi, a provincial security source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
The troops, government-backed Sahwa paramilitary groups and allied Sunni tribesmen fought back and after fierce clashes they pushed back the extremist militants from the Grand mosque area, but the IS militants were still fighting about 500 meters away from the government compound, the source said.
Later in the day, the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of Iraqi armed forces, ordered to send reinforcement troops immediately to support the troops in Ramadi to prevent the fall of the city, Saad Maan, the Interior Ministry spokesman said.
Abadi made his move after he met with top Iraqi military officers immediately after he arrived in Baghdad after his visit to Washington.
The security situation in Ramadi has deteriorated since April 10, when the IS militants carried out attacks and captured Albu Farraj in the northern side of Euphrates River which separates the area from Ramadi.
The extremist group spread in Ramadi Wednesday and captured Soufiyah, Albu Ghanim, Albu Mahal and Albu Souda east of the city, partially seized by IS militants for months.
The heavy battles in Ramadi forces thousands of families to flee to other Iraqi provinces, most of whom headed to Baghdad and settled in predominantly Sunni districts in southern and western Baghdad.
The IS group has seized parts of Iraq's largest province of Anbar and tried to advance toward Baghdad, but several counter attacks by security forces and Shiite militias have driven them away.
In Salahudin, Iraqi forces and allied Shiite and Sunni militias continued fighting the IS militants in Iraq's largest oil refinery near the town of Baiji, some 200 km north of Baghdad, and managed Friday from recapturing most of the refinery area, a provincial security source told Xinhua.
The battles in Baiji and the nearby oil refinery were part of a large-scale operation launched Wednesday aiming to recapture areas seized by IS militants in the province of Salahudin, particularly after the militants progressed inside the huge oil facility Tuesday.
Battles in the Sunni dominated province of Salahudin took place about two weeks after Iraqi security forces regained control of Tikrit.
Also in the province, Iraqi security forces said they probably killed Saddam Hussein's former vice president Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri during operations in Salahudin province.
The troops clashed with gunmen near the Allas oilfield in east of Salahudin's provincial capital city of Tikrit, some 170 km north of Baghdad, leaving at least ten militants killed, a provincial security source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
"One of the killed was largely believed to be Izzat al-Douri, and his body was immediately transferred to Baghdad to carry out DNA test to verify the identity of the body," the source said.
Iraqi and U.S. officials believe that Douri played a key role in funding and organizing Sunni Arab insurgency that erupted in 2003 against the U.S.-led coalition and that he was instrumental in forging links between remnants of the ousted regime and Sunni Islamic militant groups.
In northern Iraq, at least two people were killed and four others wounded, including two Kurdish security members, known as Peshmerga, when a suicide bomber tried to approach the U.S. consulate in Aynkawa district in western Arbil, but the guards opened fire on the attacker and forced him to blew it up before he reached the entrance of the consulate.
The source could not tell whether the U.S. compound sustained any casualty, but the huge blast damaged several nearby buildings and cars in the predominantly Christian district.
In Baghdad, a total of 11 people were killed and 55 others wounded in a car bomb and a roadside bomb explosions in two Shiite dominated districts in Baghdad, a police source told Xinhua.
Security in Iraq has worsened drastically since June last year, when bloody clashes broke out between Iraqi security forces and IS militant group, which took control of the country's northern city of Mosul and later seized swathes of territories in Nineveh and other predominantly Sunni provinces.
[Source: Xinhua, Baghdad, 17Apr15]
War in Iraq
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