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IS kills at least 23 Iraqi tribesmen near Ramadi

BAGHDAD: The Islamic State jihadist group killed at least 23 tribesmen during a major attack in the Ramadi area, a tribal leader and a police officer said on Saturday.

Parts of Anbar capital Ramadi have been outside government control since January, but IS struck on Friday with hours of shelling, car bombs and attacks by gunmen from four different directions in a bid to take more ground.

By Saturday, most of the fighting was over, but clashes were still taking place in southern Ramadi, a city 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Baghdad that is one of the last major population centres of Anbar still under government control.

Police Captain Qaysar al-Hayani said IS militants had besieged fighters from the Albu Mahal and Albu Fahad tribes in Al-Sijariyah, waited for them to run out of ammunition, and then executed 23.

Sheikh Omar al-Alwani, a commander of tribesmen fighting IS, said about 15 jihadists infiltrated Al-Sijariyah, east of Anbar province capital Ramadi, by pretending to be students from elsewhere.

The jihadists were unarmed when they entered the area but were then provided weapons by collaborators and attacked, killing 25 members of the Albu Fahad tribe, Alwani said.

Both Alwani and Hayani said Al-Sijariyah had been retaken, with more than two dozen IS militants killed.

The defence ministry issued a statement on Al-Sijariyah, saying that “violent clashes” took place between security forces, tribesmen and militiamen on one side, and the jihadists on the other.

Alwani said that fighting also took place on Saturday in Al-Hoz, an area in southern Ramadi, while the other attacks by the militants had been held off.

Resisting IS has come at a heavy price for some in Anbar, with hundreds of members of the Albu Nimr tribe executed by the group in areas the government was unable to reach.

The government is now distributing weapons and ammunition to tribesmen in the province, but the tribes still want more air support, especially from the US-led coalition carrying out strikes against IS.

The jihadist group spearheaded a militant offensive that has overrun significant parts of Iraq since June, and further gains in Anbar in recent weeks sparked warnings that the province could fall entirely.

The latest fighting in the Ramadi area has been some of the heaviest since June, and holding of the attacks would be a significant victory for the government.

Baghdad’s forces have retaken some important areas, including the strategic northern town of Baiji and Jurf al-Sakhr, south of the capital, but three key cities and a swathe of other territory remains outside government control. -AFP

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