Iraqi troops regain ground from militants

2014-02-15 14:08
(Photo: file, AP)

(Photo: file, AP)

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Tikrit - Iraqi troops backed by helicopter gunships regained ground in the northern town of Sulaiman Pek on Friday, a day after parts of it were overrun by Sunni Islamist insurgents, the mayor said.

At least 12 militants were killed by the army, according to the town's mayor, Talib Mohammed, who identified the militants as members of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

"The army is making good progress in the town," he said.

"We have to admit it's not an easy job as snipers and roadside bombs planted by militants are forcing military forces to be slow and vigilant."

Assault

Sunni Islamist militants have been regaining ground in Iraq over the past year, particularly in the western province of Anbar, where gunmen opposed to the country's Shi'ite-led government took over the city of Falluja last month.

The Iraqi army has surrounded Falluja and threatened a ground assault to retake it unless the militants lay down their arms by Friday.

Sulaiman Pek, 160km north of Baghdad, is a majority Sunni Arab town of around 25 000 people, with smaller Turkoman and Kurdish communities.

Police forces are in control of government buildings, the mayor said, despite repeated attempts by the militants to break into them.

"Military forces backed by helicopters are controlling now around 70% of the town and the gunmen started to leave their positions," Mohammed said.



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