Iraqi forces repel IS attacks in western province

Baghdad, May 24 (IANS) Iraqi security forces on Sunday clashed with Islamic State (IS) militants and repelled their attacks in Iraq's western province of Anbar, provincial security source and an official said.
The security forces and allied Sunni tribal fighters repelled two attacks by dozens of IS militants and five explosives-laden vehicles, including a booby-trapped armoured vehicle, on a residential compound, which is adjacent to the town of al-Baghdadi, some 200 km northwest of Iraq's capital Baghdad, leaving at least six IS militants wearing explosive vests dead, a provincial security source told Xinhua news agency.
The attacks also targeted the nearby military airbase of Ain al-Asad, which houses hundreds of US Marines, but the troops repelled the attackers, the source said without giving further details.
Ain al-Asad military airbase is used by Iraqi military forces, as well as roughly 300 US Marines as military trainers and advisers.
Separately, the security forces and allied Shia and Sunni militias, known as Hashd Saabi (Popular Mobilization), recaptured the area of Anqoura, south of the town of Khaldiyah, some 80 km west of Baghdad, after they drove out the IS militants who seized the area about nine months ago, the source said.
The capture of Anqoura will secure the perimeter of Khaldiyah and nearby airbase of Habbaniyah from possible IS attacks on the security forces who are building up troops to carry out a major offensive against the IS militants.
The battle in Anqoura came a day after the troops and Popular Mobilisation units retook control of the small town of Huseibah al-Sharqiyah, moving from their bases in Habbaniyah airbase and Khaldiyah.
The fight against the IS group is part of a major counter-offensive designed to free the provincial capital city of Ramadi, some 110 km west of Baghdad, which fell into the hands of IS militants after deadly battles last week.
However, the IS militants earlier in the day reportedly hit on the other side of Iraq's largest province of Anbar, when they took full control of al-Walid border crossing point with neighbouring Syria after clashes with security forces.
"The militants of Daesh (Arabic acronym of IS) have seized al-Walid crossing early in the morning after the withdrawal of Iraqi forces," another provincial security source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
The troops' withdrawal came after heavy clashes with the IS militants who carried out an attack from al-Tanaf border crossing on the Syrian side, the source said, adding that the extremist militants used suicide car bombs in their attacks on the Iraqi side.
Saad Jasim, the head of border crossings of Anbar provincial council, said there was no casualty among the government employees of al-Walid border crossing because they were already transferred to Trebil border crossing with Jordan after the fall of al-Tanaf border crossing on the Syrian side three days ago.
Jasim blamed the Iraqi government for the fall of al-Walid border crossing for not enough military support.
The IS group has seized most of Anbar province and tried to advance toward Baghdad during the past few months, but was repelled by the security forces and Popular Mobilisation. The group also frequently tried to seize the border crossing points in the remote desert areas on borders with Syria.
The security situation in Iraq has drastically deteriorated since June 2014, when bloody clashes broke out between Iraqi security forces and the IS.


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