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Iraqi forces retake town seized by gunmen, 48 killed

Iraqi security forces retook control of a town in Iraq's province of Salahudin, which had been seized by gunmen about a week ago, an army commander said Friday, adding 48 gunmen were killed and 37 others arrested.

General Abdul Amir al-Zaiydi, Commander of Dijla Operations Command, said in a statement that his troops had ended their offensive against gunmen linked to al-Qaida in the town of Sulaiman Bek, some 90 km east of the provincial capital city of Tikrit.

Among the killed gunmen were some foreign Arabs, Zaiydi said, adding that the troops defused 32 roadside bombs and two house bombs during the offensive.

Zaiydi, whose command is responsible for the security in the provinces of Diyala, Salahudin and Kirkuk, also called on hundreds of displaced families who left the town due to the battles to return to their homes, according to the statement.

On Feb. 13, Talib Hameed Mustafa, mayor of Sulaiman Bek, told Xinhua that dozens of militants took control of the town and some surrounding villages, after battles with the Iraqi security forces.

Salahudin province is a Sunni-dominated province, some 170 km north of Baghdad, is the hometown of former president Saddam Hussein.

Iraq is witnessing its worst violence in recent years. According to the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, a total of 8,868 Iraqis, including 7,818 civilians and civilian police personnel, were killed in 2013, the highest annual death toll in years.

[Source: Xinhua, Baghdad, 21Feb14]

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